I had the opportunity to chat with Wendy Armbruster, the founder of Snugabell, a local company I greatly admire. She’s a talented designer and a warm, supportive member of the Lower Mainland business community. I have been a fan girl for some time! Here’s what we talked about.
What do you love most about what you do?
Helping moms. When I’m having a crappy day I go read our testimonials. Just knowing that we’re making a difference. When I had my first daughter, I didn’t have any problems breastfeeding per se, but I felt really isolated. Facebook wasn’t a thing yet back then – I always think about the communities that are out there now and how important they are and which is why that’s always been a goal of mine to provide a community for moms online. I’m helping moms help moms navigate the fourth trimester, the first three months or longer after baby arrives and they’re struggling and maybe isolated and they don’t have family around or they’re not the type to ask for help. It can be really isolating for sure.
What do you find most challenging about what you do?
The hardest things for me is just managing everything, juggling all my roles. We’re a small company, we have defined roles but there’s a lot of overlap as well. My team is amazing and I’m so grateful for them everyday and they know me and they know that I obsess about things sometimes. I’m not a big picture person, I’m a detail person. Our whole persona is really important to me. Like the fact that we’re quality, our product is quality. It’s made in Canada. Maybe my margins aren’t as big as some of my competitors, but that it’s important to me to provide something of quality.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Don’t be afraid to make your first hire. Figure out quickly what you’re good at and do that and the stuff that you don’t like doing or are not good at, hire it out. That frees up your time. I remember I was so afraid to hire my first employee thinking I couldn’t afford it, but it freed up so much time for me that I was able to make more money, more than enough to cover her wages In that time and to grow my business.
Is this what you always wanted to do or did you have another plan?
Absolutely not. This is completely an accident. I always say I’m a fashion designer that had a baby and my two worlds collided. I was working as a freelance pattern maker and working at BC Tel. And then I was on my first mat leave with Antonia and one of my good friends, Shari, um, asked me if I was going to pump when she found out I was pregnant and I’m like, “Why would I need to pump? I’m going to sit on the couch and breastfeed.”
And she said, “if you pumped you could go out, get your hair done or you know, whatever, you can have a little bit of me time and leave a bottle of breast milk with your husband and just be able to have a little bit more freedom.”
I thought, pattern making is quite heavy and you can’t just pick it up for five minutes and then come back and pick it up for five minutes. You have to kind of get into it. I was trying to keep my clients happy while I was on my mat leave. And so I needed a little bit of time in the evenings and so I pumped, just once a day so Toni’s dad could take a late night feed so I could just work through that.
And so I sat on the couch and I pumped my breasts and within a few minutes my hands started going numb from holding the flanges – really bad pins and needles – and I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t change the channel on the TV. I couldn’t read a magazine, you’re just sitting there and my let down was really slow so it was like 45 minutes and I just thought “There’s gotta be something that’ll hold this for me.” So I went online and I googled, hands free pumping or something like that.
I found a few products. I read the reviews, super expensive, really not readily available in Canada, I would’ve had to ship it from US and, and I just thought, you know, the reviews weren’t great and I’m just going to make my own. I considered what people were complaining about and that’s how I came up with flange openings, the way they’re designed and that’s where my patent is focused. I have a US and Canadian patent.
At the time , I just made it for myself and wasn’t ever intending to produce them or anything. But people started asking about it and I thought very naively with my service based business, I thought, “I’ll have a product based business and it’ll be passive income. I’ll build a little website.”
I had contacts with the local apparel industry here in Vancouver and I just thought that it would just be kind of something that I did on the side. Of course, it completely took over everything. I ended up quitting my job at Telus and I actually was accepted into the BCIT BEST Program based on that business concept. It was completely by accident. There was no intention to make a business out of it. I was just doing it for myself.
How do you take care of yourself when you’re busy running a successful business?
I’m a runner. I run pretty much every day. I used to listen to music. Now I listen to podcasts. I make sure that I have quality time with my kids. I see my friends. Friends and family are really, really important to me. I’ve actually just recently started reading again. For years I couldn’t concentrate on reading.
One of the most exciting things that came from my chat with Wendy was learning about her new Kickstarter. She’s launching a brand new product, which sounds amazing.
Here’s what she had to say:
For years, moms have been asking us to create a combination nursing and pumping bra. So we did! And we did it with the signature Snugabell style: luxurious technical fabric with quick-dry and wicking properties, bold prints and colour combinations, and our patented no-stitch flange openings. BRA’d features traditional clasps and closures so women can switch easily and quickly between the nursing and pumping layers. It’s underwire-free (important to help avoid clogged ducts and mastitis!) and so comfy we’ve been told it’s wonderful to sleep in!
We’ve been working with leading athleisure technical designer Cara Sumpton (formerly of Lululemon and Arc’teryx) for over a year to make sure we mastered the complex details of BRA’d. We created dozens of prototypes and perfected our fit on women of all shapes and sizes. Our fabrics are ready to be printed and our production partner is waiting to cut, sew, and trim. We cannot wait to bring this life-changing product to fruition!
Check it out here!
I’m so grateful Wendy took the time to chat with me and I hope her new product launch goes really well! She’s pretty awesome, and her new bra looks pretty awesome too.
I’ve included some photos of it here: