While on maternity leave with her first child, Uyo Okebie-Eichelberger decided that she would take on a small project -- revolutionize the way society viewed lingerie, one maternity bra at a time.
Her maternity bra remix epiphany came to her one day while she was shopping for lingerie post baby.
"I couldn't find anything I liked in the nursing bra department," said Eichelberger. "All the options I saw were really matronly. All I could see were black, nude and white. Where were the girly options?"
So, she decided to go out on her own and launch a lingerie line, You!Lingerie, within a year after her department store experience.
With an MBA from Duke University and experience in brand management (she worked at Kraft Foods), she had experience launching new products. But, she had no previous retail, manufacturing or design experience.
"I had my eye on the end goal," said Eichelberger. "I never for once thought, 'what if I don't do well?' I didn't worry about failing."
What she didn't know, she researched. And researched. And researched.
"I was able to talk to 350 moms across the United States, pregnant and nursing moms. The feedback was similar that they would want to purchase attractive and affordable maternity lingerie. That's when I knew that it was going to happen. "
This survey helped to confirm that there was enough traction in her idea for her to leave her six-figure salary.
Eichelberger had never designed anything before, but she taught herself. She designed the line and, through trial and error, found some great manufacturers.
Her considerable amount of moxy and sweat equity was not without some controversy. In August 2013, Eichelberger showcased her lingerie line at New York's Lingerie Fashion Week and managed to wow and stir up some controversy of her own (see the comments section of a previous HuffPost article that focused on her Fashion Week debut). Some criticized the line for showing pregnant women in too risqué of a light.
"Many people believe that the pregnant body should be covered up. So, when people saw pregnant women in lingerie at Lingerie Fashion Week, it sparked a lot of reaction," said Eichelberger.
Despite the critics, she is not deterred. Expansion remains on the brain. She is constantly encouraged by the positive feedback she receives from her customers.
"When a woman finds something she loves, she lets other people know. The mommy blogosphere is huge," said Eichelberger.
In September, she pitched her line to Macy's and hopes to extend her brand beyond lingerie.
"When I look at my business, I want to be the one stop shop for everything nursing and maternity. I want to be the brand that is beautiful, high quality maternity apparel. All things that make Mom feel beautiful inside and out," said Eichelberger, "I want to be the Victoria's Secret of pregnant and nursing moms. "
In just three years, Eichelberger's business has been showcased in Lingerie Fashion Week and has forced people to have conversations about society's views of women's bodies and when they should and shouldn't be covered.
Eichelberger and her company are showing no signs of wanting to back down from that conversation.
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