Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Allison Schickel, founder of Brobe International Inc., located in Austin, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Brobe designs products for all surgical recovery to make the patient more comfortable and independent. Women, children, and men all have post-surgical drains after any major surgery. This allows the body to release fluids so the body doesn't swell. It is also one of the most painful and cumbersome parts of recovering.
Our products help alleviate the discomfort by creating products that shield and hold in place those drains safely. We started with marketing only to breast cancer patients undergoing a single or double mastectomy. Now, 11 years later, we service all surgeries from open heart, organ transplant, cosmetic, and pediatric surgery.
Tell us about yourself
I started the business after my friend Wendy was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Wendy underwent a double mastectomy and 11 reconstructive surgeries. With each surgery, Wendy had 4-6 drains dangling from her body. She would have to tape them to her skin which would cause skin irritation, or pin them to the inside of her shirt, which would cause limited mobility. There was nothing that was functional or feminine to help Wendy recover after each surgery. After a year of doing market research, I realized the manufacturers that were creating any type of "product" for these women only created drab, overpriced, flat-out ugly products. I wanted to create something that would give women the dignity they deserved. In 2012 I created the first bra + robe combination for surgery recovery; thus, the Recovery Brobe was born. What motivates me every day is my family and my customers.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think my biggest accomplishment has realized the lack of adaptive clothing products out there and how big the market is. Fifty million people have major surgery every day, and no one was tapping into this market. I also feel like we are actually providing a tangible product and service for people during one of the most difficult times of their life. Bringing them some peace and comfort, creating something that doesn't look "medical" can go a long way when you don't have any eyebrows, eyelashes, or hair and your breasts have been removed. Feeling beautiful and "normal" is a big deal physically and emotionally for recovery. I am proud that we provide products to help during this time for people.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest part of being a business owner is loneliness. Not a lot of people choose to take this insane, challenging, yet rewarding path in life. It's hard for others to understand the weight a business owner bears on a daily basis and still have the capacity to keep moving forward every single day.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
- Trust your gut with literally everything. Hiring and pivoting the business and customers. Your gut will never steer you wrong.
- Don't compare others' success with yours. Everyone has their own path.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.