Elyse Kaye’s build was an obstacle to the active lifestyle she wanted. Entrepreneurship helped her hurtle that obstacle, and now she’s paving the way for women of all sizes to feel comfortable while they move.
As a student at Michigan State, Kaye wanted to run but could not do so comfortably, because the typical sports bra is not designed for women who are more than about a C-cup in size.
“I make-shifted a sports bra, often by doubling up a cheap sports bra with a regular, underwire bra, and I never ran,” said Kaye. “But as time went on, I grew to really love running.”
Just after graduating, Kaye set out to find a solution to the obstacle standing between her and running. She used the knowledge she gained as a communication major at MSU to write a business plan for a size-inclusive sports bra line.
“There’s a natural entrepreneurial spirit there,” said Kaye of MSU. “While I was at MSU, I learned how to answer not just ‘Is this an idea? Is it a viable idea?’” Kaye’s time at MSU taught her that an idea must have legs.
However, Kaye didn’t act on her business plan immediately. It took 15 years for her to pluck up the courage to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
In 2014, Kaye ran her first half-marathon, using her make-shift sports bra approach. By the time she finished, she had no skin left on her back due to chafing. That experience was the last straw for Kaye and marked the start of her company, Bloom Bras.
“I thought to myself, ‘if I don’t do this, who will? And if I don’t do it now, when?’” said Kaye.
Not One Size Fits All
She dug into her business plan, working with engineers and a professional corsetiere, to develop patented technology. The sports bras are designed to be comfortable and adjustable. They are designed to lift, rather than squish as a typical sports bra does.
According to Kaye, the U.S. average bra size has risen from a 34B to a 34DD in the last 20 years, but the industry has not adjusted to reflect that. Kaye's company, Bloom Bras, is disrupting the industry’s stasis by selling sports bras designed for women with larger chests. The company carries up to size 56L, making it the most size-inclusive line on the market.
“I wanted to create products to empower women of all shapes, sizes and stages of life to feel good while moving,” explained Kaye.
The company launched with a Kick Starter video Kaye shot in her kitchen. The vast network of Spartan alumni were among the first to support Kaye, and the project met its fundraising goal of $20,000 in only 82 hours. Bloom Bras then began shipping in March of 2018.
Passion in Entrepreneurship
Bloom Bras is not just about size-inclusive sports bras though. It’s about giving women a sports bra solution they can rally around.
“We’re all about finding that passion and sweet spot, and we want to create a community,” said Kaye.
The rapid success of Bloom Bras surprised Kaye, but she’s not slowing down. Her next goal for the company is to release new lines for breast cancer survivors, women pre and post maternity, and older women.
In the hustle and bustle of her budding business, Kaye still finds time to share advice with her fellow Spartans. She explained that when you’re looking to start your own company, you must be ok with failure, because nothing is easy about entrepreneurship.
“Your idea should be the thing that keeps you up at night,” said Kaye as advice to future Spartan entrepreneurs. “It should be the thing you love and hate the most.”
By Marlee Talbot