For our Startup Spotlights, Times of Entrepreneurship scouted the most successful startups that spun out of top university competitions and programs. The impact of such awards can be many years in the making, especially in the DeepTech space.
Interviewee: Emma Butler, founder of Intimately
Which university challenge did you win and when?
The concept won first place in Smith College’s Draper Competition (August 2020 for $25,000), and second place in Brown’s Venture Pitch competition (March 2020 for $15,000).
What is your elevator pitch?
Intimately’s line of underwear includes items such as period panties and bras that use magnetic front fasteners, among others.
“Our elevator pitch is ‘Intimately is a one-stop-shop for disability inclusive lingerie. Here at Intimately, fashion meets function – we introduce the newest fashion technology for easy dressing. Our goal is to bring confidence to millions of disabled women through a better lingerie shopping experience – an experience that helps define a woman’s femininity, personal identity, and self-assurance.’ It hasn’t changed too much over the years. We’ve stayed true to our commitment to serving women with disabilities through a better online shopping experience.”
What should we know about you?
There are over 600 million women worldwide who have some sort of disability that affects the way they dress. Yet there are more clothing lines for pets than for people with disabilities – and even fewer adaptive lingerie lines. The intimates that are available are marketed towards the elderly and medicinal-looking, not sexy. Emma Butler realized that what was missing were adaptive intimates that are both functional and fashionable.
Butler’s mother, a self-proclaimed fashionista, was diagnosed with a few chronic illnesses that left her disabled 10 years ago. Together the two tried to find clothing that was both fashionable and accommodating to her mother’s disability, but came up empty-handed. Her mother described the shopping experience as dehumanizing.
As Butler entered college in 2016, she met women with the same disability and others as her mother. They all had similar sentiments about shopping as a disabled woman: it was incredibly hard. They needed clothing that was easy to put on without a large range of motion, did not have small hooks and eyes, buttons, zippers, or clasps that requires sharp hand dexterity, sensory-friendly clothes, and clothes that fell and fit on bodies that were sitting all day long (perhaps in a wheelchair). They also wanted to look and feel beautiful in these clothes.
Combining these experiences with lots of fashion technology research, Butler founded Intimately, an adaptive lingerie brand, in 2018. Today she is excited to announce the launch of Aurore, a new line of adaptive lingerie and sleepwear for November 2021. But Intimately is not just an online retailer, it offers a community where disabled women can connect and share their thoughts about love, sex, fashion, beauty, self-confidence, and travel as disabled women.
What are you looking for?
We are looking for investors to add value and help bring our idea to a global scale. So far, the company has funded itself through a successful Kickstarter as well as pitch competitions such as placing first at the Smith College pitch competition.
Why should someone invest in you?
Our team, comprised of all women who have collectively worked at Alibaba, Disney +, McKinsey, Y Combinator, Vandale Industries (designing lingerie for Jessica Simpson, Vince Camuto and Lucky Brand), and other disabled non profits are committed to bringing adaptive apparel to a comparable global scale as maternity wear or plus size clothing.
Our patent-pending innovations set us apart from other adaptive apparel brands along with our community. We feel it is so important for women with disabilities to have a safe spot to come together and chat about sex, fashion, beauty and life. Other disability communities focus on doctor’s appointments and medications, but we focus on making our community feeling empowered, confident and included.
Vogue predicts that soon the adaptive apparel market will be worth $400 Billion, and although mainstream brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos, and Target have created adaptive clothing, no mainstream brands are focusing on adaptive lingerie. It represents a huge unmet need and can serve millions of women worldwide. Intimately not only innovates garments so anyone can get them on, whether you are a wheelchair user, amputee, or chronic illness warrior, but the brand’s images are empowering and showcase disabled women as attractive, beautiful and included. All women deserve to feel beautiful and empowered, and with the help of investors Intimately could accelerate the launch of their line and reach even more amazing women.
Is there a clear evidence of success you would like to share?
Our Kickstarter raised $20,000 in presales. But we hear success stories every day from women who have tried our product or joined our community telling us how much our bras make their dressing experience so much easier, how confident they feel, how moved they are by finally seeing women that look like them in lingerie, or how freeing it is to chat in a safe space about life as a disabled woman.
How much money have you raised so far?
Through our Kickstarter and prize money from pitch competitions, we have raised $60,000.
What is the number of employees in the startup?
We are a team of seven disabled and able-bodied women located in New England, New York, and Paris. Our headquarters is in Paris and Providence, Rhode Island.
If you would describe your startup to have a superpower, what would it be?
Our super power is simple but incredibly important; we make our customers feel sexy, beautiful, and included. This is because we genuinely care about our community and the future of adaptive fashion
This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.