Stefanie Manhal was frustrated by the shapewear and bodysuits she purchased to smooth over loose skin that came following post-pregnancy weight loss. What was available in the marketplace was confining, didn’t stay put or was generally uncomfortable, she recalls. Manhall decided to put her decades in the apparel industry to entrepreneurial use by creating the shapewear products she long sought. That was in 2015 – 8 years later, stā BODY is still turning profits on the moisture wicking, anti-microbial, comfortable shapewear Manhal launched with. Today, the La Crescenta, California entrepreneur has growth goals she wants to reach. But she’s still celebrating the milestones and glowing reviews her business has earned so far – as well as the knowledge that her product helps people feel good about themselves.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
The shapewear industry essentially tells us that, in order to look and feel beautiful, we should squeeze ourselves into a tiny tube that promises to “reduce inches.” This is the concept of beauty that we grew up with – and one I am standing up against.
My product provides everything a woman wants in her undergarment without sacrificing an ounce of comfort. Our bodies are beautiful as they are, and we don’t need to change anything.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
I have had some fabulous mentions on large Instagram accounts and Sirius radio programs, and have been interviewed on podcasts and in online style magazines. We have also appeared on some “best of” lists. But the biggest success is when someone tells me that we helped them “love their body again,” or that they wear our product all the time. Hearing and seeing our customers living in the bodysuit fills my heart with fire!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My biggest challenge is getting the word out. We are very small – and have a matching budget. It is extremely difficult to get noticed in this day and age through all of the noise, and with every celebrity or influencer launching their own brand. Once people wear stā though, they fall in love – the problem is getting seen.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
We launched at the end of 2015 and grew through 2019, which was our best year. We were on track and gaining momentum. Covid altered all of that. From how people spend, to how people dress, to how we use social media, the pandemic has absolutely changed the game. We are doing everything we can to change it once more.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
I have an apparel background and have been in the business for over 20 years. When I started up, I thought my previous position and connections would give me an automatic “in” with my own venture. How naive I was. It takes so much to build a brand. The seemingly “instant” success we see on social media is either fabricated, overblown or the absolute exception. It takes everything you have, and then a whole lot more, to create a successful business.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
On hard days, I look at the women who I have touched, and it keeps me going. That is why a post or a comment that a woman sends me about my product is so priceless – it breathes life into everything I do.
What is your go to song to get motivated on tough days?
“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus is a good one.
Who is your most important role model?
I don’t have a specific role model. What admire any woman or person who came from nothing, never gave up, and realized their dream – those who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and created a life that they want. ◼