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The sisterhood of the traveling nursing bra prototype

The sisterhood of the traveling nursing bra prototype

Product development can take all shapes and forms. In this case, a pink bag hand-delivered on doorsteps of the Lunnie Hive! 
If you live in my small town next to Dayton, Ohio, there's a chance you may spot a pink bag that reads "Shh! For Lunnie Hive only" on a doorstep or two. Inside the bag is my first Lunnie nursing bra prototype, a creation that may look scrappy but is actually the result of countless hours of research with hundreds of breastfeeding moms.
How did this nursing bra prototype come to be? And who the heck is trying this bra on? As a breastfeeding mom, I wanted to a better nursing bra but couldn't find what I was looking for. So I decided to create it. I had a design in mind but didn't want to develop it in a silo. So I created the Lunnie Hive, a community of hundreds of breastfeeding moms. By crowdsourcing their insights through surveys and 1:1 conversations, I categorized their feedback and saw common themes emerge.
From doorsteps to a manufacturer, the nursing bra prototype is ready for professional treatment. 

That's when I turned to my mom, a former garment industry professional and wildly talented seamstress, to help sew a prototype. I shipped her samples of bras I liked and she hacked together the first Lunnie nursing bra. We mailed pieces back and forth from her home in California and mine in Ohio. Our first prototype was born thanks to clever engineering, resourceful thinking, and USPS.

And so Lunnie's user testing AKA the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Nursing Bra" began. Leveraging my local community of Lunnie Hive members, I rapidly shared the prototype around my neighborhood. Honestly, it was a little strange hustling a nursing bra door-to-door at first. As a budding entrepreneur, I quickly learned you have to step outside your comfort zone on a daily basis in order to grow. Eventually, it became a fun daily outing for my girls. "Mama, who's house is the Lunnie bra at and where are we taking it today?" my toddler Lucy would ask.
 

Since I didn't want to limit feedback by only those close geographically, I asked a very kind friend to model it so I could snap pictures for virtual reviews. One afternoon we set up my phone on her fireplace mantle and filmed Lunnie's first prototype in her living room. I put my best QVC host impression on and showcased the features while she modeled. Her husband was kind enough to stop his lawnmower outside and help adjust the lighting in their living room - it takes a village!

The Lunnie Hive's enthusiasm was contagious. Everyone wanted to see it and contribute their feedback. I categorized all the responses and made some tweaks until I felt my prototype was solid and ready for the next level. After a lengthy research and interview process, I selected a local small-batch manufacturer based in Columbus, Ohio. Founder Jill Apgar of Coco Beans was an invaluable resource in guiding me through this process. As timing would have it, my mom was able to join me for my first design kickoff meeting. Both my parents were in town from California after almost a year apart due to the pandemic - a long, overdue visit!
 
Founder Sarah Kallile and her mom Sue Beresh at Lunnie's first design kickoff meeting with their manufacturer.
 
I didn't even wait 24 hours after their plane landed to meet the manufacturer. My mom and I hit the ground running with our bags of fabrics, pages of notes, and beloved nursing bra prototype. And, boy, it was special sharing that moment with her. My mom has been an integral part of this product development process. I honestly wouldn't have pursued Lunnie with such confidence if I didn't have her trusted expertise and skills on my side!
 
Our design kickoff meeting with Columbus Apparel Studio was fantastic. It is a small, woman-owned small batch design, development, and manufacturing facility. Their team has the perfect expertise and capabilities to bring Lunnie's nursing bra prototype to life, with my mom and I both involved in each step along the way. It is thrilling that my idea is closer to becoming a reality. I can't wait to share more as our product development process unfolds.
 

Sarah Kallile is the founder of Lunnie. She is the mother to two daughters, Lucy (3) and Annie (10 months). She is a born and raised California gal currently living in Ohio.

Learn more how Sarah went from an idea to winning the Female Founder Collective's Big Pitcher competition with Rebecca Minkoff in under four months here.

Interested in exclusive prelaunch access to Lunnie's nursing bra? Sign up here.

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