Founders of Devigi // a FemCity Interview
Devigi is a brand that captured the heart of America’s most popular journalist and daytime co-host, Hoda Kotb from the Today Show and propelled it to one of the most sought after fitness apparel brands. I got the chance to reconnect with Nadine Gelberg, Co-Founder of Devigi to learn about their founding stories and the inspiration to help others take a chance and jump into a business of their own.
What inspired you to create Devigi?
I started Devigi because while I am generally fit and look good in regular clothes, my left over babybelly creates a muffin top in most leggings and crop tops are a complete no-go. Tops that are big enough to fit over my chest look big and dumpy. I realized I was not alone when I saw normally fashionable neighbors and friends wearing big t-shirts or squeezing into unflattering popular brands. With fitness, that bounce to your step when you feel good and look great is a huge motivator and critical to workout success. Confidence in hitting the gym or the running route is not only key to health and fitness but as every FEM knows, you see friends and clients wherever you go; so looking networking-ready even while working out is paramount.
Did you experience any moments at the start that almost made you not move forward with your business launch?
Once I committed to Devigi for a 5 year plan, I never considered not launching – my motto is I am in (all in) until I am not. This keeps me from allowing challenges from becoming setbacks. Nothing was going to stop me from the launch event but … fabric was late because of superstorm sandy, patterns were not made for mass production but for custom sewing, creating some challenges, and while we launched with great products we did not have a proven retail model.
What was one of the most post pivoting points in your business that you knew you were going to be successful?
Six weeks after our launch, Hoda on the Today Show said our bottoms were “the most flattering fitness pants ever.” It was not just personal pride but turned what was a family undertaking into a real business.
When you had moments of feeling overwhelmed, how did you get past that situation?
Being “in until I am not” made getting through challenges easier because quitting or pulling back was not an option. When we got swamped with orders after the Today show and we had yet to develop a system for shipping, it was overwhelming but as a family and team we put in the time to think of a plan and get all the orders out the door within two days.
When our signature hoodie in new colors arrived mis-sewn the night before our launch event, we had to find a creative new look that we could accomplish overnight. We ended up with two new popular products.
Do you think it was difficult to create an apparel company and compete with some of the giants in the industry?
I launched Devigi with the utmost optimism and never thought of the giants as real competition because they did not effectively serve the customer for whom Devigi is designing. From a product and design perspective there is a clear void in the industry that Devigi fills. The challenge we have faced is in understanding the changing retail environment. While we do great at pop-up shops where we tell our story, have customers feel our fabrics, and then try on garments, our model to scale the business – consignment at retail proved a challenge because Devigi didn’t have the same kind of “hanger appeal.” While Devigi looks great on customers, on the hanger, it is not the garment shoppers grab. For me, this was enlightening because it was our very retail challenge that seemed to create the product void. Big brands tend to design to look good on hangers and in retail versus on people. We are still working on a scalable model, maybe Devigi home reps, to turn more fitness women into Devigi fans.
What is your positive mantra?
I am in until I am not!
You work with women, do you feel that your brand has increased their self esteem and the way they view beauty?
The positive response of Devigi customers motivates me to continue with enthusiasm! One of my first customers said she looked like she lost ten pounds in the Devigi leggings. Another women who had twin two year-olds said after trying on entire Devigi outfits, she never thought she would look this good again. Another woman purchased five outfits and said with confidence she was ready for her new her! Helping ladies develop the motivation and confidence to kick up the intensity of their workout is the reason I do Devigi.
If a FEM were reading this now and still scared to launch her business, what would you tell her?
Be prepared for it to be all-consuming. Its not just business, its personal and that can make it more challenging but also more rewarding. Develop a multi-year plan and have the confidence to stick with it – you are in until you are not. Don’t keep second guessing every decision – confidence in your plan!
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Violette is the Founder of FemCity // an online global network featuring business and lifestyle trends with over 70 local communities designed exclusively for women. Violette is also a motivational speaker, small business consultant, writer and mother of three. As a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience, Violette is passionate about supporting women entrepreneurs through business growth, big vision strategies and positivity along the way. For more inspiration and business tips, visit www.femcity.com and www.violettedeayala.com. Follow Violette de Ayala // @violettedeayala