Why this woman entrepreneur’s beaded bra strap startup is a gamechanger
Did a neighbourhood aunty creepily adjust your bra strap, pulling everybody’s attention to it? Or did someone try to signal you by making weird noises to tell you that your bra strap was visible?
Many women have experienced such interventions where someone tries to tell you about your bra strap, reasoning their “good intentions”, and inadvertently bringing everybody’s attention to that one little strap of undergarment that most women wear on a daily basis.
Sneha Prabeen was aware of how society wanted these little straps to be hidden and protected from prying eyes. However, she was also frustrated by the plastic transparent bra straps – they were uncomfortable.
In her search to find a solution to both these issues, Sneha invented the beaded bra strap as part of her beaded accessories startup,. This way, women and girls could show off their bra straps rather than adjust them into hiding.
In July 2014, Sneha started Yuvanta Beadworks in her hometown Calicut, Kerala. However, she had conceptualised the brand two years before starting up, when she was on a year-long break preparing for post-graduation entrance exams. The endeavour started as a hobby and she would handcraft beaded jewellery at home for herself.
After finishing her studies, Sneha formally launched the brand with Rs 10,000 that she had received as scholarship after completing her Class XII studies. She had started exhibiting her beaded jewellery and accessories in flea markets and exhibitions across south India.
“I was really happy doing what I was doing, but I knew that I wasn't bringing something new to the market,” says Sneha. This desire to bring out a new product led to the creation of the beaded bra strap.
Selling the creation
Sneha tells HerStory that months of trial and error led to the creation of the first prototype of the bra strap. She sent it to a few well-wishers and received favourable feedback, but she had to test in the market as well.
The famous Sunday Soul Sante, an arts-and-crafts centred flea market that takes place five times a year in Bengaluru, provided the perfect opportunity. In December 2014, at the Sante’s Christmas edition, Sneha introduced the beaded bra strap and received an overwhelming response. She claims that she was almost sold out that day.
“It wasn't just a product but people had an emotional connection with the product,” reminisces Sneha. This led her to iterate and improve the product. She has also procured an industrial design patent for the beaded lingerie strap.
The startup also includes a diverse range of offerings like beaded necklaces, earrings, charm bracelets, anklets, headgears and bookmarks. However, the beaded bra strap remains its most loved and appreciated product.
In 2018, she also collaborated with an international lingerie brand and produced 11,000 bra straps within a month-and-a-half. Sneha claims that at flea markets and exhibitions, she sells a minimum of 200 bra straps a day and averages close to 60 orders through the startup’s website and e-commerce platform Amazon.
The bootstrapped startup, with a capital investment of Rs 5 lakh over six years, raked in revenue worth Rs 25 lakh last year and over Rs 15 lakh the year before that.
According to a study, the Indian lingerie market is projected to grow at a robust CAGR of around 14 percent by 2023 due to factors like growing ecommerce industry and rising demand for premium brands.
However, Sneha says that though the product touched a chord with people, it wasn’t easy to take it to this level. Creating a new product came with challenges of creating awareness and educating people about it. She couldn’t use all of her resources to market online. People wanted to see, feel and understand the product physically before making a purchase.
As a young entrepreneur, she had to deal with people taking advantage of her. One of her first vendors siphoned off her money. An agency that she recruited to complete her patent paperwork also did the same. She also had to deal with people quoting exorbitant amounts for procuring raw materials and projects.
The pandemic has also presented her with more challenges. Her offline sales have taken a hit. Her plan to open a physical store or kiosk in Bengaluru is also on pause.
The road ahead
She is working to make the startup website more interactive, introduced a live chat feature as customers have a plethora of questions, and is tying up with other e-commerce platforms to ensure online visibility.
On Independence Day, she started a social media campaign ‘Show Your straps’ to address the taboo around bra straps being visible. Several women from different places like the US, Poland, the UAE, and India joined the campaign to talk about their experiences of “creepy aunties and weird signals”. She hopes to continue to get more people to talk about this issue and initiate a change in perspectives.
As for the startup, Sneha hopes to expand her offline presence when the pandemic recedes, as well as focus on increasing her online presence.
Edited by Kanishk Singh