The story of a female entrepreneur
One hot and sweaty night has changed the lives of women all over
By Laura Musall
That sounds a little obscene, doesn’t it? Well, I felt disgusting five year’s
ago today. It was 24 degrees outside, but about 2400 degrees on my insides. Sweat poured from my body soaking my polyester PJs.
That’s when I knew this was the beginning of something new.
I had no idea at the time what this something “new” really meant. I knew going through perimenopause meant my pesky period would end one day soon (hallelujah). I was 52. Enough already.
I knew it could mean hot flashes. But night sweats? This was new to me. Before I even climbed out of my soggy bed on that cold March morning, I sent a text to three 50-something friends, Jen, Lisa and Mindy (pictured at left), to share my frustration. I knew they’d be sympathetic.
That one little text began a day-long series of text messages about night sweats, hot flashes, periods and pajamas.
Why aren’t there pajamas for women going through this? I wanted to know. I searched online. To be fair there were some pajamas advertised to women with night sweats. There are heat-trapping polyester pajamas, like the ones that filled my closet. There are lots of granny jammies, too. No offense to grandmothers, I am one, but that didn’t mean I wanted a muumuu.
I found a couple of companies who made cute pajamas for women my age made of breathable fabric. I was ready to order a pair, then I realized they only carried sizes up to a 14. This was irritating. Like about 50 percent of women in the U.S., I wear a size larger than a 14.
“You should just start your own company,” Jen said.
“I want to work at your PJ company,” Mindy responded.
They may have been joking, but the idea was swirling in my head, and I couldn’t let it go.
Women our age deserve better than what the fashion industry was offering.
On March 12, 2018, with zero experience as a fashion designer, I was on a mission to find a solution for women like me, Mindy, Jen and Lisa, who wanted comfy PJs that fit our changing bodies, that wicked away sweat and looked good enough to wear in public. How hard could it be?
A few weeks later, I called Mindy Ford, and said something like: “Remember when you said you want to work for my pajama company?”
The rest is history, as they say. (More about us.)
Lessons learned starting a pajama business
One. Surround yourself with smart, opinionated women. We had questions and a lot of them, so we started asking our smart, opinionated, friends (and often strangers) what they thought. We got some of the best advice from these women not only about starting a business, but about going through life’s changes.
My friend Jill told me I needed to talk to Janet Carpenter at the Indiana University School of Nursing, a menopause expert. Janet and I had coffee, and she’s not only become a friend, but she’s been our menopause mentor. (Learn more about Janet and her menopause advice here.) She is the reason our pajamas are made of a blend of fabric that includes naturally breathable, sustainable bamboo.
Two. You can’t find bamboo fabric in our local big-box fabric store. After my coffee with Janet, I went to the fabric store, and searched for bamboo. When I asked for help, the nice sale’s clerk had a puzzled look on his face. He radioed for help and was directed to another aisle, and he proudly pointed to the bolt of cotton fabric with little green bamboo prints on it. I left empty-handed and a bit deflated.
Three. Ask your smart, opinionated friends over for wine and cheese. If you get a group of smart women together and start asking questions, you’ll get lot of answers, including things you don’t really want to know. We learned some valuable information that night, including the fact that pockets are a must, women don’t want to fumble around with drawstrings that get twisted and knotted. We learned if we were going to create pajamas that would be different than anything on the market, the PJs had to be super soft and look cute enough that you could wear them for loungewear, too. (See more about our focus group.) These women have continued to give us advise, feedback and encouragement throughout our journey.
Four. You don’t have to have a degree to design PJs. Mindy and I thought the logical next step would be to hire someone to design our
pajamas. We met a young, aspiring, just-out-of-school designer. It’s important to note here that Mindy and I love to help others. So, the fact we could help a young woman launch her career was very exciting to us.
However, this young woman did not understand 50-something women or night sweats. Her first design was a tunic-style, body-clinging design that had armholes that sagged worse than…well, you get the idea. (See more about mishaps here.)
Five. You’re smarter than you think you are. There were a lot of missteps in our journey to launch an apparel company, like the disastrous first design. At the end of the day, we had to remind ourselves, we’re not designing gowns for the Oscars, we’re designing pajamas. Mindy and I are intelligent, opinionated, sweaty women. Surely, we could figure this out. So, in the summer of 2018, we gathered at my dining room table with a pile of pajamas, a measuring tape, paper and a pencil.
We tried on pajamas in different styles and brand discussing what we loved and hated. We measured arm lengths, we talked about the perfect length of shorts and pants. We spent plenty of time lamenting our individual struggles shopping for clothes. We were determined we could design PJs that didn’t show your belly if you raised your arms and didn’t show your backside when you bent over. We wanted our PJs to be roomy, but we didn’t want to feel like we were wearing a giant box. We were over having to buy a T-shirt to fit around the middle, only to find the shoulder seams were half-way down your arm.
We wanted PJs that didn’t have to remind us at every move that our body shape today is not what it was in our 20s. You can find more info on the design here.
Six. Find partners, not just contractors. We were so naïve five years go. We thought we could just Google a list of textile companies to order fabric and then do a Google search to find a company to sew our pajamas. We learned quickly it doesn’t work that way. Those Google searches did lead us to Makers Row, which is online subscription-based company that helps connect fashion entrepreneurs with fabric companies, manufacturers, and more. This is how we found one of our most valuable, trusted partners, Catherine Fritsch. Cat is a real fashion designer, she makes costumes for professional theaters, museums, fashion designers and more. She also is a pattern maker and sample maker, which means, we can give her a really rough sketch of an idea, and she turns it into an actual garment. It’s like magic. Plus, we love the fact that she’s only about a 15-minute drive from us.
We also are thankful for Jay Arbetman, owner of The Sourcing District in Oak Park, Ill. I cold-called Jay in August 2018, told him of our plight, and when I mentioned bamboo, he knew exactly what I meant. Jay not only introduced us to our super soft, luxurious fabric, but Jay escorted us to visits with manufacturers in Chicago. That’s how we met Crown Sewing, who makes our pajamas, and Pastor Vasquez, who cuts the fabric and OnPoint Patterns, who digitizes our patterns and sizes them to make sure the fit is just right.
It's so cliché to say it takes a village, but it really does, and our village keeps getting bigger. We are blessed to be surrounded by a great team, who believe in our mission to help women get a better night’s sleep.
We are thankful to have friends willing to model our PJs, so we can show the world how great they look.
Mostly, we’re blessed to be connected to women from all over the U.S. and Canada who have given us a chance to help them find luxurious, soft, sweat-wicking PJs in sizes that fit lots of body types. We hope you’ll continue to be a part of our Cool family sharing your stories, your ideas and your opinions. Without you, I think I’d still be having lots of hot, sweaty nights.
Laura Musall is co-founder of CoolRevolution devoted to helping women get a cooler night’s sleep with luxurious, soft, breathable, sweat-wicking pajamas and loungewear.
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