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Starting Up Plus

There I am in my tech incubator (a very non-tech woman surrounded by men building apps) having just pitched my idea of a plus size direct sales company to the 3 mentors of the night. All men. All white. All thin. All tech. I await my scores. It can be a 1 or 2 or a 4 or 5, there are no 3s in this program. The numbers come up 4 (yes), 4 (double yes) and 2 (blaaaaah). And then come the comments.

From the tall, skinny man in his 50s who gave the 2,’This is a very crowded space, there are lots of companies doing this already.’ I bite my tongue and listen to his advice on how to really ¬†state my UVP (unique value proposition that is) to stand out amongst this crowded industry bustling with plus size businesses. When it is my turn to speak I tell him how inconsistent size and fit is a major problem in plus size clothing and how brands don’t often go past a size 24/26, how my company will go to size 34, how we will focus on consistent sizes. He again tells me this is already being done, better, by so many. I ask him if it is clear that I am talking about direct sales, home parties, not an e-commerce store or a boutique. Again, already being done well by many. I considered asking him for a list of all these companies already serving the plus size market so well cause in my 2 years of research on the topic I didn’t see them but decided instead to keep my opinions to myself and move along.

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2.5 years ago I gave birth to my daughter. Becoming a mom wasn’t something I’d imagined for myself but now is very much at the core purpose of my being. Along with becoming a mom, I became plus size. I’d always lived right on the edge of straight and plus sizes but pregnancy tipped me over into plus and left me there. After a year of feeling frumpy and unfashionable and promising myself I’d shop once I lost the baby weight, I decided that waiting around for a different body wasn’t working for me and I needed to go shopping. After shopping, I was left even more frustrated. I could find clothes that fit but couldn’t find anything that I felt truly expressed my personality. Going up 2 sizes had deposited me in a world where clothes seemed to be about simply covering my body vs celebrating it.

So I decided to make a change. I was a consultant for a direct sales skincare company at the time, and though I loved the business model, wasn’t 100% a believer in what I was selling. I wondered if I could apply this need for fashionable plus size clothing I was seeing to my passion for direct sales and looked for a company in this space and came up empty. I looked again and again, I’m surprised Google didn’t show up at my doorstep and tell me to cut it out, and still, nothing. So that’s when I became determined to build With Love, my direct sales company created exclusively by and for plus size woman.

And that’s what I’ve been doing for just over a year – research, building, mistakes, successes, talking to everyone I can find in the space, more research, more mistakes. 1 month ago I was accepted into this business incubator and have had my head down in startup culture and business building activities ever since.

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Which brings us back to earlier tonight, walking away from this very smart, very successful man who was very confident that many businesses are already taking great care of plus size women. I disagree. I think there is a huge opportunity for growth in all areas of plus size business. I think we need better clothes, I think we need better media, I think we need better representation, I think we need better health care, I think we need better self-care and I think we need better celebration and support of the women who are actually working hard at bringing us ‘better’.

That is what this blog is about. Some moments from my startup journey, the highs and lows of plus size entrepreneurship (and maybe just a wee bit of self-promotion) but mostly it is about celebration and support of others. Of the businesses who aren’t just capitalizing on body positivity but are leading and defining it. Of the not-for-profits helping young women find body confidence and self knowledge. Of the writers and bloggers creating and supporting this community and breathing life and purpose into women who society has tried to crush. Of the models who stand up to the haters with their beauty and grace day after day. Of the designers and boutiques and other plus size fashion startups who know that this community¬†is still not being taken care of properly, who know that we deserve so much more.

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I look forward to your thoughts, feedback and support and am eager to hear what businesses and women you want to see featured and celebrated on these pages.