Confident Tiger: Clare Martin

Confident Tiger is a breath of fresh air for the bra industry, sourcing inclusive sizes and eco-friendly materials to make a product that's fit for the modern woman.

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Name of founder: Clare Martin
Age of the founder: 36
Location: Essex
Date launched: July 2021
Number of employees: 1

What does your business do?

We design and produce size-inclusive, sustainable lingerie. Designed to make beautiful lingerie accessible to all shapes and sizes – from 6 to 26 – Confident Tiger’s bespoke, eco-friendly range spans over 140 sizes (the widest range available) with bras from 28C to 44L. Made from recycled, end-of-roll Italian lace and beautifully soft bamboo silk, the Confident Tiger made-to-order balcony bra is set to become a wardrobe staple. This stunning and comfortable bra is available in sizes 28C-44L as an underwired and unpadded bra. Non-underwired and padded alternatives will be offered when the stretch goal is reached on Kickstarter. The plus size bra (D+ cup) features wider straps, a sling for extra support and an extra hook and eye, but looks identical to the core size in every other way.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

When my bra broke during the lockdown, trying to find one that was flattering for my body and offered the support I needed was an absolute nightmare. Wanting a brand with ethical, sustainable practices too made it pretty much impossible – even after hours of research. So, I decided to create my own. I felt so disappointed that my choice was limited because many high street brands don’t cater for all sizes while sustainable options aren’t always as flattering. I believe you shouldn’t have to have a frumpy or uncomfortable bra just because you have a bigger bust so the Confident Tiger range doesn’t penalise you for having bigger or smaller waists or breasts.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I ran a survey and listened to conversations around me. I joined a few groups for bigger busted women and realised bras are rarely true to size!

What were you doing before launching your business?

Running a digital marketing agency (Blue Cactus Digital). Blue Cactus began life as Blue Cactus Digital in 2017. The company launched as a general, small business digital marketing agency targeted at small businesses in Essex. They’ve now evolved to provide specialist digital marketing for startups and brands that want to scale.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

Yes, although this is my second!

How did you finance your business?

Self-funding, a Virgin Startup Loan and (hopefully) our Kickstarter campaign which launches on 1 October 2021.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

Minimum order quantities have been the biggest issue – I couldn’t afford to get 50 bras in every size (140+ sizes) made, so had to go down the seamstress route. Lots of factories said the idea of made to order lingerie wouldn’t work, especially as I’ve had no experience, but it seems to be working and I’ve built up a lot of traction. Aso, people saying it wouldn’t work and people wouldn’t buy. That was a big challenge from a mindset point of view

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

I don’t know anything else really, so it’s been OK. I don’t really feel I’ve been affected by it. My other business was badly affected and I had to totally re-invent it, but this one has been a lot smoother, because I was aware of the situation beforehand. A lot of factories have closed down, but I probably still wouldn’t have been able to go down that route.

Describe your first breakthrough.

Finding a designer who believed in the idea. So many other said it wouldn’t work, but I’m determined. The designer I found has also coached me through building the lingerie business, which is amazing. I contacted tens of factories and they all said I wouldn’t be able to do it with my MOQs. So, I went down the made-to-order route instead.

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

It hasn’t yet, but I suspect it will do in future with extra shipping charges and more import fees!

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

Stop procrastinating and just do it! The more you think about something or how much it won’t work, the less likely you are to do it. Take a risk, otherwise you’ll always regret it. And also, get a business plan written if you can’t do it yourself and nail your marketing strategy before you start – it makes it so much easier.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

Ensure it succeeds. This time last year, it wasn’t even an idea. I’ve managed to build a complete business is an unknown territory in less than nine months.

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

We have big plans to launch a few new designs every year, but we want to build slowly. In the next year, we’d like an in-house seamstress and we want to start experimenting with different recycled and sustainable materials. We want to make a big difference.

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Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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