Sue Ennis invented the LaMa Bra in 2005 in Trumbull, Connecticut.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I am marketing and selling LaMa Bra to new mothers to help with breastfeeding engorgement pain.
How did you come up with your business idea?
After having our first child, I was laying in bed with bags of frozen peas on my breasts – the solution the doctor recommended to soothe the engorgement pain. After a few nights, it just seemed strange that there was not a product to address this…so the light bulb went off and I started to draft out the design and immediately reached out to vendors to get prototypes developed, an agency on board to help with the brand development and started the process to gain FDA approval….all while working full time to fund the idea.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before LaMa Bra, I was employed in various marketing roles across industries including commercial real estate, telecommunications, music and entertainment. I have launched three businesses to date.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
A business plan is an absolute must and for many reasons. It acts as a road map to work out the best path to take across all the functions of running / launching a new business or product --- from timing, to budgets, from resources required to various licenses and business registrations. It's the main "to do list" that's comprehensive and keeps you true as you go and on a direct path, albeit subject to change, but a great way to organize your thoughts and make an idea come to fruition.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
Being a professional jack of all trades, I am still a firm believe in hiring topic experts. I hired a full service agency, an attorney, accountant, insurance broker, patent advisor, and most importantly for a direct to consumer product, a fulfillment partner for top notch customer service.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
Advice is short and sweet – just keep at it! Everyone hopes and wishes for instant success, but things take time and having patience to be there for the long haul is critical. And tied to that my advice is to ensure that you have "rainy day" money set aside as expenses typically come in above and beyond your estimates…or grand opportunities to get to the next level surface. To me, the advantages and disadvantages do not differ for me as a woman business owner, could be the tough skin I've grown!
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
There are cost saving tips I've learned for sure. First, ask for better pricing, EVERYTIME and for anything at all, big or small. For example, monthly subscription fees for web services, ask for free trials even if you know you want it and will use it..one month free in your pocket is easy you'll see. Negotiate over and over, again – everything. Loans, fees, rates, you name it – call and say you are reviewing other options and want to know you have the best value for the price. As the buyer, you are in control and you'll see how nice it is when true partners want to keep you loyal and work with you. And lastly, stay hungry – advice given to me that has become the money --- always want more, be willing to work harder, and never become relaxed when it comes to business --- but of course do relax in the balance!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Planning is key. Get all the ducks in a row and map out with a timeline. It is critical to be realistic and conservative. This leaves room for the unexpected that surely happens.
Thank you for your great advice, Sue. Good Luck with LaMa Bra and all your future entrepreneurial efforts!