Start-Up Stories: The Bonnie Bra Company

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The Bonnie Bra Company is one of our Scottish entrepreneurs, based in Glasgow ad founded by Bonnie Lawson-Brown. The company specialises in bamboo bras that are designed in an elegant and ethical way, perfect for everyday wear, pregnancy and post surgery. Building up a great brand and following, Bonnie takes us through her last three years in business.
Who are you?
Bonnie Lawson-Brown, I live and work in Glasgow as the founder of The Bonnie Bra Company. I'm happily married to my husband of 23 years. Piers is a disabled veteran who served all over the world in the Army for 20 years. I am mum of two sons, Jack 21 and James 14. 
Where are you based?
We are based in Glasgow, my mother’s hometown, as is our ethical manufacturer BeYonder. They offer vegan and cruelty free, small batch and bespoke garment production. The support and business network here is fantastic and I work with as many local companies as possible to reduce my costs and encourage a greater local economy.
What does your business do?
The Bonnie Bra Company aims to provide new choice for consumers when it comes to underwear. Bonbon is our first range and women aged 18 to 80 all over the world are buying and loving it! Made from bamboo, it’s body-positive, ecologically friendly and locally manufactured. We are now preparing to launch Scotland’s first smart bra. I’m delighted to say we’ve just been voted ‘Unique Business of the Year’ at the SME Scottish Business Awards.
What is your background?
I have worked in various retail positions throughout my years in the UK. I particularly enjoyed my time at M&S and the lingerie dept was my favourite role - as you might expect. The atmosphere was always wonderful.
How did you get started?
I actually started fashioning my own bras when I was just 12 years-old! I used everything from cotton wool to makeup sponges to adapt my high street crop tops and bras to try to get the shape I wanted. Things got more serious when I began designing my own range of from home from my dining room table. The early prototypes were made from donated bras from friends and family I called them my Frankenstein bras! 
What is your top tip?  
Always ask the question "is this right for me?" and listen to the answer. Your intuition will guide you. 
How long has your business been running?
I’ve been in business for three years - two of these were R&D and I’ve had one year of trading. 
Has anyone helped you get started and how?
I applied for a Start Up Loan from Transmit Start Ups and was thrilled to be accepted. I worked closely with my advisor and benefited immensely from the support, guidance and belief that I was shown. The loan enabled us to manufacturer our first trial bras and to make adjustments to subsequent designs. We secured IP and have built a brand and following to be proud of! None of this would have been possible without my initial loan funding and ongoing opportunities I have had through my advisor, from awards nights to fireside chats and of course great media coverage.
What was your first deal?
I prepared a soft market launch plan of my product in one weekend and was then thrilled to sell 25 trial sets of Bonbon!
What would you do differently?
I now know the value of every penny and would be even more cautious when spending on unnecessary products and services in the beginning of the business.
Who was/is your mentor/or inspiration?
My mentor, inspiration, great friend and - I’m proud to say now Director - is Christina Mackay, my wonderful manufacturer. I have learned so much just being around her and observing how she works with people and engages with her environment.
Where do you plan your business to be in five years time? 
My intention is to have large manufacturing facility built in Scotland to safeguard heritage skills and encourage more young people into STEM careers via design and manufacturing

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