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Founder Interviews

The Story of Borderline Bodysuits

The Story of Borderline Bodysuits

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Caroline Bertrand

Founder

Borderline Bodysuits

Finally, a bodysuit that makes bathroom breaks a breeze! With ultra soft fabric made from recycled water bottles, this bodysuit will make an impact.

🇨🇦 Vancouver BC, Canada

📅 Founded November 2018

🏆 1 Founders

💵 Monthly Revenue = NA

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Intro

Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Caroline Bertrand and I’m the founder of borderline bodysuits

Growing up as a competitive gymnast, I spent 6 days a week in a bodysuit. So, to no one’s surprise, I quickly jumped on the fashion bodysuit bandwagon that exploded in recent years. 

However, when talking to friends, and eventually hundreds of surveyed women, endless lists of complaints would ensue, with the most prominent being this: they weren’t functional and often times inaccessible. That’s why our bodysuits are different. 

By bringing our community bodysuits made from environmentally friendly fabrics, every piece is thoughtfully designed to make an impactful statement both in women’s lives and the environment.

What does a typical day look like for you at work?

I actually have a full time job working for a technology company helping e-commerce businesses scale. So a typical day for me as an entrepreneur may be not so typical. However I’m truly working on decoupling this aspect of what a true “entrepreneur” might look like. 

Many mornings I’ll wake up a couple hours prior to work to look over my digital marketing dashboards and assess my priorities for the day. I’ll make sure that anything urgent for the business is tied up, and all overnight orders are packed. 

Then I’ll work my typical 9 to 5 day job, potentially get a workout in, and come  back home to either sketch and make a new prototype designs or create digital marketing ads, engage with my community on social media or any odd task. There’s really no method to this madness!

Product

Tell us about your product.

I make women’s fashion bodysuits that are finally functional. I launched this company to reinvent the bodysuit because it needed a serious upgrade. Everything from how they are designed, produced and sold, to how they are represented in mass media. These bodysuits are designed to make bathroom breaks a breeze, made with fabrics derived from recycled water bottles and produced locally in Vancouver, Canada!

Did you have any experience designing products before?

I have absolutely no background in product design or anything of the like, which makes this entire experience much more humbling. I actually went to business school for my undergraduate degree where I felt I could learn the best skill sets for me to be a successful entrepreneur. However when it came to you producing the garments I needed a bit more support. 

For the past three years I’ve been taking classes at community centers to improve my drawing followed by my fashion drawing and eventually taking evening design classes where I could level up my skill set and eventually feel confident in creating prototypes of my product. 

However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it takes a village to raise a child, the child being my product, which is where I get a lot of support and mentorship through seamstresses and head pattern makers at various agencies that are able to help me navigate this difficult and confusing world of fashion design.

What was the design process like?

Through my fashion drawing and evening design classes that I took after work I was able to define an entire fashion line of bodysuits that I eventually wanted to make. From there our year end project was to create a pattern and a prototype of our working product, which was thankfully guided by a professional fashion designer herself.

And this is really where the process began.

From there I would sketch anywhere between 30 to 60 different styles of bodysuits in my own home and use a very old sewing machine to put together a very rough prototype and pattern. I would then bring it to my patternmaker for her to analyze and reassess, create professional prototypes, use myself as the fit model, and then give final approval for production after a few cycles of prototyping.

Where did you find the manufacturer?

I debated the option of doing offshore production versus local however fully set out on doing it local for two main reasons. First I couldn’t imagine putting all my savings into a production run and not being able to see if something were to go wrong. The risk would be too heartbreaking. Second, I wanted to be able to contribute back to the local economy, because it provides a great story for people that are supporting your community.

My first instinct was to see my fabric supplier to see if he had any factories that he would recommend in the area. His biggest piece of advice to me was to pick a manufacturer that was used to dealing with my type of fabric (knits) or else I’d be paying the cost of them trying to figure it out. So off I went. I knocked on about 12 businesses, because none of them have emails, and brought them my prototype to review.

I found my factory because it’s really committed to helping small businesses grow their assortment. For this reason they’re willing to allow a minimum order quantity (MOQ) of 50 units and up so that you can start scaling your business without going bankrupt. And given that this is a fashion apparel company, inventory is key, however a very large upfront cost.

The factories and I worked on created factory samples after my pattern maker and I felt satisfied with our prototypes, just to make sure they could do a full production run of it.

Launch

Where did you get the word out about your new business?

Mostly instagram, and word of mouth. I also did a few local markets throughout the year to gain exposure in the Vancouver market.

Did you build your own website?

Yes, shopify makes that super easy with supported templates

How many products did you launch with?

Just 1 style with 2 skus (black and white) as pre-orders. And all orders came through for Black, so I did my first production run with that.

How did you get your first sale?

Through pre-sale. Mainly friends at first, and got my first “stranger” order around month 2. Best day ever!

Marketing

Do you have a strong presence on social media or through word of mouth?

Both I would say. But a lot of work engaging with the community on instagram.

Do you run Adwords or other advertising campaigns?

Yes Adwords is key, since it’s the best return on investment (plus you can retarget site traffic through instagram ads afterward). However I’m changing my strategy to be much more specific on GAds because competing on broad keywords like bodysuit often get out-bid by the big players (ie Kardashian, Fashion Nova etc.)

Do you run a newsletter?

No. I personally don’t open emails, and find them a bit annoying. So I’ve been looking at ways that I personally like to engage with brands, and bring that to life instead

Inspiration

What are your sources of inspiration?

I absolutely love the How I Built This Podcast by Guy Roz at NPR! It’s a huge source of inspiration and aspiration as well. Of course Pinterest plays a big part in creating my assortment and seeing what other similar brands are doing. 

But comparing brands is always a big trap for me, so I try not to get sucked into other company’s successes, since it can seem very unattainable and demoralizing when you’re not measuring up. I use instagram a lot to engage with the community, but I try not to spend too much time worrying about what other people are doing. It’s not something I can control

Advice

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?

Just get started (and it will most likely turn out the opposite way than you’d expect)!

Where can we learn more?

Website: www.borderlinebodysuits.com

Instagram: @borderlinebodysuits

We’re always looking for graphic design and fashion production support.

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