As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing the founders of Belly Bandit® and proof®.
Jodi, Lori, and Kari Caden are the co-founders of Belly Bandit®, a company dedicated to helping women look and feel their absolute best before, during, and after pregnancy. Founded in 2008, Belly Bandit revolutionized the maternity world by introducing the first doctor-recommended, postpartum compression wrap. Since its launch, the company has seen tremendous growth. It has evolved from its signature product, the Belly Bandit® Belly Wrap, and expanded to include maternity wear, nursing bras, athleisure, and a complete line of compression shape wear, the Mother Tucker® Collection. In 2020, the sisterpreneurs launched, proof®, a female empowerment company that delivers meticulously designed and expertly constructed leak proof undies for women ages nine to ninety. With a history of disrupting and revolutionizing the market, the sisters and co-founders of Belly Bandit® and proof® are on a mission to create products that make women’s lives better.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Our story began in the Target aisle! Lori, who had recently given birth to her first baby, was shopping for cat food when a store employee offered to carry her purchase because “she was so pregnant!” Lori was horrified, and when she shared her experience with us, we were sympathetic but also determined to find a solution to post-pregnancy body blues. After years of research, perseverance, and sisterly support, we launched Belly Bandit®. The concept for our Original Belly Bandit® Belly Wrap came from reinventing and modernizing the ancient practice of postpartum compression, and the rest is history! Similarly, the idea for proof® came after Kari’s pregnancy, when she found that every time she laughed, she leaked! We knew this was a common problem for women, so we decided we needed to create a really, really leak proof solution.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
We’ve definitely had our share of missteps! At the time, they may not have seemed so funny, but in hindsight, we all get a laugh out of our rookie mistakes. When we first launched Belly Bandit, we “forgot” to trademark one of our product names, that was a painful mistake and one we won’t make again!
The takeaway is always the same, learn from them and move on.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Early in our careers, we were gifted “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” We were really influenced by it, and in many ways, it guided us as we built the business. Of course, once we launched Belly Bandit® and now, proof®, our downtime is minimal, but we still squeeze in the occasional podcast. Right now, we’re loving “Made Women” co-hosted by Drea de Matteo and Chris Kushner. We love hearing from strong women, and these two are raw, realistic, and never fail to make us laugh!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When we started Belly Bandit®, we had a very clear purpose, to develop products that empower women to look and feel their absolute best before, during, and after pregnancy. We knew from personal experience that the journey to motherhood and beyond presents unique challenges. We are committed to designing solution-based products to address many of the issues that moms and moms-to-be regularly face. When we launched proof®, our goal was to create panties with a purpose. Our vision is to continue to innovate and find new ways to support women and help them live worry-free!
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Authenticity has always been our guiding principle. When you work with your sisters, you naturally keep each other in check! We are the first to call each other out if something doesn’t seem right, and we hold each other accountable, which has been critical in helping us stay true to our mission and ethical standards.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest challenge for us is what many people are facing, not being able to spend time with our parents. We are a very close-knit family; Sunday night dinners are our tradition, and our parents are always in and out of our houses. But, due to their age and being immune-compromised, we’ve had to keep our distance, which has been challenging. We make sure we do frequent drive-bys and recently started having mask-wearing, social distant get-togethers. But what we are truly looking forward to is being able to hug each other again.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We started Belly Bandit® in 2008 during a terrible economic downturn. So, when we launched proof®, we were confident it was at the ideal time. I guess someone forgot to tell us there would be a global pandemic! But we’re trying not to let it deter us. We were able to pivot and use our supply chain to source PPE products and have been fortunate to be able to donate 30,000 masks to Ob/Gyn offices across the country. This give-back initiative has definitely helped raise our spirits during this difficult time.
In terms of work-related challenges, we were a bit surprised by how quickly we got into the daily routine of working from home. Yes, Kari gets interrupted by her four-year-old, and Lori’s kids sometimes need her in the middle of a Zoom call, but overall, we’re making it work. The trickiest part has probably been photo shoots –on hold or asking our models to take their own pics and fittings — which need to be scheduled one at a time with protective gear in place!
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Yes, none of us is immune, and this has definitely taken an emotional toll. We find that when we’re feeling anxious, we do what we’ve always done, lean on each other.
As sisters and business owners, we need to rely on each other when we’re feeling overwhelmed. The pandemic has us relying on each other more than ever, and we’re thankful for the support even if it’s just a virtual hug. We do think that taking some alone time is essential, too. Sometimes, meditating, reading a book, or bringing Netflix on or own helps center us so we can get back to work and family.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Obviously, due to the quarantine, our business has had to adapt. We were fortunate that over the past year, we had been putting a lot of our resources towards our eCommerce side of the business. This focus has helped us get through these challenging times. We anticipate that the post-Covid economy will continue to bring more opportunities for our e-commerce business. Of course, our retailers, in particular mom and pop shops, need our help. So, we are creating incentives that will hopefully see them through the difficult months ahead.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
We’re optimistic that the pandemic will change the way we live in a positive way, whether that’s more time spent with our families doing things like taking walks and playing board games to greater empathy for one another.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
As mentioned, we see the greatest area for continued growth in our online business, so we will continue to put resources behind it. We also will be relying more on our social channels, affiliate relationships, and digital marketing efforts to build brand awareness. We are going to have to get creative with our retailers as they will need us to help drive traffic back to their stores. And as always, innovation is what drives our success, so we have to keep at it even during these difficult times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
We are actually a bit quote obsessed, and you’ll see our mantras all over the walls of our office. If fact, we collect them and turn them into coffee table books. We are finishing volume Five right now, and each book has close to 500 pages! One of our faves is,
“A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.”
We’re proud of the fact that we’ve taken hits, but come out stronger. There’s nothing easy about building a business, and we’ve all learned to drown out the noise and just keep building.
How can our readers further follow your work?