Sara Moylan, who founded Shefit in 2013, met Jeffry Aronsson two years ago. Aronsson, who has held chief executive officer posts at brands including Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, was speaking at a fashion talk in Detroit, his hometown, when an eager Moylan pitched him her idea: a fully adjustable sports bra.
As a competitor on the fitness circuit, Moylan had trouble finding sports bras, which represent a $3.5 billion dollar industry in the U.S., that fit her. She decided to make one herself by gluing and sewing fabric together — they would fall apart in the wash — but she eventually partnered with a local seamstress in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Shefit is based, to develop what she envisioned.
The patented Shefit Ultimate Sports bra, which retails for $67, allows wearers to adjust the bra to whatever support level they need. With velcro closures, the bust band can be loosened or tightened up to eight inches while the shoulder straps offer 15 inches of adjustability. The bra also has a magnetic zipper closure, making it easy to get on and off, and compression and encapsulation that prevents uniboob. It accommodates cup sizes A through I with sizes ranging from extra small to what they call 6Luxe — Moylan prefers the word luxe over large.
A recent study conducted by the Central Michigan University Motion Analysis Center determined that in comparison to Adidas, Brooks Moving Comfort, Move Performance Apparel, Nike and Under Armour, Shefit’s Ultimate Sports bra resulted in the largest reductions in breast motion and bouncing.
“I think women have just started to accept that their sports bra isn’t going to always keep things in place and therefore they modify their workouts,” Moylan said. “But with Shefit we want them to feel like they can push themselves and not be inhibited by their bra but liberated by it.”
By the time Moylan met Aronsson, Shefit, which she runs with her husband, Bob Moylan, had completed a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 and made an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in January 2016, which helped build awareness.
Aronsson, who is now a stakeholder in the business, was the help the Moylans needed to propel the company forward. The couple have a background in sales and have invested around $400,000 of their own money in growing the company along with bank loans. They’ve taken no venture capital money.
“What I saw immediately with Shefit was a promise that got fulfilled and an authenticity because it was created by someone who had a need. And by solving her problem she ended up solving a population’s problem,” Aronsson said. “Sara reminded me of Donna Karan, who I remember inviting me into her closet and telling me she designs based on what she needs. And those needs were aligned with the market.”
For Aronsson, who is also working on building a fashion hub in Detroit, working with a utilitarian, functional product is a nice departure from dealing with extensive apparel and accessories collections, but he approaches the business the same way he helped turn around global luxury brands. Sara Moylan had already established a strong product and marketing proposition, which led to wholesale partnerships with local retailers, but Aronsson quickly advised they make the company direct to consumer. The Moylans agreed.
“Our vision early on was to compete against billion-dollar companies, and never doing this before we wanted to get into retail and expose ourselves,” Bob said. “But we found that we were competing with our wholesalers online and wanted to manage the transaction and customer experience ourselves.”
Ninety percent of Shefits sales are generated on its e-commerce site, and 10 percent come from events in the equestrian/horse category, the running sector, fitness and wellness expos and the mommy sector.
“Because our product is so unique, women really want to see how it works,” Sara said. “The second we cinch them, the light bulb goes off and they get it.”
Along with its Ultimate Sports bra, the company sells a low impact Real Support seamless bra that retails for $38 and will introduce the Ultimate Flex bra that’s seamless and made from a four-way stretch material. Shefit will also explore swimwear and a tech bra over the next year and a half.
According to Bob, their biggest challenge is forecasting, but they’ve been prudent about production numbers and would rather sell out than sit on inventory. They are also managing growing a team, which started with just the two of them, and extra help from their four daughters, but has now grown to around 30 people.
Aronsson feels optimistic about where the company can go.
“The future of the company is there for us to imagine,” Aronsson said. “There is no question in my mind that based on the ideas that Sara has, the following we are building, and the systems and processes that we are developing and implementing that in five years this company could be sitting close to nine figures.”