Catherine Betts’ Truckee-based small business Betts Fit is focused on one simple goal: Building a better sports bra. The idea sprung from Betts’ own frustration with the lack of comfort and support she found with the sports bras she needed as a high school and collegiate soccer player. As a large-breasted woman, she found that available bras didn’t provide enough support. Sometimes she had to wear three sports bras at once to prevent painful bounce and she still suffered neck, shoulder and nerve pain. Later, as a personal trainer for six years, she would often teach 10 sessions a day of varying degrees of difficulty. Some sessions were vigorous, and she really needed a strong sports bra, while others were less strenuous, and she was more comfortable with a regular bra. She ended up having to change bras several times a day.
“I got my new bra and climbed Mt. Rose and have been enjoying it running and jump roping. It supports my girls and other girls. In my eyes as an advocate for women, it’s an all-around win for the industry.” –Lauren Klein
“That was the icing on the cake, I decided there is a need for something that is supportive but comfortable enough to wear for the entire day,” said Betts.
So, she decided she would create the perfect sports bra and set to work to produce it. The problem was “I came in with zero design background and had never touched a needle and thread before,” said Betts.
What she had was a willingness to work hard, and the genes for invention.
“My father and grandfather have a bunch of patents in the truck parts world,” she said.
She spent the next two years ripping apart every sports bra she could get her hands on and experimenting with creating something more ergonomic and supportive.
“My neuroscience background was helpful,” said Betts.
Eventually she created a bra that accomplished all the goals: Comfort, support and flexibility. She beta tested it on more than 250 women who gave it rave reviews. One of the women who tested it was Lauren Klein, CEO of Girlmade, a consulting firm supporting female company founders.
Like Betts, Klein is a large-breasted woman that on occasion has had to wear three bras at once. She met Betts at a Change Makers event when Betts was pitching her concept to potential supporters.
“I got my new bra and climbed Mt. Rose and have been enjoying it running and jump roping. It supports my girls and other girls. In my eyes as an advocate for women, it’s an all-around win for the industry,” says Klein.
Once Betts knew she had a product that would serve the needs of women, she next had to figure out how to get it manufactured and onto the bodies of the women who needed it.
“I really wanted to keep production local,” said Betts. But it took her nine hours of work to produce one sports bra.
“The machine would jam up, and I would have to fix it. It was not fun, there were major meltdowns,” said Betts.
This is when Betts learned that sewing bras is a unique skill set that is performed efficiently in only a few factories in the world. It’s also when she learned why there are not too many small firms producing bras as connecting with these factories is a challenge.
She spent the next few years taking what she created in her basement and mailing it back and forth to eight bra factories.
“Choosing one was a big deal, putting all my eggs in one basket. I’m extremely happy with the final product. Everyone is stoked with it. It is an exciting time to officially have our bra out there and it is everything I dreamed of creating,” said Betts.
While trying to get the bra into production Betts had two children and was dealing with the delays and frustrations of Covid, which pushed the production back six months. These delays turned out to be a good thing.
“The Covid slow down allowed us to implement some last minute changes to squeeze in features our customers are super excited about,” said Betts. The changes included a nursing functionality and interchangeable straps, which allows for more flexibility in how women wear the bra.
In 2019, Betts brought on a partner with co-founder Danielle Rees. Rees who co-founded Coalition Snow, which designs skis for women, and also served as the executive director of Girls on the Run Sierras noted that she “was inspired by her creativity and energy. We both share a passion in supporting women and girls in sports,” said Rees.
Betts met Rees as she was presenting her bra business concept at the same pitch competition where she met Klein.
“When I got to see the product, I was impressed. It’s high quality and the performance is huge. There should be as much attention to creating a sports bra as there is to running shoes,” said Rees.
Betts and Rees have invested their savings in the company, which at this point consists of just the two of them. The inventory arrived in October and they hope that now bras will be flying off the shelves. | bettsfit.com
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