Models from the AnaOno MetaVivor Fashion Show, words like fearless and ambitious written on their screen

All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

metavior All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

(This blog was originally written on February 10th, 2019, on my way home from the city)

Today Beth and I went to the 3rd Annual New York Fashion Week Fundraiser Metavivor fashion show featuring AnaOno. Being on the fringes of both the lingerie and the breast cancer awareness worlds, we only found out about it at the last minute. I snagged two tickets. It was going to be an afternoon out, a treat for a long year of hard work. I don’t know if it was the busy week or just general lack of foresight, but I did not have an inkling of what I was about to encounter. Maybe it’s better that way, maybe I experienced it more deeply. Maybe the surprise was what lead me to feel ALL of the feelings.

Anger: I think everyone feels this. Why? Why is this happening? Why are we losing these beautiful men and women? Why isn’t there more funding? How can we let 1 out of 3 women who are diagnosed, die? It’s our mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends daughters… and fathers, brothers, boyfriends and son. It falls into the category of NOT FAIR.

IMG 1115 All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

Sad: Metavivor is about raising money and awareness for stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4 is the kind that kills. My mom’s second diagnosis was at stage 4. It was a huge blow to find that we were already that far in the process right at the start. I wanted to hug every man and woman in the room. Everyone in the world. I wanted to infuse them with my strength. I knew I could not. Did I mention NOT FAIR?

Lonely: In early March, it will be 4 years since I lost my mom. I miss her every single day. It’s my new normal and while I’ve (mostly) gotten used to it, but it doesn’t mean that I like it. So much discussion about metastatic breast cancer brought back so many of the bad memories. It was such an awful, frustrating time. She should still be here. There are so many daughters around the world that probably say the same thing. I know my mother said it about her mother.

IMG 1080 All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor

Frustration: Why is there so little research for something that kills so many? We’ve made great strides in so many other diseases, and with stage 0 and 1. Why have we, as a society, thrown in the towel at stage 4? These men and women deserve every moment of their lives as much as someone at Stage 1.

Amazement: These folks have Stage 4 Metastatic breast cancer. They’re out in the world, not only fighting for their own survival, but working to raise money and secure grants for those that are not yet diagnosed. At a time when they could and should be focused on themselves, they chose to make contributions that will leave a lasting legacy.

Happy: The women in the fashion show were having a great time. They were beautiful. They were powerful. They owned that catwalk. Everyone in the audience was under their spell. I doubt most people will know how that kind of adoration feels, not that it is the reason that they participated – but I’m sure it didn’t hurt.

IMG 1136 All the feelings with AnaOno and Metavivor
Dana, waiving from back stage

Hopeful: The room was buzzing with the energy of people who were there to help. From the corporate sponsors to the folks like us, who bought standing room only tickets because it was the best that they could do. The men and women on the stage were out there because they had hope that there could be a better future – one with a treatment and maybe even a cure. We were all united by hope.

I decided to honor my mom and her attitude towards life and take hope home with me. We donate part of our sales to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation because we know that things will get better. When I think about what my grandmother went through in the mid-1980s and compare it to today’s treatments, it’s a whole different world. Hopefully, in another few years we’ll be saying the same about now.

We had the pleasure of meeting Dana of AnaOno a few years ago. If we were impressed with her before, it pales in comparison to the amazing things that we saw at the fashion show. Please check out AnaOno for some amazing fashions, built for women designed specifically for those affected by breast cancer and breast surgeries. (but wonderful for everyone!)

Breast cancer research foundation logo

Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Choices & a Cure

Breast cancer research foundationAbout 2 months ago, Cancer Research UK published a study stating that breast cancer can recur up to 20 years after the initial diagnosis. According to the results, the probability of a metastasis occurring later directly correlates to the size of the original tumors and if cancer was found in the lymph nodes. The researchers were surprised that the cancer could remain dormant for so long.

When my mother was first treated for breast cancer in 1998, we were told by her doctors that 7 years was “cured”. In 2005, I remember having a small celebration via telephone. She was free! According to this new study – and what they found in her 16 years later, she was not. The doctors were making the best decisions that they could with the information that they had at the time.

I don’t know if she would have done anything differently if this study had come out 5 years earlier. My mom was already doing everything that was recommended. She went for her yearly mammograms and performed monthly self-exams. Would she have had more detailed scans? I believe she was part of the trials for tamoxifen but had to stop it due to complications from other medical issues. (which I do not have, should I ever need to try a similar drug therapy) At the time, the doctors just didn’t realize that they should be looking deeper.

Beth and I have decided that we want to do our part. We’re hoping to help overcome the lack of funding for research. Starting in November, The Strap Saver joined forces with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to help raise awareness and money for research. Stage IV (the stage that takes so many women from us) is underfunded and the BCRF has pledged 30% of their grants (almost $18 million) for advancements in this area. In addition, BCRF has established the Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund, the first large-scale and largest privately funded multi-year international program dedicated to understanding the biology of metastasis (in addition to funding other important research).

We’re hoping to help be the light in this otherwise dark subject. Five percent of all sales, retail and wholesale, will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. (So, if you haven’t, it’s a great time to pick up some Strap Savers!) If you already have all of the Strap Savers that you need, but love Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com and pick BCRF as your charity. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible items. If you’re like us, you’re shopping there already and the prices are exactly the same so it’s an easy way to help. Maybe next year BCRF will be able to donate more to Stage IV research. We’ll be one step closer to never again losing another person to this awful disease.

We also know that you are trusting us with your money, so we have vetted the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Ninety-one cents of every dollar is donated to research. Charity Navigator gave them an A+ and Charity Watch gave them 4 out of 4 stars. BCRF has the highest rating of any breast cancer charity. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Susan Domcheck, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board, personally. She was my doctor for the DNA study at University of Pennsylvania. She was both capable and kind. From my interactions with her, it’s clear that she wants to make a difference.

Shop with us, shop with Amazon, or donate directly – do whatever you can to help this great organization find a cure.

a blonde woman looking at the camera through a magnifying glass with the text straps undercover

Does A Stitch In Time Save Anything?

StitchInTime Does A Stitch In Time Save Anything?We’ve often talked about using the dry cleaners to alter straps as an alternative to The Strap Saver. We’ve mentioned how it might be inconvenient or expensive. I decided to go undercover (not really) when I went to my favorite, Ace French Dry Cleaners in Manalapan, to get some pants hemmed and get the answers!

I spoke with Chris, one of the owners. He said that he does get asked to shorten straps and the price and time depends on the garment. If it has an adjuster and the seam is easy to reach, it can cost approximately $8 for both straps. If it doesn’t and/or the seam is harder to find, it’s  approximately $12.1 It can take anywhere from a day to three days, depending on need and the requirements of the job. The prices can vary, of course, depending on the fabric, turnaround time and intricacy of sewing needed. It sounded reasonable to me, considering all that it takes to make a bra. Pulling it apart and putting it back together nicely can’t be easy.

As he and I were chatting, we did a quick compare and contrast.

The Dry Cleaner was better/more cost-effective for:

  • A one-time adjustment
  • An event that is happening in just a day or two.
  • If the bra or bathing suit has very thick or wide straps (wider than 1”)
  • You can also get your favorite dress altered to fit you perfectly at the same time (Ace saved my favorite formal wear!)

However, The Strap Saver became the winner in other circumstances:

  • It shortens more than one bra/bathing suit/tank top. The Strap Saver can be moved from bra to bra as needed, daily.
  • It leaves the strap adjustable, allowing for continued shortening
  • The stainless steel construction means that it will outlive many bras/bathing suits/etc.  It’s a solution that will be around for years to come.  
  • You don’t have to leave your house to get it! (my favorite – it takes me a long time to take stuff there and longer to pick it up…)

Some may think I’m crazy for praising “the competition”. I think it’s about finding the best way give the customer a custom fit. Also, I don’t think we’re exactly the same. It all depends on the need at the time and garment. If your strap issues fall in category 1, find your local seamstress or dry cleaner (If you are in the central NJ area and , I recommend Ace!). If not, might I suggest picking up The Strap Saver to cure your strap woes?

 

1Your mileage may vary.  Consider that this estimate is from Central New Jersey, halfway between New York City and Philadelphia.

The Other Strap Saver

The Other Strap Saver

.The Other Strap Saver - a school projectLast week while Beth and I were at Made in Monmouth, I received a media email alert based on “Strap Saver”. My first thought was “Wow, who’s writing about us now?”. After a glance, my mind quickly changed to “oh no… what’s THIS?” The link led me to a twitter account @strapsaver_ with a logo that included a bra and a tweet saying “Fix your life, one strap at a time.” The product was for retrieving rogue bra straps.

I spent the next 15 minutes chewing my bottom lip and wondering what to do about it. Was someone using our product name? Didn’t they look these things up? Would I need a cease and desist? If so, how was I going to manage THAT?

To say I’m protective of this company is an understatement. I’ve worked hard to build what we have.  I know I’ve taken the right measures to keep it safe, but not everything is within my control. Earlier this year, I was concerned about competition from a 3M product called the “Hold Tight Strap Clip.” Despite our trademark and provisional patent, I worried about the same potential problem – would I have to protect against someone undermining our brand? (in this case, it was more trademark than patent)

I decided to read the tweet again for insights – the hashtag was #echsinnovationexpo and the other Twitter account mentioned was for a Mrs. Something-or-Other. Slowly, the gears in my brain started turning again. It’s a high school. The Mrs. is their teacher. This product is not being produced. I think. Ok. Phew. Back to Made in Monmouth. Let’s sell some Strap Savers!

I went home that night and talked about it with Marc. We had a quick laugh over my tendency to jump to conclusions and tried to figure out what to do next. One part of owning a trademark is using it in business and another is defending it. If there was evidence that I knew about this and let it go, it wouldn’t look good for me if there was a future problem – even if this was just a high school project.

I decided to follow them on Twitter and headed to their website to contact them. I wrote to them (what I hoped was) a very nice note saying that I thought their product idea was cute but explained about ownership of the trademark to The Strap Saver. It was not a problem if this was for a class project, but if they were going to sell it, they would need to change the name. I even tossed in about needing to defend the trademark so that hopefully I didn’t sound like a crazy adult going after a school project. (file this under “things I’d never thought I’d have to do as a business owner”)

I heard back from them right away – explaining that yes, this is just a project and no, they didn’t have plans to produce it. My favorite was the closing line: “We’re all just a bunch of 14 year olds just trying to get by.” All I could think was “I hear you!”

The interaction did lead to something helpful for them. They needed an expert in the field to answer some questions. So far, no one had gotten back to them! I gave them some answers about their project and my thoughts on existing solutions to slipping straps.

While my reaction to the situation still makes me smile, I’m very impressed with these young women.  They put together a great website and a very funny video. The branding is clear and the logo is cute – which I think was their goal. I think it’s important that teachers are having students do this type of work while they are still in high school. (also – maybe include a section on researching intellectual property?) Young adults will start to understand the process of developing their own ideas into viable products. This could have been Beth or I a *cough* few *cough* years ago, if we had all of the opportunities of the internet at that age.

Their project is due today.  I hope they get an A.

The Bra Zone book

Crossover to The Bra Zone and Win!

Win one of three autographed copies of The Bra Zone and a $25 Gift Certificate to The Strap Saver It’s amazing how little we know about our boobs. I’m not sure why. Over 50% of the population has them and we’re constantly bombarded with images of them. I feel like we’re only told what they are “supposed to” look like or to get a mammogram.  I think most of us are at a loss. This is what makes The Bra Zone* by Elisabeth Dale of The Breast Life so awesome. It’s a book that shines a light on what’s really going on under our shirts.

Elisabeth starts The Bra Zone* with her own story of confusion as she develops breasts. She is, unfortunately, forced into an unattractive foundation at an early age because of her size. (been there, done that) Elisabeth continues to explain why finding a good bra has always seemed so difficult. The book goes on to detail what constitutes a good bra and how to find one that works for each of us. It’s not necessarily that we’ve been doing it wrong all this time, but with the right information, we can do a better job of finding the right bra for our shape and size.

To explain – The Bra Zone* is about understanding that there can be many choices in size, style, fabric, etc. in a quest to find the perfect bra. As Elisabeth mentions in her book, it’s a lot like shoe shopping. Most of us have gone up or down a half size (or more) depending on the style or designer of the shoe. It’s no different with our foundations. We’re not one size, we’re a whole zone of sizes and styles depending on our need at the moment – and that can change throughout our life. The Bra Zone is also about embracing this – and understanding our size options. Too often we blame our bodies when our size changes. We don’t get angry at our feet when we have to ask for a different size, we shouldn’t get mad at our boobs either.

The book walks through the basics of how and why our breasts are what they are, and how they will change throughout our lifetime. (now I’m not looking forward to what’s coming in menopause…) Elisabeth also explains some myths about breasts and bras (spoiler: they do NOT cause cancer), types of bras, what they are supposed to do (as opposed to what we want them to do) and what might work best for different situations. There’s even a handy-dandy section on bra accessories – and you’ll never guess who’s featured! (when you get your copy, you may or may not need to immediately open to page 82-83 and ooh and ahh.  Change the may or may not to must…)

I’ve only been in the ‘biz for 2 years now and had no idea how much I still had to learn until I read The Bra Zone. It reads like a friendly “Breast and Bra 101” and is perfect for…  well, anyone with boobs or about to get boobs. Our appearance is so important to our self-esteem (it shouldn’t be, but it is!) and this book goes a long way to explaining how to work with what you have and what’s in the market. So, after you buy your copy*, get one for the teen in your life.  The sooner they have this information the better!

For many of us, bra shopping is a lifelong endeavor. The Bra Zone can help turn a necessary evil into something fun and exciting – since it will no longer feel like we’re trying on bras in the dark.

*This particular link is an affiliate link for Jill’s Wish.  A portion of any purchase made through this link will help women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment to pay their household bills.  

AND – Elisabeth has been very generous to offer us THREE autographed copies of her book to give away!  We’re going to match it with three $25 gift cards to The Strap Saver – for 3 awesome prize packages.  The winner will be selected on August 31st.  Details to enter below!

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CurvExpo 2016

What’s New from CurveNY

CurvExpo 2016Last week was CurvExpo – a treat for the lingerie lover in all of us.  It is a feast of color and texture from both established and new designers all with one goal – sell those designs and get them in stores.  This was the second year that Beth and I attended.  Last year was a little intimidating, we were the new kids on the block – not even on the block, we didn’t have a booth.  We were tourists visiting a new world.  The website had only been online for 3 months and we had so much to learn and it was a wonderful experience.  We met so many amazing people, learned how to extend the life of our lingerie and now we were back – with even more exciting questions!

An Overview of CurvExpoAn Overview of CurveNY

The layout of the CurvExpo is like many trade shows – rows and rows of booths from every brand imaginable with their latest products displayed to catch the eye. Our biggest question was where to start!  The answer – to the left!  (no, not because of Beyonce – I have a need to go counter-clockwise after too many Disney visits – “they” say that’s the best way to avoid the lines.)  I thought I’d share some of the things that we found for those searching for something new!

Juana de Arco's pretty fabrics at CurvExpo

We wandered down the aisles and stopped at the first place that caught our eye – Juana de Arco!  Juana de Arco (Joan of Arc) is a line of yoga, underwear and children’s clothes in bright patterns from Argentina.   The fabric is hand silk screen in vibrant colors.  The designs look both beautiful and comfortable.  Beth fell in love with the wide leg pants and we’re hoping they become more widely available in the US.  We want to feel this glamorous as we are relaxing at home!

Next, we met Megan Grassel, CEO of Yellowberry, who saw that the only bras available to young girls were too sexy and thought that there should be an alternative.  Although she was still in high school, Megan set up a Kickstarter campaign and a new company was born.  I had read her story a few years ago and admired her drive, especially given that she’s still a teenager.  Starting a business hasn’t been easy for us and we’ve had years of industry experience.

 

Another stop was to talk to Louisa Loveday at Loveday London.  We were attracted to the beautiful lace boudoir 0223161305agown that she was 0223161305bwearing.  (I just looked it up, it’s £1,000.00…  but hey, my birthday is coming up soon!)  Her style was very different “hard-core romantic” and unlike anything I’d seen before.  The lace was soft and the leather was smooth.  Although with inspiration from last year’s show I have definitely bought more interesting bras, I still consider myself to be conservative but if there’d been a dressing room, I would’ve tried some of this on.  We chatted with Louisa for a while about owning our own businesses, finding the right fit for lingerie, how beauty and sexy belongs to everyone.  It was a great conversation.  I should have asked her if that was her real name!  (like Amy Freeze, a meteorologist on WABC in New York)

Hanging Secrets Travel Storage for bras

Speaking of my new bras, the last new company that I’m going mention is Hanging Secrets.  They make a hanging bra organizer similar to a hanging shoe organizer, but, obviously, for bras.  I spoke with Dr. Melinda Silva about the product and how they, like us (details coming soon!) plan to donate a portion of their profits to breast cancer victims and their families.  I’m lucky enough to have plenty of drawer space so I was more interested in the smaller, travel version pictured here.  It’s hard to crush expensive bras when closing an overstuffed suitcase – and face it, they’re always overstuffed.  (but always .5 lbs under limit!)  Dr. Silva said that the smaller one is a prototype and will be coming out soon.  I’ll keep an eye out for it!

The Nubian Skin Booth at CurveNY

We were happy to see some of our friends from last year.  I had a moment to say quick hello to Ade of Nubian Skin.  I’m always so impressed with their product and their message.  It makes me think that we should come up with something darker than our current tan.  They’ve recently expanded their hosiery line to include a wider range of sizes.  We also chatted with Charlotte Davies, the designer at Curvy Kate.  It’s hard not to say nice thing about her and her designs.  The candy colors are always gorgeous.  We also got to meet Jessica of Tutti Rouge, a brand I learned about from reading Science and Silicone.  When they learned of our product, they seemed almost as excited to talk to us as we were to them!

 

The Tuttu Rouge Booth at CurvExpoTutti Rouge Bras

All in all, it was a very tiring two days, but worth every minute.  We got some great questions answered (Want to know why your underwear rides up?  Stay tuned!) and met some wonderful people.  We’ll have some great follow-up blogs on all that we learned.  We look forward to keeping in touch with our new friends and to seeing everyone again in August!

2016 New Year's Revolution

New Year’s Revolution

2016 New Year's Revolution

Yay, it’s time for diet commercials! (and I’m writing this a week or so early, but I know it’s coming!) Even Oprah is getting in on the game.  They start on December 26th (or earlier) every year, telling us about all kinds of foods and gadgets that will help us become the ideal person. As if we’re not already perfect. (We so are.)

Sure, I may be perfect, but as the year ends, I’m finding that I’m not where I want to be. Juggling my personal life, my full-time job, and this company can be overwhelming. I like to think that I’m catching everything, but I’m not. My goal for 2016 is to figure out a way to accomplish more and miss less by working more efficiently.

My first step to working smarter was to redeem the prize of a free coaching session that I’d won in October from Roe DeSaro.  (from an awesome event called “Women in Entrepreneurs Rock!” by the local Small Business Development Center at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park – yes, THAT Stone Pony. Check out your local SBDC for great events if you are a small business owner!)

The coaching session (my first) turned out to be as helpful as I’d hoped. The preliminary questionnaire helped to identify some places that needed work, especially related to The Strap Saver. Plus, my home office is a never-ending pit of stuff – (I don’t know why everything ends up in there, but it always does) and I always feel behind. I hate that.

Roe asked me about my goals (to build the business, to make a difference, to retire!) and how I spent my time (endlessly running) and then got more specific – what are you actually doing? I am not sure that I had an answer for her. Checking things off of my list? Solving problems? Taking it one day at a time? I feel like I am constantly working, but am only incrementally closer to my goals.

She also had some great suggestions for me – and it began with process. As in, we lacked one.  Almost everywhere.  Things are much easier to manage when they are predictable.  Of course they aren’t always going to stay that way, but that only happens sometimes.  For the 80% of the time that things going according to plan, why not…  have a plan!  (She had some specific ideas for my business – but we’ll get to that in a minute)  Of course, if I were on the outside looking in, I might’ve seen this too, it’s amazing how caught up we all get in our own ‘stuff’ – and how useful that outside perspective can be.

Another bottleneck that Roe found was that I was intent on blazing my own trail – which is potentially a waste of energy. (I’m all about working smarter) One example is a marketing plan – there are many, many great examples on the internet.  Why not learn from someone else’s example and modify it for myself? It’s not ‘cheating’; it’s using my resources wisely. If you have a goal, I recommend checking with Google (or Bing or DuckDuckGo – take your pick!) to see how others have reached it and if that path (or a version of it) works for you.

So in 2016, the answer for me is all about process, not about goals or gadgets. It’s my way of declaring a New Year’s Revolution on the resolution – not saying what I’m going to do, but how I’m going to do it. If you have a resolution, try finding a process that works for you. Set aside time every day to follow it. It could be taking time to pack a healthy lunch (for health or to save money!) or sitting down at a scheduled time to write this week’s blog entry (hint, hint!). Eventually we’ll reach our goals, but just declaring the end result and not giving ourselves a path to success sets ourselves up for failure. Defining that process will help us develop the right habits to sustain our goals – if it’s a broader reach for our writing or a more organized home.

Since I know you’re dying of curiosity (not really), here are my goals and plans for 2016:

-Use my time more efficiently: I can’t use a digital to do list. It’s just not for me. I love lists, but I’m more of a pen and paper girl. I do like a digital calendar in general – but not for getting things done. I searched for a long time and settled on the Spark Planner. It’s a bit more… guided than I might normally like, but I have important goals this year, so maybe guidance is good. I’m hoping it will help me to organize my thoughts and tie up loose ends (and I’ll finally remember to buy a frame for our newspaper article and our trademark certificate! I’m so proud of these accomplishments – I want to display them!)

-Get more done: We’ve made a digital calendar just for The Strap Saver. This will help Beth and I keep our goals aligned and stick to deadlines.

-Achieve bigger goals: I’ve blocked out time for my weekly goals. I’ll put it into the Spark Planner, but I know how much time I want to spend each week working on this blog, social media interaction, etc, so that I know that each of these goals are being met each week vs. “I’ll get to it” – we can also test effectiveness and when some of these new endeavors become habits, we can add to them.

-Think beyond a week at a time: We’re adding some quarterly plans. This way we can spend time in 1Q planning for 2Q promotions. Of course, that puts us a little behind for 1Q, but we’ll figure it out. Think of how much time we’ll have for 3Q! (what do we have planned for 3Q again? :) )

-Block out some me time: I’m hoping that all of this will allow some hours on the weekends to read a book, one of my favorite activities. It really helps me to take a break from life and decompress.


Whatever you want to achieve in 2016, I wish you the perkiest year on record, because we all know that when the boobs are looking good, we all feel better!