Many women in Africa struggle to find well made, proper fitting, beautiful lingerie that has been specifically designed and crafted for larger bust sizes. But now, one Kenyan company is providing a solution in the country. Double Dee's is designing and retailing a beautiful new range of lingerie for women with larger breasts, and as a result, making a name for itself in the marketplace.
LoA spoke to co-founder Stella Langat this month to find out more about this unique lingerie company that is on a mission.
What does your company do?
Double Dee’s is a Kenyan-based lingerie company that exclusively focuses on providing high quality, alluring and affordable intimate apparel & swimwear for ladies with large busts; DD and upwards. In a market heavily plagued by second-hand items commonly known as ‘mitumba’, Double Dee’s provides new and elegant lingerie pieces for the busty Kenyan woman.
"The idea to start DD’s was born of sheer necessity. We all realized that we encountered similar problems when shopping for bras because of our larger bust sizes. The few bras we managed to find in local stores were either unflattering or too expensive."
What inspired you to start your company?
The idea to start DD’s was born of sheer necessity. We all realized that we encountered similar problems when shopping for bras because of our larger bust sizes. The few bras we managed to find in local stores were either unflattering or too expensive. Sourcing for these products internationally proved a cheaper option; however, the hustle of shipping the products was incredibly frustrating. In time, we each found ourselves scouring through piles of second-hand bras looking for the perfect fit. You could buy a batch of six, for instance, and when you get home, only one fits. So all that frustration is what prompted us to start the company in 2014. We came up with our business model, wrote out the business plan, and used that to seek to fund. And now we just opened our first store on 1st June 2016. Currently, we retail products designed by the DD’s team and other lingerie brands. However, our long term plan is to exclusively retail our own designs.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our designs take into account the unique challenges each of us has faced in our bra shopping struggles. For instance, one of us who is really slender could never find a bra of a small band size but large cup size. Another partner hated that most bras in our sizes came in ugly neutral colours, so for that reason, we make sure that each collection has ample colour and funky prints. We are all so hands on, and because we care so deeply about the challenge we are working to solve, we only source our products from well-recognized manufacturers and brands that share our values, and that exclusively produce bras for busty ladies.
"Our designs take into account the unique challenges each of us has faced in our bra shopping struggles."
Tell us a little about your team
DD’s comprises of four founding partners: Charity Migwi (Chief Financial Officer), Constance Tipis (Chief Marketing Officer), Stella Langat (Chief External Affairs Officer), and Wanjiru Njoroge (Chief Production Officer). Constance has her own psychology practice and Wanjiru works as the production manager in a local film production company. They essentially deal with the local operations of the business. Charity works as a management consultant in the US and Stella, also based in the US, is a recent Economics graduate from Skidmore College. They focus on our international relationships with our supply chain and investors.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Growing up, we didn’t call it entrepreneurship, but we knew about ‘hustling’. Like most Kenyans, our parents and older relatives, even those formally employed, worked on some side hustle. It came in many forms: some had small farms and would sell the produce to the neighbours, or at the local market; a cousin would import cars from Japan and sell to local dealers; a brother started his own e-commerce store for engineering products. So it is quite popular to start your own thing in Kenya, especially in Nairobi. The main difference for us is the sheer scale that our ‘side hustle’ has taken. We have had to develop local and international relationships in order to set up a sustainable supply chain. And though we only recently launched our store, we started working on this idea two years ago - researching our target market, researching the industry and making appropriate connections, looking for funding. That last part was the toughest - we signed up for a couple of business plan competitions, and sometimes we didn’t win, and it was soul crushing. But we took any feedback we got, refined our pitch and signed up for more competitions.
Looking for mentors was also particularly difficult because many told us ours was a pipe dream. For instance, we once met with a legendary lingerie designer, some would call her the queen of lingerie design, and she essentially told us we were crazy to even try, and that we would need $500k starting capital. The icing on the cake was that she wanted to charge us $300 an hour for speaking with us, but decided to make that first coffee chat (and last) on the house. At that time, we didn’t even have that $300 if she would have asked to be paid, or even 1% of her recommended starting capital. But instead of running out of the meeting crying, we decided to make use of the freebie, and asked her to explain the whole development process and we were keen to find out which were the costly processes, and get innovative about how we approach those parts of our supply chain.
We have learnt a lot these past two years and are still learning every day. We are also avid readers of entrepreneurial blogs and books, and all always seeking the counsel of more season entrepreneurs.
"Growing up, we didn’t call it entrepreneurship, but we knew about ‘hustling’."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
DD’s sees itself with a chain of stores across the African continent. Additionally, we would like to move production exclusively to Kenya in the next couple of years. We believe DD’s has what it takes to be Africa’s first DD+ lingerie producing company.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Our success is the moment a client finds the perfectly fitting bra (#TheOne). Once we had a client come in with no bra because she was fed up with wearing poorly fitting bras. She ended up leaving wearing one of our bras and buying a couple more. She could hardly believe that a bra could fit so well that she would barely noticed she had one on. It is these moments that reaffirm our mission to bring little gifts of joy to busty women all around.
We also consider Double Dee’s to be a social enterprise. When we started this journey, all four of us agreed that we want our business to aim for more than just profits. We also wanted to be a source of good and change in our community. We know eventually we will be able to create jobs, especially in manufacturing. However, we wanted to do more and focus on issues that affect women. Presently, our main cause is around breast cancer awareness and support for survivors. Breast cancer is one of the most leading cancers in Kenya and results in the most cancer deaths as it is often diagnosed at the late stages. For this reason, we work with the Breast Cancer community to raise awareness about self-breast examination and annual mammograms. We are partnering with clinics to offer free check ups throughout the year. And in our work so far, we have come across a large breast survivor community. These women are resilient and have overcome a lot in their lives, but life after cancer is also challenging. For this reason, we are also working with post-cancer survivors and want to help provide them with post-mastectomy bras and accessories. Currently, post-mastectomy products are hard to come by in Kenya, and many of these women can't afford them.
"Our success is the moment a client finds the perfectly fitting bra - #TheOne"
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Never stop believing in your dreams, even when others don’t share in it. Work on something you are passionate about, as this will motivate you on days when you feel like giving up. One way to know if you’re passionate is to ask yourself if you would keep doing it even if you never got paid. Lastly, be ready to embrace opportunities that will propel you a step further to fulfilling your entrepreneurial dream. And those opportunities sometimes come in the form of a disappointment or failure - for instance, an investor who says no might be the best person to approach as a mentor to help you make improvements on your business plan.
Contact or follow Double Dee’s
Why LoA loves it….
One of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs starting out on their business journeys is to find a niche in the market where they can make their mark. In the case of theall woman team behind Double Dee’s, the niche emerged from trying to find a solution to a challenge impacting on them all as women trying to find proper fitting, beautiful lingerie, in their home country, and at an affordable price point. Their story and their unique products will undoubtedly resonate with fellow women entrepreneurs and customers alike, as will their inspirational efforts to support those impacted by breast cancer. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa