Kristy Chong, CEO and Founder of Modibodi has set about revolutionising women’s ‘unmentionables’ by tackling head on a topic that brings women and girls everywhere everyday a fair amount of discomfort, inconvenience, shame and humiliation. Using technology, she has disrupted the women’s underwear and feminine hygiene industry by offering a very practical alternative. Undies. That’s right. Modibodi underwear will protect you: from odour, sweat, menstrual leakage, and light bladder leakage. Bye bye to potential embarrassment caused by leaky pants.
For the amount of comfort, piece of mind and cost saving (not to mention environmental benefits) these everyday items will bring a new generation of girls and women, Kristy should probably be wearing her undies on the outside as a bona fide superhero! Add to this her distribution partnership with Amazon USA retailing, and we are expecting nothing short of total world domination from Kristy and the Modibodi team over the next few years.
Tell us about your transition from Corporate Communications Manager for McDonalds Australia, to inventor of Modibodi
Prior to establishing Modibodi, I had over 13 years experience in senior management Public Relations roles for multinational organisations including McDonald’s Australia, sanofi-aventis and Edelman PR.
The idea for Modibodi came about while I was out running. I realised my underwear was failing to protect me from occasional bladder weakness and sweat. The thought of wearing a panty liner filled me with dread. I began speaking to friends and family about their unmentionables and soon found there were women at all stages of life who were suffering in silence. It felt right that I should develop a line of underwear for women that was flattering, comfortable and could give women peace of mind when we needed it most.
This experience lead me to design, develop and scientifically prove, our flagship patent-pending Modifier Technology™ absorbent underpants. They are are great protection for sweat, odour, bladder leaks and menstrual flow. This transformed into the Modibodi collection, which now includes tops, singlets and moisture wicking underpants.
You spent 18 months in research and development. What lessons would you like to share from this time?
Test, test and then re-test. Launching on a small scale to market test and then refine your product offering is a safe way to do this. The initial design involved consulting up to 100 textile engineers and fibre companies in the USA and Australia, conducting close to 1,000 scientific tests and working with leading Australian lingerie designers and manufacturers to develop the designs. It took over 18 months to perfect the technology and the designs behind the brand.
We created over 30 prototypes before launching our flagship Modibodi Modifier Technology™ absorbent underpants. To this day, we are constantly refining our product offering based on our customers feedback.
It’s been five years since you started Modibodi, what growth have you experienced in five years?
We have sold over 50,000 garments to date and achieved 400% growth last year. This year we project we will quadruple our 2016 revenue. We are now starting to retail our garments, and have Amazon as our official USA retailer. This is an integral part of our global expansion strategy.
Was it difficult to engage people in conversation on social media initially because women didn’t want to publicise the problems you were solving? How did you build trust and engagement in your brand?
For too long women’s health issues such as menstruation and urinary incontinence have been seen as a taboo. It’s ridiculous that in this age, these natural occurrences are still not seen on TV, or spoken about in the media.
I am proud that through our marketing campaigns, we have been able to create open discussion on these issues. We continually encourage our followers and customers to share their story with us and other women, to empower them to know that they are not alone, and it’s okay to discuss these common issues.
Tell us about some of Modibodi’s successful campaigns, and what impact these had on your customers
We find when we incorporate real women into our advertising that our customers really respond well. Yes, they can still be beautiful but to see women with cellulite, scars or of different ages and ethnicity really resonates with our customers. We are showing them that no matter what shape, state or size their body is, it is beautiful and powerful and they should be proud!
Our recent partnership with the McGrath Foundation through our #bareyourderriere campaign was very successful. We had the opportunity to raise awareness of our product, and work with a charity that values giving back and supporting women.
What’s been your greatest challenge?
When you start a business you are resource poor and cash flow poor. Surviving that first year or two when you are not selling a lot is challenging. You aren’t earning a salary and are working longer hours than you ever imagined.
What are you most proud of?
That I have created a product that truly empowers women by giving them more comfort and confidence everyday, and our customers tell us that. I am also building my dream of creating a sustainable profitable business which has a positive social impact on our environment. And for the women in need who do not have access to affordable, reusable, discreet feminine hygiene.
Our aim to is to be with women at every stage of their life’s journey. From pre-teens with their first menstrual onset, to women after the birth of their children, and women of any age who experience bladder loss, odour and sweat.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Two pieces of advice. Think big and act big and not everyone will like you, so get over it! Push the boundaries, you may get knocked back one, two, twenty times. Get back up and try again!
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