"There’s not enough of it in a day or enough in startup mode when you’re alone putting in the sweat equity" with Laura McGuire
Hipstik Legwear, LLC materialized out of founder, Laura McGuire's, frustration from years of trying on dozens of styles and brands hoping to find a comfortable pair of hosiery. Laura realized she could make tights and pantyhose women of all shapes actually want to wear. Hipstiks have a stretchy lace waistband that sits on the hip for ultimate comfort and a stick strip that keeps them in place without sagging or rolling down; the sizing, to include plus sizes, is unlike the industry, based on the unique body shapes of women. www.hipstiks.com.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I've worked with entrepreneurs and companies to launch or relaunch and market their own projects for the past 10 years, so I know what it takes: passion and a meaningful idea. When I was struggling to find a pantyhose product that was comfortable, I realized I could be one of those entrepreneurs and make this product a reality for women. Launching Hipstik Legwear has given me a deeper understanding of those entrepreneurs in my past. We build on ourselves with each year.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’d been taking a pair of scissors to my tights and pantyhose for years to loosen the control top so that I could breathe (and I knew other women were doing it, too)! It was almost as if all the manufacturers were saying that we need to be three sizes smaller to be comfortable in their product. After years searching for a comfortable pair and asking other women their experiences, all points aligned, and I realized I could be the one to make tights women actually want to wear.
Where is your business based?
Hipstik Legwear is based in North Carolina. We also proudly manufacture in the USA, in the same state - a short 90-minute drive apart.
How did you start your business?
What were the first steps you took? The first step I took to start my business was pouring over a business plan. It took me months but it was worth getting it all down on paper. My husband jokes that it’s the length of War and Peace but this as the first thing you do with thoughtful consideration; a business plan is non-linear to running your business so it helps think outside of immediate next steps. After the plan was written, the brand name I originally came up with was changed for the better to Hipstik. These type of things come out of this vital process; it’s less about the actual words that end up on paper and more about the thinking, considering and idea editing you must do to get words there.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Cartoonist, Tom Fishburne has said it best: The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. The most effective way we have raised awareness for Hipstik is to put the product in real customers’ hands (or in our case, put Hipstik onto their legs) and let them tell their friends, family, and colleagues about their experience. The best way to describe our product has actually been the way real customers describe it to others.
Awareness via traditional methods merely whispers to the customer. Awareness via first-hand product reviews is louder and stronger.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Our challenge is changing women’s negative perceptions of hosiery. We’d stopped wearing them. Hipstik’s problem-solving product design, to lots of women’s amazement, actually delivers on shape-based comfort and style.
How do you stay focused?
I stay focused with a master to-do list on my phone. The checking-off part is satisfying. And there’s always something to add.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Hipstik is a new take on hosiery. We don’t compete with other brands like us. We compete with women’s negative perceptions of hosiery - and her desire to wear pants because they have been more comfortable than the hosiery she’s tried. This is where we revolutionize how she sees her wardrobe.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
There’s no silver bullet, unfortunately. It makes our job harder, but it’s also exciting to be constantly learning. What may work last season fizzles and a new winner takes its place. Facebook advertising was working well for the aspects of the peer to peer review, or digital word of mouth. Then we discovered Yotpo: a platform to harness reviews. Affiliate marketing is a way for influencers to share what they love in return for a percentage of the sale; they’ve spent their energy and smarts building their audience, so they deserve to be rewarded when they share, especially when it’s authentic love for a product. Marketing (and the way consumers want to receive information) is constantly changing, so as you can see, we don’t get complacent with one method of reaching women with Hipstik.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
My best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is that time is everything for a new business. There’s not enough of it in a day or enough in startup mode when you’re alone putting in the sweat equity. But time takes time. And there will be so many opportunities - so much you see you can do toward the goal of growth. But your job as an entrepreneur is to do the RIGHT work. You’ve got to solve the right problems fast enough to make a difference. So really prioritize. Some things will be trial and error and seem like a waste. Learn from it and keep prioritizing.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is the Reminders app that comes standard on the iPhone. It’s a no bells and whistles tool but it motivates big things for me. Sometimes we get bogged down in the tech and tools and don’t actually get anything done.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
My favorite business tool is MailChimp, an email marketing platform. The company has found a way to be profitable while affordable for startups and small businesses. A lot of tools are too far-reaching into the wallet and only the conglomerates of the world can afford to use them. MailChimp is an effective marketing tool for consumer acquisition and retention, and I don’t have to outsource skills to put it to use.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Joy (the Jennifer Lawrence movie character interpretation of her, as I have not met the real Joy in person) is my role model. Joy Mangano is an American inventor and entrepreneur known for inventions such as the self-wringing Miracle Mop. I own one. I know it works better than any other mop. Joy saw a problem and fixed it with simplicity. And did it before anyone else. Why is works, in the scheme of things, is just a small tweak on the concept of the mop. That’s how I see Hipstik.
My product doesn’t have WiFi running through the legs - it’s simply a comfortable design and an “aha” solution to comfortable tights that makes me wonder why it wasn’t done more mainstream before. That’s when you know you’ve hit on something. And then you patent it like we did! Joy has grit, determination and she believes in her solution-benefit products for women more than anyone else, which is infectious.
What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products?
I’m fair and personally tested our Hipstik Light Nude Pantyhose; I always wear SPF on my face and neck daily and have been using Olay loyally since my mom introduced it to me in middle school. I’m addicted to BECCA Hydra-Mist Powder which I recently discovered from a magazine editor - it goes on with a cool sensation that wakes me up in the morning; I recommend buying the trial size because it does lose that “hydra” wow-factor in the regular size over time. I don’t leave the house without a swipe of blush and a coat of mascara since my eyelashes are otherwise blonde! I’m a brand switcher on blushes and mascaras - haven’t found my silver bullet yet!
How do you balance work and life?
I don’t need to balance work and life. Now that I’m 35, I’ve discovered that what’s meaningful to me and my life is my work. I feel stressed when I don’t get to work on Hipstik. That’s how much fun I’m having and meeting amazing women in the process.
What’s your favorite way to decompress?
I take a shower with Bath & Body Works Gel every night since the day the Bath & Body Works store with the heartland theme opened in my small town’s mall. It was the 90s!
A few years ago, I went wild at their semi-annual sale and ended up with 10 body washes that I cycled through one day at a time, lasting me a long time; I crave product variety so ending my day with a final choice relaxes my mind to sleep. I always aim to get 8 hours of sleep every night to bring energy into the next day.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
In the next six months which brings us into the fall/winter season, our plan is to get more women to try on a pair of Hipstiks! It’s really that straightforward.
How can our readers connect with you?
Email me anytime at email@example.com.