Double Dee’s is a Kenyan based lingerie company that came into existence in 2014. It is run by four young busty ladies who decided enough was enough with regard to busty girl struggles of acquiring a bra. In a market heavily plagued by second hand items commonly known as ‘mitumba’ these ladies labor to ensure they provide new, affordable and classy lingerie for the busty women. For the first two years the ladies worked on creating a solid foundation for their company, sleepless nights were spent writing up business plans, proposals and performing market research. It was a tough two years for the ladies, having to fund every operation from their pockets.
Their hard work proved fruitful when Double Dee’s came in second at the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Innovation Competition and first place in the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition. It was this move that helped propel them to where they are now. Having just recently opened their first store in Kenya (June 1st 2016), these ladies say they are only getting started.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
Double Dee’s is a company that exclusively focuses on providing high quality, alluring and affordable intimate apparel & swimwear for ladies with large busts; DD+ cup size. Double Dee’s Kenya comprises of four founding partners: Charity Migwi (Chief Financial Officer), Constance Tipis (Chief Marketing Officer), Stella Langat (Chief External Affairs Officer), and Wanjiru Njoroge (Chief Production Officer).
How did your company start?
The idea to start DD’s was born out of sheer necessity. We all realized that we encountered similar problems when shopping for bras because of our larger bust sizes. The few bras we managed to find in local stores were either unflattering or too expensive. Sourcing for these products internationally proved a cheaper option; however, the hustle of shipping the products was incredibly frustrating. In time, we each found ourselves scouring through piles of second hand bras looking for the perfect fit. You would buy a batch of six bras cheaply, for instance, but when you got home, only one fit. Eventually, all that frustration prompted us to start the company in 2014. We came up with our business model, wrote out the business plan, and used that to seek funding and advice on the best way forward. And now we just opened our first store on 1st June 2016.
It actually started as a selfish venture. We wanted to have affordable, high quality and alluring bras for ourselves. What many people do not understand is that as a busty girl there are a few things that are simply not luxuries and a bra is one of them. Walking down the hill, running on a treadmill, a bus ride home on our Kenyan roads or even simply bending to tie your shoe laces, all these daily activities have turned into struggles for the busty girl due to lack of quality bras. Having first hand experience of these struggles we realized that there was a gap in the market for affordable, quality undergarments for busty ladies. Heck, we were going to be our own clients.
Did you always picture getting into this line of work?
Honestly? No. We all majored in different academic disciplines that are non-related to fashion design. However, the diversity has served us well in managing the intricate processes related to financing, designing, and marketing DD’s products.
So far, have you seen the vision that you had set out for Double Dees take off?
Yes. We opened up our first store. The next step is to produce our first exclusive lingerie and swimwear collection.
How many people work for you?
That’s always a funny question for us, aside from being our own clients we are also our own employees. Currently, it is just the four partners working full-time on the production process and running of the store. At the moment we engage with different service providers on a need to basis. However, as our business expands we would love to grow the DD’s team.
What makes your bras stand out from others?
It is very simple; they are bras we wear everyday. Our designs take into account the unique challenges each of us has faced in our bra shopping struggles. For instance, one the partners is quite slender yet busty. She represents a neglected demographic in the bra industry whose cup size is usually larger but with a relatively small band size. Additionally, we all hated the fact that anything pretty, lace infused, colorful or funky never came in our sizes. In most cases, anything larger than a DD cup comes in an unflattering neutral color or plain design.
“Madam hatuna size yako.” A common phrase to mean, Madam we do not have that in your size.
It is for these reasons and more that we work tirelessly to ensure that all busty ladies experience the privilege of choice in terms of the quality, design and function of their most intimate and delicate items such as bras and underwear. For other brands that we retail, we make sure to only source from well-recognized manufacturers and brands that share our values, and that exclusively produce bras for busty ladies.
How many clients and orders do you get in a day/week/month? What are some of the biggest clients and orders you’ve made?
We just opened up shop, so it might be slightly difficult to give a conclusive report. However, so far, business is going well and we are able to meet our targets.
Where do you source your material from? Is it easy/hard to acquire? If hard, what do you think we can do as a Kenyan market to make sure some of these materials are more accessible?
Unfortunately, manufacturing in Kenya is not an option yet due to lack of manufacturing companies equipped with the machinery to produce our products. We are seeing local textile production slowly increasing, and so we hope that this will spur growth in the industry as a whole because we hope to move production back home in a couple of years. Currently, Double Dee’s and its affiliates source fabric and other materials from different parts of the world; for instance, Europe, Sri Lanka and India because they are more affordable.
There are African countries such as Nigeria and Congo that could easily provide the fabrics necessary for production but surprisingly it is cheaper to bring in goods from countries such as China than from fellow African counties. If the trade laws were more favorable it would work to even lower the price of the final product.
Do you get people to help you out in sourcing and executing the ideas for your projects?
Yes. We are privileged to have very many stakeholders both locally and internationally that have helped DD’s get to where it is now.
What motivates you to do what you do?
Our main motivation is our belief that all women, busty or otherwise, are special and they deserve to feel that way. So, we endeavor to provide a luxurious intimate apparel brand that allows every lady to feel in touch with their femininity. It is an added bonus if we are able to make each lady’s significant other “happy” when they get to uncover the layers of clothing.
Describe to us your typical day of work
Arrive at the store. Sift through inventory. Sit at the desk and look through our social media pages. This allows us to offer feedback to our clients in a timely manner. Take some time to go over new designs while corresponding with DD’s partners (two are in the US). Serving customers occurs throughout the day. We do not believe in rushing the fitting process, so we encourage our clients to book an appointment before visiting the store. However, walk-in clients are still welcome to enjoy the DD’s lingerie shopping experience.
What are some of the biggest and most memorable moments of Double Dee’s so far?
The most memorable has got to be when we finally we opened our first store (1st June, 2016). We were elated. However, this does not compare to the moment a client finds the perfectly fitting bra (#TheOne). It reaffirms our mission to bring little gifts of joy to busty women all around.
Once we had a client come in with no bra because she was fed up with wearing poorly fitting bras. She ended up leaving wearing one of our bras and buying a couple more. She could hardly believe that a bra could fit so well that she would barely noticed she had one on.
What are some of the ups and down you’ve faced in your business?
The design process is grueling and finding a designer has been our toughest task. Back in 2014, when we were still green to the industry we sourced for a wedding dressmaker. Our assumption was if he could make starless dresses he could make a bra. As we later found out, it is not that easy. Manufacturing abroad has also been quite challenging between the delayed shipping and unresponsive manufacturers. We are surprised we have not gone bonkers. Our costs would definitely reduce significantly if we were able to produce locally.
You got some funding or something like that to start the business. Tell us about that
DD’s was lucky enough to receive funding after winning entrepreneurship competitions held in Skidmore College (New York), and Harvard University (Boston). These wins affirmed to us that our idea was indeed viable, and also gave us part of the starting capital that we needed to establish the store.
Do you have any other side businesses or personal ventures apart from Double Dee’s?
Yes, each of the founders has their own interest, and full-time jobs actually. Charity works as a consultant in the US, Constance has her own psychology practice, Stella just graduated with a degree in Economics from Skidmore College, and Wanjiru works as the production manager in a local film production company.
How is the bra market in Kenya? Are there challenges you face in selling bras?
The bra design industry in Kenya is still very young. However, in terms of products it is heavily flooded with second hand bras and innerwear which quite honestly is very saddening. Intimate and delicate articles such as bras should be a personal and special thing. No one should have to wear discarded or second hand innerwear.
It has been a bit challenging for us to sell bras. This is because majority of the ladies in Kenya have opted to purchase these second hand bras which go at very low prices, even as low as ksh100. This makes it hard to convince them to spend more money on a new quality product. However, we are not discouraged by this fact, we let the quality of our products speak for itself. Additionally, we constantly urge our clients and potential new clients to still come in and interact with Double Dee’s Kenya for more than just buying bras for example we also offer free bra fitting and bra clinics,
Are you only selling bras for big busted women?
Currently, we only stock bras for big-busted ladies. Our swimwear and nightwear collection, however, comes in different sizes.
Where do you see yourself as a company in the next ten years?
DD’s sees itself with a chain of stores across Africa. We would also like to have moved production exclusively to Kenya.
Are you planning to expand your business outside Kenya? If yes where?
Yes, all over Africa. We believe DD’s has what it takes to be Africa’s first DD+ lingerie producing company. And with our blessed sisters in Uganda, we are working on spreading to eastern Africa for starters.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to be entrepreneurs?
Never stop believing in your dreams. Passion is key, it is the only thing that will keep you going when the money does not come in, when the expected support does not come in and on days when you simply feel like giving up. Lastly, create a support system around you that keeps you in check it could be in form of a mentor, a team, friends or family.
As a women entrepreneur are there challenges that you face that are unique to women?
As female entrepreneurs we have learnt that you have to be twice as tenacious and aggressive to move ahead in any industry. Adding to the fact that we are young we have to work thrice as hard to be taken seriously. The number of times we have encountered service providers or potential investors that simply think they can swindle us because we are seemingly inexperienced young girls is ridiculous.