Like many women cancer survivors, Haralee Weintrub experienced hot flashes that resulted in sweaty and uncomfortable nights. With some episodes leaving her perspiring and soaked, she knew that she needed a special type of sleepwear that can keep her comfortable and allow her to get a good night’s sleep. Given that hot flashes are common among cancer patients and survivors, as well as menopausal women, Haralee knew that she has stumbled into a potentially big business.
Haralee then experimented with various fabrics and styles for sleepwear products for women experiencing hot flashes. She then launched her sleepwear line in August 2004, and today her products can be found online at Haralee.com http://www.haralee.com and select boutiques across the United States and Canada. Her target market has since expanded to include women with high internal thermostat, those who love to travel light, those who live in hot humid locals, or simply those women who want attractive, performance sleepwear.
Learn from Haralee on how she turned her business idea into a successful business:
Haralee.com came at a time when you were diagnosed with cancer and decided to leave your long corporate career. What made you decide to start Haralee.com?
My cancer treatments threw me into menopause with terrible night sweats. From the trails and the slopes I knew about wicking clothing but could not find anything comfortable for sleeping. That frustration and looking at a statistically shorten life span from the disease, I chose my own career path with starting my own business.
What is the concept behind Haralee.com? How did you come up with the idea?
I am a firm believer that if one person experiences a problem there are hundreds that are also experiencing the same problem. I knew I was not getting a good night sleep because I was waking up wet and cold, so I knew lots of women were experiencing this also and I was right! The sleepwear I make transports the sweat from the body to the fabric where it quickly evaporates. This means the pajamas or nightgown does not lose it’s insulating qualities like cotton, and the woman stays comfortable.
What was the main factor that gave you the confidence that the business will work?
I made a prototype and showed it to the members of my breast cancer support group and they went wild with enthusiasm. At the time I started the business, there was only one other company in Canada that had wicking sleepwear.
What were the challenges you faced in starting Haralee.com?
At first it was educating the customers that this product line really worked. It is 100% polyester and many women remember the nasty polyester of the 1970’s and I had to assure them this was new technology in fabric.
Another challenge was to find local production companies that could produce a product to meet my specifications.
How did you finance your business (e.g. personal funds, loans, etc.)?
I chose to self finance, to start small with just a few styles and colors and build from there, putting all the profits back into the business.
How are you marketing Haralee.com? What has been the most effective marketing for your site so far?
I advertise on Google Adwords, MSN, Yahoo and FaceBook. Any time I get PR or press that is the most effective advertising for my company.
Do you have any business blooper/s with Haralee.com? How did you learn from it?
I bought some fabric with out rolling it out and it turned into 2 different kinds of fabric that my production people made into the garments. I now hand inspect every piece of fabric and have a sample sewn before I commit to the production run. Lesson learned was, Check and double check.
What do you think are the factors that make Haralee products successful?
Besides the garments that help a woman get a good night sleep, they are affordable, practical, attractive, made in the USA and I give back to breast cancer charities.
How are you balancing a successful business, family and other interests?
I always had a home office so the discipline for me and my family had already been established. Since I love what I do, I don’t feel burdened by my commitment to the success of the business.
What are your plans in the next 5 years for Haralee.com?
Haralee.Com will continue to grow as the number 1 wicking sleepwear company for women.
What are the most important business lessons you have learned from running Haralee.com?
Details and back-up plans. You have to be a detail oriented person while still seeing the big picture and have another picture that you can go to seamlessly if that picture gets lost.
Do you have any lessons you wish to share to other entrepreneurs?
Success takes time and effort. It sounds trite but few business successes are overnight. Excellent customer service is imperative.