This is a new segment called “Spotlight” where we review companies and/or products and tell you a little about what running moms like to buy, wear, and use on our runs. Not that we’re high maintenance or anything, but I know my running mamas have very specific needs and wants when we are “running the town” so if we like something, we’re pretty sure you will too! And if you don’t, please let us know! And if you want us to try your company/product, we’d be more than happy to do so – just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Our spotlight today shines on Hilary Heath of Sturdy Girls Sports. I “met” Hilary when I inquired about her great line of women centered performance wear for our 1 year anniversary party. Hilary generously sent us two of her performance shirts for us to add to our raffle for our party. The lovely mamas who won her shirts LOVED how the material felt, it’s sweat wicking ability and and the great design. I interviewed Hilary via email to find out more about her and the Sturdy Girl brand.
MRTT: Hilary, you gave up a career in high tech to start the Sturdy Girl Brand. How did your previous career help you in your new endeavor (or did it)? What made you decide to take the leap from high tech to sports bras?
Hilary: I started my high tech career in software sales and later moved into corporate marketing roles. I went from small start up software developers to progressively larger and broader companies. Over the years and across the different companies I held a variety of marketing positions from product marketing to program management to strategic alliance type positions. I felt like I had a good grasp of all the different skills required to start and manage my own company. I took the leap when the last company I was at starting reducing headcount in order to trim down before being sold off to another company. It just felt like the right time to start career number two. My husband gave me the final push and said “I think you should do it. If it doesn’t work you can go back into tech, but you’ll regret not trying and you’ve been talking about it for a while.” Let me just say, I am grateful to have a supportive husband!
MRTT: You’ve really taken into consideration all the things about bras that women have been complaining about for so long and have fixed them WHILE making the bras stylish and beautiful. What was it like when you finally realized, “This is it! This is the sturdy girl bra!”?
Hilary: I have to say I breathed a huge sigh of relief! I went through many prototypes and my factory over in Taiwan was growing wearing of sewing and resewing all the modifications. I think what really made it come together was during a trip to my factory when I put on a prototype and wore in front of a whole room full of people. I just stood up there in front of everyone in one of my bras (my factory project manager, the factory owner, the lead sewer, etc…) and showed them the issues that needed to be corrected and they were clearly able to see what I wanted done. I’ll say it was a little embarrassing but the very next prototype was the final one!
MRTT: You also make performance tops and bottoms – what were your inspirations for those pieces? What problems do they correct that other brands won’t (i.e. have you found the cure for “camel toe”? =) Are they made using the same technology as the Sturdy girl bras?
Hilary: Honestly, I only wanted to design and make sports bras in the beginning but two things sent me down the path of adding to my line. First, I learned that you have to purchase minimums of each fabric and those minimum quantities are actually quite high. Sports bras don’t consume a lot of fabric and even more challenging is that mine use 4 different fabrics not including the elastics and trims. So I needed to find a way to use up the extra fabric in a logical way. Second, I signed up to show my gear at a running retailer trade show and I realized that my mannequins would have nothing covering their bottom parts if I didn’t design bottoms for them! In the end, I LOVE the way the shorts, capris and pants came out!
In terms of problems that they correct, I realized that I didn’t like shiny, sheer material used in many legging or pants, I didn’t like the potential for camel toe, I didn’t like the drawstring and I never had enough pockets. I decided I was going to address those four things. I was able to get my hands on an extraordinary fabric that is super soft with just the right amount of compression and density. The pattern was set up to allow for the right amount of triangular space in the gusset so that camel toe wouldn’t come into play. The extra zip pocket on the lower leg of my pants is just right for stashing an id or money or a key, so that you can use the hip pocket for stuff you need to easily access while out on a run or while in the gym. I started looking at silicon grippers to replace the drawstring and learned there are about 1,000 different varieties! But in the end I went with a soft, small silicon gripper that was good at holding the bottoms up without feeling like it was pinching anything in. In the end I put a considerable amount of time and effort into the bottoms even though they weren’t part of the original plan!
MRTT: Some of the members of our Moms RUN this Town Chapter are nursing moms. Have you thought about making a bra that would be more conducive to nursing moms? We have moms who will nurse before a run, run with their baby in a jogging stroller then nurse afterwards (or if the baby is getting fussy, stop their run to nurse, then continue). Needless to say, current sports bras are not the most nursing friendly and wearing a regular nursing bra is not really comfortable or supportive.
Hilary: I think that is a great idea! The challenge however will be designing a supportive running bra that comes apart easily for nursing. Anytime you add adjustable parts you introduce the chance for bra failure (something coming apart unintentionally during a run) and you also introduce the chance for chafing since adjustable parts have connection points and those connection points are often where friction develops. But I’ll put some thought to it!
MRTT: I love how your apparel addresses women’s workout needs for something comfortable, supportive and stylish while also taking into account your social and environmental footprint. I know a lot of our moms take that into consideration when making a purchase. Was finding this balance (of great clothing and being socially and environmentally conscious) something difficult to accomplish?
Hilary: Everything in life and work is a trade off. I found a great factory that is owned and run by a women (kind of cool) and she felt strongly about meeting all labor and environmental requirements in order to be certified. I could pay much less and make more money by going into countries that don’t care, but I decided the trade off was worth it to me. Because my company is private, I am not under pressure of investors to show a greater profit.
MRTT: What is your favorite workout to do? What is your favorite workout outfit (i.e. which style bra/top/bottom)? I’m thinking along the lines of, “you’re not only president of the Sturdy girl brand, you’re also a client”! Maybe I am dating myself so if you don’t remember that commercial, here’s a link to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuRLGdGnqSU&noredirect=1.
Hilary: Irma, I totally remember that commercial! It’s awesome. Maybe I should put together a YouTube video myself! Ok, here’s my answer. My favorite workouts seems to change depending on the season but overall I really love to do long, weekend runs with my friends so we can just talk and run and generally catch up with each other. In the summer I really love to go on long hikes with my friends for the same reason. Plus it feels great to get to the top of a mountain peak and then look at the beautiful view from the top. Where I live in Boulder County Colorado is filled with amazing hikes! In the summer I also break out my road bike and do lots of cross training. What I love about being on my bike is that I can cover so much more ground than I can running. Overall, you can tell I am a bit of an aerobic junkie. As for my favorite outfit, I will just say that I wear all my bra styles and like to trade off between them. I like wearing the tank style bras in the spring/summer under a light weight cycling jacket because the two layers are just right for warding off the wind. I like wearing the prints because they feel pretty even if they are under another shirt. It’s like my little secret. For the bottoms I probably wear my capris more than any of the other styles because they work in so many different types of weather. I wear the pants all the time when I am not working out – which is kinda funny – but they are comfortable and flattering and I just find that I wear them all day long.
Well said, Hilary!! I know my running mamas are enjoying their Sturdy Girl tech shirts. Next time, Sturdy Girl has a discount code, we’ll be sure to post it on our Facebook page so you can try one and be Sturdy Girl too!