There haven’t been many bright spots for retail during 2020, but Los Angeles intimates startup Mindd appears to have found its spot in the sun.
The bra brand for women with size D-plus busts—which debuted in February just before the coronavirus pandemic exploded—announced a $1 million investment from The51 Ventures, a “financial feminist” venture capital firm, and WVL Capital, another Canadian investment group.
An inauspicious start to the year could have thwarted the upstart’s trajectory. But according to founder Helena Kaylin—a veteran of Lululemon, Under Armour and Carbon38—Mindd has hit on a desirable product for pandemic-pressed shoppers: a supportive-yet-comfortable, wire-free bra.
“A lot of research and development teams are mostly men,” the Canada native told Sourcing Journal, referencing her time spent working with the industry’s athletic wear titans. “I think it really takes a woman to solve women’s issues.”
Kaylin identified a gap in the market for supportive bras in fuller sizes—an area active brands have historically been reluctant to take on. “I knew that if I couldn’t get a bra that was over a DD across the finish line at Lululemon,” where Kaylin spearheaded product merchandising and design, “I needed to walk away and do it on my own,” she said.
The concept proved prescient, especially as many women have found themselves working from the comfort of their living rooms and home offices in recent months. According to Kaylin, some larger-busted shoppers find the transition to a bralette-like silhouette—free from the underwires and padding that characterize their usual go-tos—a bit jarring. But now that comfort has become the utmost priority, Mindd’s products have earned a coveted place in many customers’ daily wardrobes.
In fact, the company’s latest round of funding stemmed from the experience of one repeat buyer. A friend had been so taken with Mindd’s assortment of supple, stretchy undergarments that they caught the attention of her husband, WVL Capital’s president, Dustin Wilkes. The investor connected Kaylin with his group and fostered a relationship with The51 Ventures, which supports female entrepreneurs and women-led businesses like Sheertex, a line of near-indestructible hosiery.
“After seeing my wife buy multiple Mindd bras for her friends, and tell me she would rather wear a Mindd bra than any other product on the market, I knew that this product was something special,” Wilkes said in a statement.
With the new infusion of cash, Kaylin plans to invest in optimizing Mindd’s ability to capture and leverage valuable consumer data, as well as innovate new products based on their demonstrated needs.
“My passion is really product creation and invention,” she said, adding that she feels Mindd has “nailed the innovation” for its everyday bras. But as the company makes moves to launch new categories, like sports-specific products, Kaylin believes she needs to have a “substantial amount of data and user testing in place” to gauge performance before bringing them to market.
“I think for the 11,000 women who have worn and bought the product so far, there’s an element of trust that they have in the company,” she said, and Mindd will start by tapping into the insights of its existing consumer base. “I want to really build the infrastructure to pull from a historical data hub” that will reveal trends and commonalities to support the algorithms for future product creation, she added.
Using those insights, Kaylin will devote funding to establishing a research arm in Canada, where the brand can partner with physicians and sports medicine practitioners to study movement and determine the type of support women need from sports bras. She said she is pursuing multiple patents on her existing technology and will look to the help of experts in the development of forthcoming innovations.
The support will also enable Mindd to continue to source from its luxury knit supplier in Italy, which produces garments for labels like Prada, Gucci and Chanel, Kaylin said, and is focused on sustainable manufacturing. While typical bras have as many as 52 components, Mindd bras have just four, she said. “Instead of using toxic foams and glues, we’re using sustainable yarns and water-based dyes.”
“Mindd checks all of the boxes for The51’s investment criteria,” said Judy Fairburn, co-CEO and fund managing partner at The51 Ventures. “Helena is creating a thoughtfully engineered, inclusive product that’s not only environmentally sustainable, but it’s serving a market that’s traditionally been ignored.”