Trusst Lingerie Founder and CEO Shares Her Startup Story
This interview originally appeared on Total Retail's sister brand's site, Women in Retail Leadership Circle.
We're excited to present to you our newest installment of the Inner Circle Q&A, which features interviews with Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) members, advisory board members and ladies who lead. This week’s Q&A is with Sophia Berman, founder and CEO of Trusst Lingerie. Leveraging a degree in industrial design from Carnegie Mellon, Berman spent over two years developing and patenting a revolutionary wireless support system for fuller-busted, curvy women. Sophia and her all-women team in Pittsburgh are passionate about continuing to create new bra technologies and lingerie styles that improve the day-to-day lives of Trusst's customers.
Melissa Campanelli: Tell me about your professional background.
Sophia Berman: I studied industrial design at Carnegie Mellon University. My first job out of school was at a global architectural engineering company, where I worked on schematic designs and new/old construction work for laboratory buildings. I got to spend nine months on-site in Dublin for a project. From there, I moved to a small design consultancy in Pittsburgh. We worked on projects (mainly soft goods, aka cut and sew) for emerging designers to larger-scale clients like Samsonite. This is probably where I got my entrepreneur itch! I spent a brief time at Thermos in Chicago as a product manager after that, and then moved back to Pittsburgh to start Trusst Lingerie.
MC: What was the reason you started Trusst Lingerie? What was the whitespace out there you saw a need to fill?
SB: I'm passionate about using uncommon ways to solve problems as well as supporting women, and saw a real consumer need at the intersection of both! Outdated underwires are in practically every bra, yet they cause many women, particularly those who are fuller-busted (like many of my friends and family members), physical pain instead of comfort and support. The market opportunity is huge, too. There are very few brands catering to women over a size 12 or 14 that use innovation in their product development. I approached bra design from a physics perspective, and it just made sense. You want to lift a weight from underneath, like a truss bridge structure, rather than lifting from above.
MC: How are Trusst bras different?
SB: It's our technology that sets Trusst Lingerie apart from other lingerie brands. We developed a brand new, patented support system that counterbalances breast weight from underneath the bust. In place of a wire, a three-dimensional, flexible, molded plastic structure provides comfort by relieving pressure from her back, shoulders and neck. We also use high-tech materials. The fabric lining our bras is eight times stronger than cotton, feels just like your softest T-shirt, and is also antimicrobial, wicking and cooling (i.e., no more boob sweat!). Customers who visit us at our store in Pittsburgh typically leave wearing their new Trusst Lingerie bra. We've even heard from women who have postponed breast reduction surgery when they discovered Trusst.
MC: How does Trusst sell and market its products? Do you work with influencers or use any other social media tactics?
SB: We sell primarily through our website, although we're currently working on some exciting brand partnerships, so stay tuned! We’ve found social media influencers to be really passionate about sharing Trusst Lingerie with their followers because they're personally so excited to have discovered the brand.
MC: What advice would you give to women thinking about starting their own businesses, or at least side hustles?
SB: Someone once told me that you're going to kiss a lot of frogs, and that's been so very true. Not everyone is going to love what you're doing, but if you believe in yourself and your mission, that's the most important part. Surround yourself with people who will support you and lift you up (no pun intended!). Starting a business is hard enough, so try to spend your time with positive energy and encouragement. Lastly, make sure you find an amazing team to help make your vision a reality.
MC: What’s next for Trusst? What are your goals for 2019 and beyond?
SB: We're really excited about some new styles launching this summer and fall, and can't wait to fulfill a high customer demand for sports bras in early 2019. My goal is to provide comfortable, supportive bras for as many women as possible. Everyone deserves to feel good in their clothes, which starts with a bra!