Modibodi, the protective apparel brand for menstruation and incontinence leaks, sweat and odour was announced as the 2019 Telstra Australia Medium and Making Waves Award winner at the 2019 Telstra Business Awards recently. The company also took home the 2019 People’s Choice Award.
With a huge positive and long-lasting impact on the environment, Modibodi creates underwear that offers women a more convenient and worry-free ways to help customers look and feel their best, every single day.
CEO and creator of ModiBodi, Kristy Chong, is a mum on a mission, a fash-tech entrepreneur and a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights. After the birth of her second child, her personal experience with “unmentionable” bladder leaks made her determined to start her own brand. One that would change our mindsets – and the planet! – by changing underwear for the better.
Founded in late 2013, Australia’s original leak-proof apparel brand, ModiBodi provides all bodies around the world with access to reusable and sustainable adult and teen briefs, active wear and maternity wear.
Modibodi has a wide range of light, moderate and heavy absorbency linings that target incontinence, periods, sweat, heavy discharge and breast milk leakage. The range includes underpants, activewear briefs and pants, swimwear and more.
Modibodi is fashionable, sustainable, hi-tech, super comfortable and completely replaces the need for disposable hygiene. It’s pee, period and perspiration proof and is for everybody!
Behind the Brands recently spoke to Kristy.
What ignited the spark in you to start your business?
I was a full-time mum of a two-year-old and five-month-old at the time, living in Seattle (USA) surrounded by tech start-ups.
I was out jogging, in fact, I was training for a marathon and had been experiencing occasional light bladder leaks. The available solutions were ugly, inconvenient, uncomfortable and a hazard to our environment – disposable hygiene. I just felt we deserved something better.
Once I realised how problematic the issue was, I also couldn’t understand why with all the advancements in technology, underwear and disposable hygiene had not evolved. I knew instantly that I was going to have to create a whole new product category for women. I am really proud that I took that idea and turned it into a product and now products that can more conveniently, comfortably and reliably manage menstrual flow, incontinence, sweat and even breast milk leaks, and reduce the amount of single-use products ending up in landfill and damaging our environment.
I spoke to chemical textile engineers, scientists, garment developers, and textile mills and then did the sourcing and scientific testing for over 18 months to develop our patented Modifier Technology. The technology is found in the gusset area (and bra area of our breastfeeding singlets) and works by wicking moisture away from the body through to an absorbent and odour eliminating middle layer, then a waterproof breathable, hi-tech barrier prevents leakage.
What is the vision for your business?
Our vision at Modibodi is to provide all bodies with high-tech, comfortable solutions to protect themself from menstruation, incontinence, sweat and/or odour, while at the same time having large social impact on our environment and humanity. We also strive to break the stigma around women’s health topics and lead discussions online with influencers, publications and the general public, allowing women (and men) to openly discuss the normality of women’s health.
Initially, what difficulties did you face?
I underestimated how big a market challenge it was going to be. We were not just selling a new brand of lipstick or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category. We couldn’t distribute through large retailers because they found the product too taboo, so we had to go direct to the customer and build this category awareness and education around our offering.
Another big, ongoing challenge (apart from becoming a textile expert with no experience) is around breaking the taboos around periods, sweat and incontinence. We wanted to positively empower women and men to speak openly about those issues. It can be challenging to talk about periods and incontinence issues in public because it does make many people feel uncomfortable.
Who or what was integral to you overcoming these hurdles?
Given that I had never worked in the textile industry before, I needed to learn what it takes to start a clothing label as well as learn about fibre technology and feminine hygiene. I did copious amounts of homework right from the start to ensure I had an understanding of the industry I was trying to enter into. It certainly hasn’t been an easy path, and has pushed my limits at times, but I’m very proud of how far we’ve come.
I am also very lucky to have a husband who has been by my side from the very beginning. It was his advice that if I am going to make this product, I need to take a scientific approach, which we did and because of the rigour, we secured a patent on our Modifier Technology.
What was your initial marketing strategy, and how has it changed?
When I launched, I didn’t have a lot of money. We had a small amount of seed funding, we didn’t get capital to launch the business, so I used my PR and marketing background to help – I was writing to journalists and influencers and pitching stories – that way, my time was about how we generated marketing and brand awareness.
Once we got Modibodi off the ground, having the right staffing behind me became so important; I needed to have the right people to live and breathe the Modibodi brand. We now have 20 employees and this year moved out of my home office into a brand new office in Balmain. Each of my staff is amazing at what they do, and I am so lucky.
To drive word of mouth, we’ve always taken a holistic approach, and will continue to do so. Potential customers may see us through a news article, magazine feature, through advertising, customer testimonials and reviews, influencer posts on social media or through our ambassador network.
The key element linking each communication or touchpoint with a customer is to bring real experiences to life. They’re more than just product promos – they tell the stories of real women (myself included).
Since the beginning I’ve shared with newspapers, magazines, radio and TV presenters that after my second child I was training for a marathon and experienced bladder leakage. At the time I really thought I would have to give up running and just couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a better solution out there to manager periods, pee and perspiration.
New customers tell us that these highly relatable personal stories are what made them click through to our website to learn more. It is the start of a long-term and deep connection with the brand that’s built on honesty and trust.
ModiBodi was recently announced at the 2019 Telstra Australian Medium and Making Waves Award winner and 2019 Telstra People’s Choice Award Winner, what does that mean to you?
To be recognised for our innovation and our commitment to changing the industry is truly extraordinary, and we are so thankful to all our staff, supporters and customers who have contributed to Modibodi’s success over the past five years.
We have created a whole new category and started conversations that were previously not discussed by media before and we’ve provided customers with an alternative to disposable products.
At Modibodi, we champion the removal of the stigma surrounding periods and incontinence and encourage everyone, both men and women, to speak more openly about these crucial health issues. I strongly believe that by doing this, we allow other inventions to emerge and address unmet needs in women’s, and men’s health.
I am also thrilled to be a woman, mother, and entrepreneur, who has, alongside my team built a global business from the ground up. I hope that other women who hear our story are inspired to go after their goals in business too.
What do you believe was the best decision you made in business?
I do believe that the best decision I ever made in business was going into a business that celebrates and empowers women. Celebrating other women inspires me each and every day.
Modibodi’s philosophy is that all bodies should be embraced and celebrated. Our goal is to ensure every woman, no matter their shape, ethnicity, size or ability feel included, and so we have a wide range of sizes, our ad campaigns use diverse models, in fact, many are customers, and we don’t retouch or photoshop any model used in our ad campaigns.
Looking back is there a piece of advice you wish to pass onto someone starting out their entrepreneurial journey?
Think big and act big from the start, and this should be reflected in your branding! And secondly, push the boundaries, you are likely to get rejected or fail at something maybe once or twice or possibly a lot more – take a day to recoup and then keep on trying!
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
We will continue to develop innovative new products to provide protective, hi-tech, fashionable apparel brand that offers all bodies convenient, comfortable and sustainable solutions for moisture concerns – be it menstruation, incontinence, perspiration, discharge or breast milk leaks. Each time we decide to expand our product ranges or markets, we always look to our loyal customers to see where we can best support them and their needs. This in turn helps fuel new customer growth.
Just recently we are actually launched in a new category with MO by Modibodi, a life changing range of leak-proof apparel designed to help men manage daily incontinence and sweat, comfortably and with confidence. It has been created to look just like regular underwear to give men dignity, comfort and to stay dry, while also providing an alternative to disposable pads, or nappies, and in turn do better for the environment. MO underwear can be used time and time again, they just need to be rinsed and can be thrown in the washing machine.
We will also continue to increase our social impact through our own ‘Give a Pair’ program and working with a variety of organisations in Australia and across the globe to deliver women in need a sustainable, simple solution to manage menstruation and incontinence.