How Nuudii System is radically innovating for women’s boobs with Founder Annette Azan

Joining me on the show today is the fairy boob mother, Annette Azan. Founder of Nuudii System.

Nuudii system is a radical innovation for women’s boobs, it’s something in between going braless and wearing a bra and is an invention all women can benefit from.

It’s been a decade long journey so far for Annette and in this episode we cover everything from the very beginning when she would lock her prototypes in a safe, to spending years finding her manufacturing partner, how she launched a kickstarter campaign with a goal to raise $10,000 but ended up with a million and the things she really didn’t expect to see in the process.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

00:02:21 So um my company is Nuudii System. It's a radical innovation for boobs that is not a bra And the company was actually initially formed 10 years ago but the last five years has really been or building of the company and it is for anybody with foods. I love that.

00:03:25 So good. I read That it took you three years to develop this patented product. So I want to go back to life before you got started and I guess that means going back 10 years ago, um to find out what was happening in your life at that time and what really sparked that light bulb moment for you. Well, I've actually, my career has been in fashion and I've never been in the design portion of fashion. I've always been building a business from the business side. So I made a lot of designers a lot of money through the retail sector. But 10 years ago, I found myself in a quandary, like a lot of inventors actually with my second wedding with a very unusual wedding dress that was very skin bearing and the fabric was so light that basically anything that I put underneath would show either show through the fabric or show because it was skin bearing. And so literally out of my eagerness and desperation to wear this wedding dress. I said a couple of weeks before I had bought this hideous second dress, just in case I didn't come up with anything.

00:04:30 I was like, I wonder if I could just, you know, make something. So I basically went to the five and dime and I found a fabric never used for boobs and my daughters and I actually started to hand. So the first new t and the minute that I put it on my body into my dress, I had this feeling, it was like this moment of like, wait a minute, I know I have something on, but I can't really feel it. And then when I looked in the mirror, I just looked like I was completely natural. My shapes, my boobs aren't shaped um they looked real. Um It looked like I was brawl Isse but I had a little something something and that, knowing what I knew With my 20 years of fashion experience I said you know what, I'm not the only one who needs a lot of women too. So that was my moment of ah ha sounds like magic for your boots, Just like a little bit of magic. Yeah, yeah and I and it never said like oh I'm going to make up raw and and I knew the moment I got on the body, it wasn't abroad, this was really a different experience before we get into like how you actually got started and what those next steps were.

00:05:41 Can you just tell me what you were doing in fashion in the lead up to that, what was your kind of expertise in particular? So you know, I I went to f I. T many many years ago again in merchandising and I had really been mostly in the retailer sector marketing, helping larger companies. Like I used to work for norma kamali. So I worked for a lot of edgy people up to helping Donna Karen build urban zen in its very early years. Um but also in between, I worked in the international markets for companies such as um Dusseldorf trade shows, which is the largest fashion trade show in the world, helping them um bridge us designers to do global business, which at the time nobody was doing, you know, was it was you know, super interesting. So I, I understood um from the ground what women wanted, which was important and then also from the retail sector and also from a global viewpoint.

00:06:43 So there was a lot of different types of expertise. But I really understood the needs of women. I love that. That's incredible. So you have this light bulb moment, you figure out the magic bra for your boot or the magic non bra for your boobs during your wedding. The nudie and then what happens? Do you like quit your job or are you like, okay, hang on, I need to like find a factory, what happens next. Yeah, So it's interesting because with that wedding, I was, I just left urban zen because I was kind of in a long distance relationship and was actually going on my own to be freelance stylist. So right after the wedding, I actually went back and I said, well, okay, so this is happening in fashion and this is missing. So I took that fabric and I was doing my own raw prototypes and testing them on my own body and then I started to come up with the name and then the name Nudie was actually taken um it was bought by somebody on go daddy. And so every couple of months I would check is it available?

00:07:47 So then I went to my local sewer and said, can you make this prototype on the machine? But it was a very specific type of construction and she could never really get it. So I put my at the times three prototypes in safe and you know when my way doing my freelance gigs and every now and then I would try to kind of say, hey, does anybody know anybody in the bra industry? Blah blah blah. And um, it took me basically four years to find my partner who started the company with me who comes from a uh, production background. And she helped me take those initial prototypes, make them something. And then here we are today. So wow, gosh, putting in a safe. I love that protecting it from the very get go. And I think what's important for everyone listening to um, to think about is of course you should jump straight online and check out the nudie because what's different about it Is the way all of the straps can be displayed in 12 different ways.

00:08:49 So you can have it, you know, if you're wearing a one sleeve dress or if you're wearing different styles, it's perfect for everything, which is obviously so cool when you met your business partner and you were able to figure out that production line, what was the development process like after that And was it expensive funding the business until that point. So you know a scrappy. So you know at the beginning I put some of my own money and of course and the first kind of trench of money went into protecting what was developed here. Okay so that was I. P. So immediately we got a lawyer, best I. P. Lawyers in new york um are Cashman and we went about to put in our application for our I. P. Which we have we actually have to and then it was a lot of testing because this was a product that had never been made before. So it wasn't like we were going into a bra company and easy development so we had to come up with ways of manufacturing that did not exist so that took much longer than we thought we had and sometimes you just have to take that first step because if you look long term you will come up with so many issues that will basically stop you from proceeding.

00:10:13 And that's kind of the biggest thing that I will share. Its two momentous. It's like you know having a child like you don't want to think about anything but like today having that child nursing that whatever because if you think about their whole life it's like oh my god I can't have a kid say the same thing with a start up, it's like had we known what we know with you now, we would have probably never started would have been too much. But we had to test because nudie is a product that has no hardware and has no adjustments. It's all about hugging your natural shape and that's really the purpose of it is calling bs on the broad industry. I mean think about it, bras were actually made to reshape you and in the reshaping of women's bodies, it basically tells you you're not all right the way you are. And that is really the power of movie. It's allowing women to say, I'm all right with my boobs just the way they are. But having said that it gives you a little comfort between you and the world.

00:11:19 It hugs hugs your natural shape and but let's still keeping your own unique shape. That's really powerful. That's why right now the timing is such that women want to be able to feel authentic. I just saw that there was a movie being produced about women going gray and accepting it. It's kind of the same thing. It's just like women are ready to just be whoever they want to be. It's so interesting. I've never thought of bras like that, but it's so true and I'm having this moment of like holy shit, that's easy, wow. Was the nudie the way that it looks today. Is that the way that it looked when you saw it for yourself at your wedding. So it was always a double strap. But the way that my dress was, I created the first one as a holter. So, you know, it didn't. And so the halter would have been more of a specialty product. So we decided, instead of going out with a halter first, but the halter is coming. Um we would we would connect those straps down so that it would be more of an everyday, uh, moody.

00:12:26 So we decided to go ahead and launch with that. But we have many more movies down the down the pike. Super excited about that. Oh my gosh! Yeah, I bet. So you get the product? What happens next? How do you start marketing? How do you start telling people about this amazing invention that you've come up with? So I didn't answer your question before about money. So the first thing we did was I put some of my own money. I convinced some of my uh kind of friends and contacts that I knew to give me alone because right then we didn't even have right prototypes. We just had my raw one. Uh, and people did believe in me. So they put their money down and then, you know, slowly started to build, once we're closer to a finished prototype, it was really interesting. Like the first, so the first two people were women. Then after that, it was three men and it was usually men that knew me that saw the pitch saw women trying on movie for the first time hearing them like it was just natural and organic like squealing crying.

00:13:38 Huh. And they just there was no convincing I didn't have to have a whole deck ready because they saw it for themselves. A lot of them also a lot of them had you know obviously women in their lives or daughters or whatever. And so we just basically we're raising on convertible note and we still are actually raising on convertible note up until now. So that's kind of you know how it was in terms of building out the money over the years. What does convertible note mean? Convertible note is actually a debt note. So convertible note um does not give you equity but what it is it's a note that says I'm giving you this money they make some interest and it will convert at such a time that you have an equity round. Right? Right. Yeah that's clever. Instead of giving away equity. Yeah and usually there's a cap so there's a lot of plus plus plus is with notes you know usually give them a discount and then you're capping off at a certain valuation. So you know if you can raise on convertible note as long as you can it's much better and it's also really exciting for those early investors as well you know because yeah they're getting money back sooner.

00:14:51 Yeah well you and also if you get you know if you're going to an Equity around with a V. C. R. P. You know a lot of times they may want to even buy out some of those early um investors when they come in. Got it. Cool. Okay so let's get back into the marketing of what happens when you when you get into that launch phase and you start spreading the word and you start getting women to know about your product. How are you doing that? So at the very beginning until we had both of our patents completely approved we kept it really really close to us because you know knowing the industry it's a huge knockoff industry and we knew that we could protect our I. P. Meaning that design and what it looks like. But we knew that how we were marketing new t. Which is true to itself. We could not protect. So our very first test website that we opened we actually had a password protected basically was just people we knew were people that knew us they would have to ask for a password then they would go in. So we basically did that for six months to make sure that everything was working.

00:15:56 So I also joined a group that was very amazingly supportive and they were super excited. Called the Wolfers. The Wolfers is a group of women over 40 And so that was our big launch was the founder of the Wolfers Nina Collins Located just fell in love with moody and decided that you know, she was going to wear it with the Wolfers group, they have 30,000 women around the world. So like the december before we did our big launch, the women had wolf, but had it on at their christmas party and all of a sudden we started to have incredible orders from all over the world, It was like all night thinking thing because you have attached to my phone, so all night and going, oh my God, for getting orders from all over the world. So then we started to ship, so we have this test website to make sure that everything worked right because you want to make sure your manufacturing works and you know, you're sizing is right, people are getting it up. So that that went for a while and you know, again, still kind of going out, you know, pitching DCs blah, blah blah.

00:16:59 But everybody's saying, you know, you need to have a million in sales, you need to have to millions in sales, You know, it's like all these things and you know, whether whether they're true or whether they're not true, we don't know, but we were not getting the VC money. So I decided that you know what, okay, we're getting really great response, let's just do Kickstarter. I say that very kind of lightly, let's just do kids start because it is a lot of effing work, I'm just telling you it's a lot to be successful with Kickstarter, you have to be prepared to Number one, know your market, understand how success is made with Kickstarter because it's not just you just go on and suddenly it's a flame because there are tens of thousands of campaigns out there. So you have to do marketing, You know, you have to do advertising, you have to have money for that, you have to give every photograph and every piece of your copy time and attention because Kickstarter, especially if you're a woman's business, Kickstarter is predominantly men at 65% of men.

00:18:04 So we knew that in order to be successful that we would need to reach not only women on Kickstarter but men and so we were able to do that successfully with the boom theory with video. The video was so good. So it was edgy, it was funny, it was you know, tongue in cheek, it was all the things that needed to be. And so we had such incredible support with men, men buying it and it was really, it was so, it was such an incredible experience because you're going from like zero to you know, like 1000 in no time. You know, the first two hours of Kickstarter, we did 50,000, oh goodness and Your goal is 10,000. So it Was just like, you know, and again your cone is connected to it. So you basically see everybody's name coming up, right? And then we had incredible feedback like we would have guys that didn't have a woman in their life, they were just put in $5 and they would say you know we're putting this money in because we want to see victoria's secret new gone and Playtex gone, we want our women to be free.

00:19:15 And I mean it was just an amazing, amazing experience. I mean you obviously struck a serious nerve with men and women all over the world because I read that you had about 12,000 backers, you reached almost $1 million dollars in funding. I really want to try and understand you know more of how you like got that success, you know the time that it took to prepare the money that it costs to launch a campaign. Um Yeah, yeah, if you could share a little bit more about that, it took a lot longer than we thought. So you know you have to be approved by Kickstarter number one. So you know that's applications fairly simple but it took us three solid months to prepare for it. The video, we used an outside um amazing production agency that we were super fortunate to get because we are small fry and basically what they do. Um and we had to have you know a marketing that does advertising for us and we had one of the best and we had, we actually got, we were fortunate in that they choose who they will market because their campaigns are all over a million dollars.

00:20:27 They just, you know, they have so much business and they have so much success that they look at your asses and they say, you know, are you, you know, is this possible that these people will have success and usually you have to have your video done. So they take a look at your video or video was not done, we're already behind on our video, but they like the product as much and the team and believed in us that they actually took us on. So those two factions, I would say are the biggest video have to speak to you, has to speak to the audience, they have to get it. And also the advertising. Um and the great thing is that even though we were fairly new, we had all that time and development and we were in front of so many women that we were able to build on marketing on the experience of the feedback of these women. So usually a company would open up and they would kind of be testing or or or coming up with marketing strategies, not based on real experiences.

00:21:30 So we knew what spoke to these women and so you know, even though it took that length of time to get the production right, it was like a really great time because we knew exactly how to reach these women. So then you can inject that in live every piece of copy that Kickstarter was every word was, you know, thought and rethought and rewritten over and over again. I mean it was really an incredible process and then we would farm it out and we would have, you know, test groups is this resignation with you about a lot and then we would come back and redo it wow focus for the Kickstarter. Crazy, totally, totally. Then you know, how are you explaining your assets? Then you're really looking at each, you know, you have different buckets of pledge pledge groups, uh, you know, diving in and looking at that. And so everything was with a fine tooth comb because you've got such a finite period of time. Right? And part of Kickstarter success is you have to reach your goal like as soon as you launch because what happens is kick starters algorithm if you've reached your goal then shoots you up as the best of and then they start to market Right okay.

00:22:46 Yeah, it's like success breeds success. Yeah, totally. Um yeah. Okay. And so are you able to share, how much does it cost to, to fund like that Kickstarter campaign in terms of like what you invested in the advertising, what you invested in the video kind of, you know, you really have to lean into it. It sounds um, and it sounds like it was a big investment. Yes, Yeah you do. So we spent in just the preparation of Kickstarter, I'm going to say around 25,000 And then we spent another 100 20 on advertising, wow, okay, that's incredible. And so It was obviously funded within a few minutes, like if you had reached 50 grand in in two hours, I'm sure it was, you know, funded in 10 minutes. What happened after that? How did you guys keep kind of putting it out there? And how long did the whole campaign go for? So the Kickstarter campaign was 30 days because we were working with some people who had done a really successful campaign. So it was wonderful. We got their feedback, they said, you know, the thing is, you have to keep powering by putting money in for advertising.

00:23:53 So, you know, the longer the campaign is the more money you have to have for advertising and sometimes it's not worth it. So we did 30 days and Kickstarter, and then when we ended Kickstarter, we had, we were ending on such a high note, like people were still, you know, big time pledging, we decided to then roll it over to Indiegogo. Okay, so we did 715 sales and Kickstarter rolled it into Indiegogo on demand and then raised another 200,000. Oh my God, I didn't even know you could do that, That's crazy. Yeah, so you just roll the assets over and because it's gonna, it takes companies like ourselves months to produce that merchandise after campaign and then um ship everything. So we knew we couldn't go back to opening our website. So it's better to just kind of keep selling. And so that's what happened basically from the time we launch Kickstarter, June 11 to the end of the year, we were pretty much just on crowdfunding. Mm, wow, that's so interesting.

00:24:58 And that brought us 16,000 customers around the globe. Oh my gosh, that's a nifty little customer base to get started with Holy molly! What came out of that experience that you didn't expect aside from obviously the massive growth, I didn't expect as much emotional connection to the product. I mean, I say that, but I take it back because We did see that one on 1 with women. But again, what we didn't expect was the men and crowd funding? You've got, You know, it's I say, I hate to say it because it's really not about men, but men responded in such a positive way. And I know a lot that has to do with the lingerie industry and and how we looked has been so much focused on its been man centric for so many years, right? But what the message was was, you know, men just want us to be yourselves. I love that, That is so cool. And what are your biggest learnings from it that you could share for other founders who are thinking about going through that process and looking for like, you know, key advice key tips and especially what did you receive from that other company that was helping you, who had also gone through a successful campaign.

00:26:15 Yeah, you don't rush into anything. Um also to do work ahead of time. Like, I think if you're completely out the door and don't really know, you haven't tested anything, it's a real pop shot to go into a Kickstarter campaign, like really building some basis before you go into it, because once you're in there, it's fast tracking. And if you don't know what track you're supposed to be on, it could just be explosive. You know, it could just be not worth it and all over the place, it hasn't so so defined, you have to know exactly who you are, um and uh and who you're marketing to, totally. So the campaign, when did that finish? When did that wrap up? So Indiegogo wrapped up at the end of last year in 2019, and then we shift everybody at the end of January. And then we reopened our website. So we went from a test website to a real website and it's like, okay, now let's go out into the big world, and that was super exciting, but we were taking that 16,000 customers with us right as the basis.

00:27:33 Um and so what happened? So, first of all was interesting, what we tracked was we had people that went from Kickstarter who pledged, who got their product that went back to Indiegogo pledged again, that came back to the website that bought more. So we had that happening at the same time. We didn't do any advertising for the first two months of our website. We just basically were building our email campaigns and reselling the people we had already sold to because that was enough at that point. And then we started our advertising campaign in april just in time for Covid. Oh my God, the timing on that was in a way for us superb. Yeah, I I kind of feel like that would have worked in your favor. No, like women are at home, they don't want to wear bras, they want an alternative, totally. They won't come fit. Yeah, yeah, they were ditching their bras. They were I mean timing was just key for us. I mean it's horrible to say, I kind of um I'm at odds with myself thinking about that, but it was true, women just realized like, oh, so why did I, why do I feel like I had to wear a bra because women really feel forced, they feel forced to wear bras, that's the biggest issue.

00:28:49 So they're returning to new T. We had no eyes on the internet because people were working from home. So it was like an amazing time for us for growth. And so we have been building ever since. So where we started in april, we've more than doubled in sales now. Oh wow! Congrats, that's so cool. How does it work for you guys on social media? Like on platforms like facebook and instagram. I know there are you know there are hurdles when you're using that kind of marketing to market bras and and women and bodies and that kind of thing. How does it go for you guys? What's your experience? Yeah. You know, we're doing, we're doing something really different here. Um so you know what, we are building a completely new category for groups. So our challenge is to get women to understand that it isn't broad or brawl us, there's now new the it's in between bras and bra less. So it's like that messaging, you have to tell them what you're gonna tell them, tell them and tell them what you told them over and over again because women just want us, they see something on the boobs, they want to say it's a ball and we need to manage expectations.

00:30:00 So our marketing campaigns um had to be so targeted with how we explain new. I mean people when women still just say blah and then some people really understand once they get it that it's not a bra and why but you know, we're building a category which is basically duty. That's a tall order early. I think that's amazing. What I what I mean though is with platforms like facebook and instagram, they can ban your ads really like easily. And you know by having, you know, lingerie swimwear. It's a difficult category to market and that's where I'm wondering if you've experienced that problem and if you have hurdles with that, we do and we experience them on a weekly basis. You know, there's an algorithm in facebook that, you know, just, we don't even know why, but they'll just standing up. And so that is, you know, you're basically challenging them continually even to be verified. Okay. So we have spent now hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising between facebook between the crowdfunding and our website and we're still not verified on instagram and we don't know why, you know, it's just, um, and there's nobody to talk to.

00:31:20 Its like they're so large. It's super frustrating. And we work with a well seasoned marketing company, you just have to deal with it when it comes along. But you know, it's, it's uh, it's been a challenge. You're completely right. And I have no, um, wonderful uh, solution to that, except that you just have to go in and re challenge when they kick your ass out. I guess the wonderful thing about it though is that it forces you to not be so reliant on one channel and it makes you build the build the moat with all the other, you know, your own channels and, and pr and things like that, correct, correct and influencers, it's been really amazing. You know, we've had so many influencers that have just reached out to us when again they feel a connection to what we're doing here. And so we've really been able to build our community organically on our influencers who who are, you know, are not doing it for pay. But they really feel something mm totally.

00:32:23 I can definitely see that. I can feel it through your, through your content. Something that I saw online that made my heart feel really so good. Was that all your products are made by women in the us and sometimes up to the age of 94 years old. Can you tell me about that and how one makes that commitment and goes about actually, you know, bringing that to fruition. Okay, so the 22 parts. So we are made in the US, we know the women by name and I have to tell you it's the whole, you know, the process of developing with them was so beautiful because when we launched, I mean there were tears from our manufacturers, cheers these women you know, when we first went in, they all thought we were crazy because they're like, we're gonna make. But because this was like innovation, they didn't even believe it could really be done and that sort of connection and knowing, you know, the conditions that your factory is made and it's just it's all real from the beginning of the weaving of the fabric until we, you know, we fulfill it, we have a fulfillment center in Long Island.