Every woman knows the wonderful feeling when you step in your door and take off your bra. Pretty much a ritual here at MentalScoops. Bras make us sexy and push our ladies up. But for a bigger chested lady like me, I’m often annoyed to see Victoria Secret or other intimate lingerie stores only carrying cute but small size bras. Often times, when I do find a bra in my size that actually provides the support I need, it’s boring AF. Well for all my big chested ladies out there, fear no more. We interviewed Laura West, co-founder of Trusst Lingerie – Pittsburgh lingerie company that makes sexy intimate wear that supports the weight of your bust from underneath, removing the burden on your shoulder straps and refocusing the support around the core of your body where your strongest muscles are.
MS: Tell us about you and your company!
About 2 years ago, my co-founder and I started Trusst Lingerie to redefine comfort for women because we’ve never been happy with the bras that are on the market now, so we decided to reengineer these bras. We discovered that there are a lot of reasons why larger breasted women experience pain. Over the past few generations, women’s bodies are changing so we need to rethink how bras are made. Currently, our idea is patent pending. This new bra puts the weight on the core of the body instead of the shoulders and back. The company currently has 5 full time and 2 part time members.
MS: How did you guys get started? Was it scary committing to this full time?
This was actually side project for a while because we couldn’t self fund it. We were working and realized we’re on to something… We applied for Alpha Lab Gear (Pittsburgh startup accelerator), which provided initial working capital, mentorship and office space.
There were a few things that were scary. I’ve only been working in the real world for a year after graduating from Carnegie Mellon. I wanted to do something meaningful and this crazy opportunity was overwhelming, but I’m young and the benefit outweighed the risk. I took this leap of faith and so far it’s been going really well!
MS: You are already very successful! Bras are pre-sold out online, strong social media following, winning awards, etc…
Yes, we recently received the Pittsburgh Tech Counsel’s Creative Project of The Year award to highlight local companies doing cool things in the community.
MS: So in the beginning, what was the hardest when starting the company?
A few things… First, we relied on ourselves, there were only two of us and we both had a huge learning curve doing everything especially having no experience running a business, making lingerie, or engineering. I don’t know how we did it… we didn’t sleep a lot.
Another hard aspect was that Alpha Lab Gear was more of a robotics and hardware accelerator. When I say hardware, it’s tangible products. There are a variety of hardware products, ranging from computers to teddy bears. We are more on the teddy bear side of things. Lingerie is a part of the fashion industry, and so we didn’t have a lot of mentors that really understood this industry. Our mentors mostly gave us support in how to test our products, get it to the market, etc. There are definitely a lot more incubators or accelerators in this area emerging.
MS: Any hardship specifically as a woman entrepreneur?
OH YES. We were working specifically on a female orientated product, especially for a body part that is often times sexualized. We are young and cute and can come off as we don’t know what we’re doing. The investors are all older men, so they couldn’t take us seriously without cracking a smile. We had a great idea with proof that there is a huge market. Despite the fact that we had numbers behind it – large market space with lots of opportunities, we were still not taken seriously.
People often times don’t see women as serious consumers even though women purchase and consume 80% of house hold goods. Statistics are in our favor because it shows that women are getting bigger but the market is not fulfilling these needs and changes. All these data show how successful this idea / company can be, but they still didn’t think we had something…
MS: How did you overcome these problems?
Just keep pushing. A lot of it is opening doors and starting a conversation. I think we’re lucky in that we’re hitting the market at a really good time – There is a current trend in the market towards women actively talking about their bodies, body image, feminism, etc. This has acted as a strong backing for us. A lot of women are reaching out telling us how important it is to have these changes.
This has really been a catalyst for change – pushing people to talk about these changes and needs, especially having men talk to their wives and daughters about it really opens doors.
MS: I think having the strong stats behind supporting you has definitely partially led to your success because you’re filling a necessary gap in the market. But did you have any low points? Did you ever want to give up?
I’ve never got to the point where I want to give up. Definitely had low points where I just want to curl up and cry but definitely didn’t want to give up. We have a customer service email and we often get emails from women thanking us and telling us how long they’ve been waiting for this product or how some of them are looking into surgery because of their back pain. It hurts me to hear they are in pain, and that pushes me to keep going.
MS: Who else do you seek support from when you’re experiencing low points?
It’s kinda been a bit isolating, not going to lie. I used to be very involved in the improv comedy community here in Pittsburgh. It has been a source of release and I’ve built strong relationships there, but I’ve been a bit neglecting.
I’m still doing my best to cling to my good relationships with friends, and they’ve been extremely supportive while keeping me realistic.
When it comes to female entrepreneurship, I’m torn about it. I love it, but I always wonder why not as many women go into it. The startup world is a boy’s world. It’s a bro-culture – everyone is a programmer. Sometimes they make comments like “how’s your boob company going?”. But you just got to be ballsy, own it, suck it up and do it. It’s scary, it really is and it’s hard to break into that…
MS: What are some advice you’d give to young female entrepreneur trying to make it in the start up world?
I think there’s been a trend when it comes to female entrepreneurship… A lot of women are scared of risks and I don’t know why it is but I wish I could pinpoint why. I also find that a lot of women do this later in life when they’ve achieved what society expects of them: successful career and having a family.
I don’t want to generalize, but you don’t find a lot of young female entrepreneurs. I wish women would take more risks even if it’s scary. But if you believe in yourself, that you can do it and you can do anything, the sky is the limit.
MS: You are very motivated and are very positive! How do you stay so positive while working this hard?
I don’t want to say I don’t have low points. It’s such a rollercoaster: today you can experience the highest of highs, and tomorrow you’ll have the lowest of lows. I’ll admit. I’ve struggled quite a bit with depressive thoughts and it’s really hard sometimes to get out of bed and do anything. I don’t want to say I’m an anomaly or a unicorn… I hate to say that the power of positive thinking will make the situation better, but it helps. Also, thinking about things rationally. It’s not easy, but you need to put yourself in a positive mindset. I try to find little bits of happiness every day, finding that one little gold nugget and hold on to it.
MS: What additional tips would you give to your younger self?
Everything is not as bad as it seems.
You can try to turn negatives into neutral, maybe even positives.
Speak up for yourself, don’t be afraid because if you don’t ask the questions, who will? I think early on, I didn’t ask as many questions because I didn’t want to seem like an idiot.
Also, remember to trust your guts even if logic seems fantastic.
Haha all these sound so cliché… I hate reading these on magazines, but now I’m giving these bits of advice… But they’re clichés for a reason.
MS: Where do you see yourself and your company in the next few years?
We want to expand. We’re selling products on our site will be on a few others, so it’ll be good to get some feedback from customers. We want to get more product lines out and refine what we have even more. We want to look into sports bras and swimwear, but a few cool things are coming up!
For myself, I just want to survive, thrive, come back to Asia a few more time – I love it here in Hong Kong!
This interview has been edited and condensed.
A FEMINIST, who wants to eventually be an amazing soccer mom with flexible work hours. A CONSULTANT, who is thirsty for flight status and hangry for hotel cookies. A DOG LOVER, who plans to own a German Sheppard, Oreo, and a Golden Retriever, Cheerio. A PROUD TECHIE, who doesn’t enjoy coding. A SELF PROCLAIMED PRACTICAL OPTIMIST, who struggles with the difficult act of staying positive while battling with depression. #PositiveAttitudes