Any woman with larger boobs will know how difficult it is to find beautiful and trendy lingerie and swimwear that is both affordable and actually fits properly. Well, South African entrepreneur Shona Macdonald is on a mission to change all that with her exciting new company Thursdays Lingerie and Swimwear.
LoA visited Shona in her vibrant co-working space in Johannesburg to find out more….
What does your company do?
Thursdays designs and manufactures lingerie and swimwear for girls C cup and up. Thursdays is not a plus size brand, as we understand that a woman can have big boobs, regardless of the size of her waist. We are proudly South African, and all of our operations are conducted locally. We are a start up brand, and will be available in stores in August 2016.
"Thursdays is my solution for all girls who feel left out by the current retailers because our body shapes lie outside of the majority."
What inspired you to start your company?
I have big boobs, not huge, but big enough to have a problem finding pretty bras and swimwear in my size within my budget. I remember feeling so dejected at the age of 17 when the shop assistant held up a beige granny bra telling me that this is what I should now be wearing for the rest of my life. I was so upset that I openly cried in public, but no matter how hard the other shoppers searched the store, they couldn’t find something in my size that made me feel my age. As a stubborn teen, and then young adult I have since forced myself into bras and swimwear that kind-of fits, simply because I like it more, and style is important to me. As I have grown up, I have realised the consequences of this and am tired of the daily discomfort and dread that comes with shopping for new items. Thursdays is my solution for all girls who feel left out by the current retailers because our body shapes lie outside of the majority.
As a proud African it has always been my intention to do something meaningful to stimulate the growth of my community and local economy. I am using Thursdays as a tool to do my bit to revive the textile industry in South Africa, as it has taken a huge knock with the increase in Chinese imports among other factors. We are also invested in supporting sustainable entrepreneurship by partnering with other local entrepreneurs to grow our business.
We called ourselves Thursdays because we founded the company on a Thursday. Serving a youth audience, we wanted to take the sexuality out of our brand. To us a girl is sexy because she feels confident and happy in her own body.
As an entrepreneur you have to learn how to boot-strap and make personal sacrifices. Although these are not really sacrifices, but rather an investment in yourself and in your vision.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We design our products specifically to support larger breasts. Unlike most retailers, we adapt our patterns as the functionality of the bra changes to support the weight of the breasts. However this does not mean that we compromise on style! We embrace colours and patterns, and keep the designs fresh. All of our products have under-wire support, wider straps and are sold according to bra size, even our swimwear!
Our swimwear range supports the perfect tan. Our straps are completely removable, and the full piece also has an open back. Girls are able to swim in the waves, run and even play Frisbee in our swimwear! The wide straps on our bras are disguised by a pretty lace detail, and we have added a wide under-band in a long-line design to give you extra support and comfort from below. Our cups are made up of three segments, which research proves offers the best support and shape for a full bust. You won't feel the urge to throw off your bra at the end of the day while wearing Thursdays!
I want Thursdays to be the go-to brand for lingerie and swimwear around the world, celebrating niche markets and creating a fun shopping experience for girls.
Tell us a little about your team
As the founder of Thursdays I am a big boobed girl myself, so I personally understand the struggles that my market faces on a daily basis, and that having big boobs isn’t always as glamorous as the media makes it seem. Determined to change the way that we wear bras, I studied a Bcom entrepreneurship and then went on to work in the fashion retail industry before officially founding Thursdays on 18 April 2013. I am a creative entrepreneur and describe myself as living inside my happy bubble. As an idealist I set my goals high, constantly pushing boundaries and achieving what others initially deem almost impossible. I bring this energy to the Thursdays brand. No longer will we allow the industry to dictate what we can and cannot wear because of the shape of our bodies.
Outside of Thursdays I am the host of The Breakfast Club, the morning drive show on Lucky Radio, an online radio platform. I make the most of every moment in life, and surround myself with talented people who push me to keep improving and creating.
I enthusiastically persuade and motivate others to join me on my mission to change the world, and have put together a team of experienced and competent ladies who are Thursdays girls through and through.
Diane is our technical designer and operations manager. She is responsible for turning my designs into working patterns, ensuring that they not only look good, but are functional too. She works closely with me throughout the whole process, from initial design, to fabric selection and product development. Diane oversees the quality of the final product, so that only the best garments reach our customers. Diane has 25 years experience in the intimate and swimwear industry and has worked for some of South Africa's most prestigious brands.
Elizabeth is the machinist responsible for taking our ideas and drawings and turning them into something tangible. This way we can test the look, patterns and fabric choices, and make alterations before putting them into mass production. Elizabeth brings many years of experience with her to the Thursdays team. She started in the lingerie industry when she was 17 years old, and completed a design course at Haute Couture school, achieving the position as a designer & bra specialist.
Rochelle is the head of our manufacturing unit. We outsource the production to Rochelle and her team of ladies, a level 1 BEE CMT in Cape Town. Rochelle is a fiery woman who has been in the industry for 26 years creating structured apparel for some of South Africa's biggest brands and affluent designers. She comes with a vast amount of knowledge and connections within the industry and puts passion into everything that she does.
As a brand, we care about our community and are actively doing our bit to stimulate sustainable entrepreneurship where we can. We have employed local street artists to create us beautiful Thursdays wire coat hangers, which you will be able to take home with you when you have purchased our products through our retailers. We want you to know that when you buy from Thursdays, your purchase has a positive impact on the lives of others.
"What I have learnt so far from my journey as an entrepreneur, is that you should never go at anything completely alone. You will be surprised at how many people are willing to help you along the way, and the support and guidance can be the thing that gets you through the rough spots."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I feel that I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. The first example that I can remember of this was when I moved schools in the middle of the year at age 10. The girls at my new school were all into playing marbles, but the only marbles that I had were the ones nobody wanted – the junkies. I used the resources that I had available to me, a bottle of glow-in-the-dark nail polish, and transformed my junkies into marbles that no one else had seen before. I soon had a team of girls working for me, and playing marbles on my behalf. I ended the year with two cake tins of the grade’s finest marble collection.
Having not come from great wealth, I have used this resourcefulness throughout my life, forcing myself to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems. As an entrepreneur you have to learn how to boot-strap and make personal sacrifices. Although these are not really sacrifices, but rather an investment in yourself and in your vision.
What have you learned from your entrepreneurial journey
What I have learnt so far from my journey as an entrepreneur, is that you should never go at anything completely alone. You will be surprised at how many people are willing to help you along the way, and the support and guidance can be the thing that gets you through the rough spots. I have called on the help of all my friends and family for almost everything that I have done. They have been my sounding boards and my motivators but they have also acted as consultants, as models and photographers, as event managers and make-up artists, they have looked over my business plan and given me advice on my financials, they have donated their time, and roped in their own friends when I have events and marketing campaigns. Entrepreneurship may be lonely at the end of the day, when you are lying awake worrying about your next step, but you are never alone.
I have experienced failure, and the disappointment of getting my hopes up just to have them crash and burn around me. However difficult these lessons were, they are the ones that have stuck with me and shaped me the most. Much more than the successes have. An example of this was a marketing event that I organised in aid of Breast Cancer. I used Thursdays as a platform to bring the community together to raise money for the Pink Drive while attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the biggest contribution to a painting by numbers. We had access to a 39m x 2m wall along William Nicol Drive in Johannesburg, and the aim was to attract 3000 people to the sidewalk on the day to paint a block each. I wanted to do this as an interactive way to introduce Thursdays to the community, we are after all a fun, quirky brand that cares. I was naive in thinking that a month was sufficient to pull off such a massive event. Having never undertaken anything similar I was unaware of all the red tape and regulations that needed to be fulfilled, and this took valuable time away from the marketing. I called on my aforementioned network for support, and we somehow pulled it off, although we were far away from breaking the record. The colourful wall opposite Monte Casino is beautiful reminder about the importance of failure and the strength of networking.
"As a proud African it has always been my intention to do something meaningful to stimulate the growth of my community and local economy. I am using Thursdays as a tool to do my bit to revive the textile industry in South Africa."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I think big. I always have. I want Thursdays to be the go-to brand for lingerie and swimwear around the world, celebrating niche markets and creating a fun shopping experience for girls. We plan to achieve this by sourcing the best quality raw materials, up-skilling our team and striving for excellence in everything that we do. If the input is good, then the output will be even greater, which is why it is important for me to create fun and nurturing working environments, where there is always room for growth. South Africa is our home and the heart of the business, and will always be a benefactor of the successes of Thursdays. Our credo is to think global, act local, while targeting an international audience and growing our own economy in doing so.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
This is an easy one. I love being an entrepreneur! My job is to create. I don’t see problems, only possibilities. I get to work with some amazing people, people of my choosing, to bring this to life. I feel free, as I am in charge of my own schedule. I can structure my days however I please. Yet I do end up working longer hours than my peers and on weekends. The difference is that I do this because I love it, and it doesn’t feel like work. I cannot fully explain the feeling of satisfaction when something you have been working on finally comes together. There is no bigger accomplishment than when you see physically before you something that was once a mere idea. I am also continuously learning, about every aspect of life and business, and it is this desire to keep on learning and improving that motivates me to continue. The best part about being an entrepreneur is that I know, by the end of my journey, that I will have made an impact on the world, and shaped it in a way that only I could have, because that is what creators do.
"The best part about being an entrepreneur is that I know, by the end of my journey that I will have made an impact on the world, and shaped it in a way that only I could have, because that is what creators do."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Dream big! Only you can set yourself limitations, so if you believe that something is possible, then go for it! The world is full of naysayers who will offer you advice or criticism and often bring you down, but don’t listen to them. You might not succeed in your first attempt, in fact you most likely won’t as entrepreneurship is a process. The lessons that you learn in your early failures will save you in the long run, and make you a stronger and more resilient business woman. People will have opinions no matter what you do, so you might as well follow your own path. The support will come when the results of your labor start to show, but don’t do it for the glory, do it because you want to make the world a better place.
My advice to you as a start-up entrepreneur would be to get involved with an incubation program. I am with the Awethu Project, and on top of increasing my business knowledge and giving me the practical tools to run a successful business, they have opened a lot of doors for me in terms of networking and just being more aware of the business world and opportunities around me. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone, and have a network of support around you.
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Why LoA loves it….
Successful women entrepreneurs have a real passion for what they do which reflects in the way they run their businesses, engage with their customers and suppliers, get their messages and their mission into the marketplace, and in the difference they make to the lives of others. Thursdays is a company inspired by one young woman entrepreneur with a huge passion for life and business, who has a big dream and the ambition to go with it. Shona Macdonald knows what it takes to think big and make her entrepreneurial dream a reality, and we are tipping her as one exciting new brand to watch in 2016. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa