- Name: Emma Rutherford-Ward
- Business name: Vee Underwear
- Industry: Underwear
- Number of employees: 0 (Just Emma at this stage)
- Operating since: November 2018
- Location: Melbourne
What was your first paid job?
At age 13, I made my mum sign up as an Avon sales representative on my behalf (as you can’t get a job until you are 14 and nine months in Australia), and when I was 15 I had a jewellery stall at my grandparents’ local market. Looking back, I think in some ways I always had aspirations to have my own business.
What made you get into your current business?
The idea for Vee Underwear was born out of a personal need for breathable underwear.
To my surprise, the “simple task” to find breathable underwear that fit comfortably and didn’t look daggy quickly became impossible.
After much web trawling and trying on horrifically unflattering underwear, I clicked across bamboo fabric and discovered that bamboo fabric is not only breathable, but offers numerous additional health benefits in comparison with cotton and is significantly more sustainable.
Inspired by the possibility of creating a female-focused product and educating women on how simple environmental factors such as underwear can affect their female health, I set out to create Vee Underwear.
How did you get your very first customer/client?
My very first customer was my boyfriend the day Vee Underwear launched online… not the demographic I was expecting. Luckily, that was shortly followed by my first real customers. I achieved this by creating hype through WOM and a big influencer push.
What has been your biggest triumph in business?
For me, it’s been as simple as creating a product that women genuinely love. Getting regular messages from happy customers is honestly the best feeling.
Beyond creating underwear that support women’s everyday health, it’s our mission to create a brand platform that takes the “boo” out of taboo female health topics, fostering a tribe of women who place health top of mind when purchasing female-related products. I’m also really proud of the start we’ve made on building a community of women who feel empowered to talk about female health.
Conversely, what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Not understanding the production process specific to lingerie in enough detail. You need to understand all of the potential pain points and/or risks for your specific product or service.
Don’t be afraid to not be the expert and ask all the questions. And if you don’t have someone to ask, don’t be afraid to do a LinkedIn stalk, find the right person, shout them a coffee and ask them all the questions.
It’s been pretty amazing to see the amount of people who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise if you simply ask for help. I’ve built some really valuable connections just by asking for help… did I mention ask for help?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Just put it out there.” Whether it’s an idea or it’s a finished product/prototype, you need to put it out there. As soon as it’s out in the world, you are committed.
Telling people about your idea will hold you accountable to bring the idea to life. And similarly, as soon as you share your product/prototype, you’re only going to gain valuable learnings and feedback to make it even better.
If you could change one thing to make life easier as a business owner, what would it be and why?
More hours in the day? Or a money tree would be nice? Being a solo founder can be super tricky as you are often filling roles you’re not necessarily an expert in. If time wasn’t a factor, you could learn, or if you had a money tree, you could hire. Unfortunately, both of those things are unrealistic, which is forcing me to work on my patience.
Who do you look up to in business and why?
I honestly look up to anyone that is putting themselves out there and giving something they’re passionate about a red-hot crack.
Also anyone that has created a successful business and is willing to help those starting out, I find that really admirable.
What do you do to get away from work?
The place where I feel truly relaxed and “off” is anywhere with sunshine and water. While I don’t do it often, I’m actually very good at switching off. I think it’s so important to give your mind space to pause, digest and reset.
What is the best thing you have ever spent money on in your business (and why)?
All the money I’ve spent on coffees with those who have lent me their time, advice and expertise. It’s been invaluable.
Name a little-known fact about yourself.
I have a lip balm addiction. I go absolutely nowhere without it.
What is the funniest experience or encounter you have had in business?
As a brand, we talk a lot about female health and are unapologetic when we do. This lends itself to some pretty funny moments in general, particularly with men… well, at least I find it funny. My uncle once said to me, “Hey, Em, can you stop sending us emails about thrush?”