When Deeanne Akerson was a breast-feeding mom she struggled to find the right clothes. She wanted pajamas and sweats that were comfortable, but also functional and stylish. Simply put she wanted to feel good in what she was wearing, even if they were pajamas. When she realized there was a gap in the market for such an item, she got to designing and thus Kindred Bravely was born. Today the California-based entrepreneur is continuing to expand her line of maternity and new mom clothing, while also balancing cash flow and financial growth.
Akerson’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
As a breastfeeding mom, I was desperate for a comfortable pair of nursing pajamas, but nothing was exactly what I needed. At the same time, my husband was looking for a business idea, and one night I suggested nursing sleepwear. “Moms want to feel stylish and put together because sometimes we never make it out of our pajamas. They just have to be cute, stylish, comfortable, and actually work for breastfeeding.” We researched the idea, and I got to work creating my perfect pair of nursing pajamas.
After we launched Kindred Bravely, I began hearing from moms who loved how comfortable they felt, and they all wanted to know where they could find a bra that felt as amazing as the pajamas. So many women aren’t wearing bras that fit or feel comfortable. I knew I could help solve this problem, and I began designing bras and other clothes that would bring comfort to moms: underwear, loungewear, and more.
Success is achieving the goals that I have set out to achieve, whether big or small. Kindred Bravely’s mission is to put a comfortable bra in every mom’s wardrobe, and we have so many smaller goals on the way to achieve that mission. Each time a mom reaches out to let us know she’s finally found comfort with one of our bras, I know we’re succeeding.
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I’ve designed so many products over the last few years, from specialty bras and tanks to ultra-soft loungewear and our new swimwear line, but I think our biggest success as a company is our dedication to constantly innovating for our customers. What started as a solution to my personal pain point has become a consistent, forward-looking goal of figuring out what other moms will need and solving those puzzles.
In business, cash is king, especially when you’re a startup. Without a consistent flow of cash, we wouldn’t be able to order inventory or invest in developing new products, and maintaining healthy cash flow has always been a challenge. When we first started, I thought it would get easier as we got larger, but the truth is that finances have to be managed constantly.
We use a forward-looking cash flow projection as part of our ordering process to ensure cash and inventory levels maintain optimal balance. Finding a balance between work and family has also been a challenge for me. I love my work and my family so much, and it’s easy to get pulled between being present with my loved ones and digging deep on a work puzzle. I’ve found that acknowledging the times when I need to focus more on work (and making sure my family is prepared for it) can make a huge difference. Instead of setting work hours and then feeling guilty when I’m working on my phone outside of those hours, I chose to just pick a few hours each week that I keep “work-free.” Dinnertime every day is work-free for example, and I put my phone on the shelf for a few hours every evening for dinner, bath, and bedtime. I may work again after the kids are in bed, but dedicating a few hours each day to family helps me keep the bit of separation that exists between work and life!
In terms of role models, shortly after we founded Kindred Bravely, I had the privilege of hearing Jeff Hoffman, one of the founders of Priceline.com, speak at a conference. He shared so many pieces of advice, and my favorite was “Fall in love with your customers, not your products.” Over the last six years, I’ve kept that idea top of mind with every business decision I’ve made.