Editor’s Note: BackEmbrace has been named to The Story Exchange’s list of 12 Brilliant Business Ideas.
BackEmbrace , a wellness company based in Franklin, Tennessee, aims to make high-quality posture supports. Founder Kara Froula says the company was born of her own necessity — she needed support to reduce strain but couldn’t find options on the market that were comfortable. So she designed her own brace as a “first step toward a more positive and empowered mindset” and decided to sell replicas of it as a side hustle. But when the pandemic hit, and working from home became all the mandatory rage, she ditched her accounting job to focus full-time on BackEmbrace. “The demand for BackEmbrace has been overwhelming— we were sold out within the first 3 months,” she says. As Covid drags on and hybrid work models persist, the need for Froula’s innovation isn’t likely to wane.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about starting your business.
I had constant tension in my upper back, neck, and shoulders. I went to massage therapists and chiropractors, but only received temporary relief. I tried posture supports, but they were bulky and irritating to the skin — and far from stylish. BackEmbrace is a posture support that is attractive, effective, and actually feels good — like a gentle embrace.
How do you define success?
Since launching my business, I have reframed how I define success. To me, success is having the courage to embrace uncharted territory and being resilient enough to get up every time you fall. When something doesn’t work out the way I anticipated, I always walk away with a little more knowledge and wisdom than I had before. Often, those perceived failures or setbacks are the very catalysts for innovation.
What is your biggest success so far?
Developing and bringing a product to market that actually helps people was something I had never done before. Navigating the uncharted territory that comes with starting a business has required a tremendous amount of courage and resilience, so I consider that in and of itself, a success. However, there have been some meaningful achievements that I am particularly proud of like being featured in some of the most reputable media publications such as Good Morning America, Healthline, Women’s Health and Martha Stewart to name a few.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
To delegate or not to delegate. As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges is that there’s so much ground to cover. From product development and manufacturing to sales and digital marketing, there are so many areas that require vastly different skillsets. In the beginning, like so many entrepreneurs, I wore all the hats, trying to glean insight and gain expertise along the way.
And it’s tough if you have a shoestring budget, because every dollar counts and you don’t know what will move the needle for your business. Will you invest in a robust influencer campaign or will you get more traction with strategic SEO? Will you take a stab at doing it yourself or will you go out on a limb and engage an agency or expert? I’ve done it both ways and my takeaway is this: Understanding what you don’t do best and learning to delegate to highly skilled people you can trust is crucial to success.
I’ll never forget a quote I read, “She who is everywhere goes nowhere.” Trying to do it all is a fast track to burnout— it’s that hamster wheel, you’re busy, but are you really effective? When you acknowledge your limitations (time, interest, know-how), you can more freely embrace your own unique gifts and talents. And isn’t that what we’re here to do?
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Yes, I’ve made the decision to keep going— one day at a time. I have been sober from alcohol for over 14 years. The tools and life skills I’ve learned in my recovery are the same tools and skills I’ve learned to embrace and apply to my business. In recovery, many people agree that their worst day sober is still better than their best day drinking. From my own experience, my darkest day being an entrepreneur is still better and brighter than my best day working for someone else doing something I wasn’t passionate about. No matter how challenging things get, I don’t give up. It’s one day at a time, and sometimes, one moment at a time. At the risk of sounding cliché, I do my best to have an “attitude of gratitude” especially on my most challenging days.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Start small and test before you invest. Before I started manufacturing on a larger scale, I exhibited at a medical tradeshow. The overwhelmingly positive response gave me the proof of concept I needed to be confident in leaving my 9-5 accounting job to pursue BackEmbrace full-time.
It’s important to get as much feedback as possible so that you can more easily adjust and refine. I started manufacturing BackEmbrace in small quantities and I was able to make adjustments on sizing based on the feedback.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
When customers share feedback that “BackEmbrace has given me a better quality of life,” “I don’t know what I did without it,” and “I no longer have neck and shoulder pain while working at the computer for hours,” I feel so grateful to have made a positive impact on people’s lives helping them stand a little taller and more confident.
Who is your most important role model?
Sara Blakely, the founder of SPANX. When I learned that Sara didn’t have a product development background, and that she drafted her first patent herself, it inspired me to move forward despite not having formal experience or expertise. I also really admire her philanthropic initiatives and how she gives back to female entrepreneurs. ◼