EP 145: Developing, Manufacturing, & Marketing An Innovative Product With Têra Kaia Co-Founder Bridget Kilgallon

The Nitty Gritty

  • How Bridget’s struggle finding tops that fit her body type encouraged her to make her own — and how that pursuit turned into Têra Kaia’s first top, TOURA
  • The six words the Têra Kaia (formerly Aret Basewear) team uses to influence their branding, whether that’s photo styling or product developing
  • Their journey for finding a local athletic wear manufacturer that could make high-quality garments at an affordable price point — and what led Bridget to switch manufacturers
  • What their ambassador program looks like and why Instagram is their main marketing channel
  • How they ensure that customers find the right fit every time by using a sizing guide and a free exchange program — and how that value drives product design and informs customer service

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On today’s episode of What Works, Bridget Kilgallon, co-founder of Têra Kaia (formerly Aret Basewear), a collection of minimal basewear for the outdoorswoman, openly shares her journey bringing a physical product to market. From hand-sewing and testing the first top to partnering with a local manufacturer to marketing the brand, Bridget walks us through her thoughtful approach to product design, branding, and customer satisfaction.

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Finding a local manufacturer

“Finding a reliable manufacturer that can create our tops at the quality that we want at a price that works in the marketplace: that was the biggest hurdle we faced as a business. It still continues to be to this day.” — Bridget Kilgallon

Once Bridget nailed down the handmade prototype and tested it for four months with willing participants, she needed to find a manufacturer. As you can imagine, finding one that meets your needs isn’t always easy but Bridget knew what she needed: a local manufacturer that specialized in athletic wear. And she did… but they only worked in standard format, meaning they only produced athletic wear with one-size-fits-all type of sizing like S, M, and L.

“It took a lot of convincing for us to be like: no, we’re doing it differently,” she says. “Our sewing process is different and our fitting process is different.” So, the search continued. They ended up working with multiple different manufacturers in and around San Diego, California, but continuously faced issues with quality control and price point.

As of today, they’re in the process of switching to a new manufacturer that can do everything in one place. Plus, this new partner has a design studio on site to help get their designs ready for production.

Matching your values with your branding

“We’re not just making athleisure: we’re making something that’s functional and technical. A lot of clothing companies for women right now are focused on making something that’s stylish and pretty. We’re not on board that. We think womenswear should be just as functional as menswear.” — Bridget Kilgallon

From the get-go, Bridget defined Têra Kaia’s top as technical gear… and that one key decision influences everything from how they communicate online to how they create imagery for their online shop and on Instagram. “We really go out of our way to make sure that it’s communicated that this is a piece of technical gear,” Bridget says.

Beyond the design, they identified keywords that they use throughout the branding process: contour, strong, dynamic, futuristic, minimal, and elevated. These words influence their design decisions and aesthetic.

They’ve also intentionally created a brand that’s a bit androgynous. “We didn’t want it to feel excessively feminine or excessively masculine,” Bridget adds. “It walks the line between which gives us a little wiggle room if we ever did want to branch out to doing menswear.”

Satisfying customers by truly understanding their needs

“Let’s make sure we’re finding that problem and providing a solution. It’s paid off in terms of getting our customers to highly value us and gaining their trust that we have their best interests at heart.” — Bridget Kilgallon

What’s different about Têra Kaia is their sizing, which is based off of cup size instead of the traditional S, M, and L. “It’s great because now we’re giving women the option to shop for what fits them instead of what’s available,” she says. “But it means it’s going to be more complex for them to understand what size they’re supposed to be getting.”

To help customers do just that, they offer multiple tools and sizing guides, including a Basewear Guide and a sizing guide widget where customers put in their bra size and it recommends what basewear top they should buy. Once customers find the right fit? “They come back and purchase every color we have in a single top,” Bridget says. “It’s paid off not just in terms of money but in terms of making these customers fans of our brand.”

And, in the off chance that the top doesn’t fit, they offer a free exchange program. “We’re really out to get them the perfect fit — every time,” Bridget says.

Listen to this episode to hear the lessons Bridget learned about the fashion industry, how she chose a manufacturer to partner with (and the hiccups along the way), and why they use Instagram as their main marketing channel.

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support