Modibodi combines technology and feminism to create a revolutionary, sustainable product that is period, sweat and leak-proof
We were not just selling a new brand of lipstick or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category based on talking about things that made people and retailers uncomfortable, Kristy Chong CEO and founder of Modibodi, tells me. The mother-of-four began her career working in public relations for some of the world’s biggest multi-national brands including McDonald’s, Sanofi-Aventis, Edelman PR and more. Kristy had big goals to spark change and address key issues across the globe, such as feminism, and had always wanted to run her own business. It was only in 2011 that her idea for Modibodi was born.
After the birth of her second child in 2011, Kristy began a gruelling training regime as she planned to complete a marathon. During one of her training sessions, she had an incontinence-related incident ‘ and that was when Kristy had her Eureka moment. The mum realised there wasn’t an underwear product on the market that could help manage leaks and incontinence with post-pregnancy, periods, sweat or chaffing. She decided to create an innovative product that would help millions of women around the world, such as herself, providing them with comfortable and worry-free undies. Over two years, Kristy put her product samples through 1,000 scientific tests to ensure they were high quality and would meet the requirements of her customers. And in 2013, Modibodi was born. Kristy has extended her products to create a teenage range Modibodi RED in 2018, and a dedicated men’s range, Modibodi Men, in 2019, which helps support men with incontinence, sweating, and chafing. Modibodi products contain three layers with 3mm modifier technology which work together to deal with the wearer’s moisture concerns. The top layer wicks away moisture whilst fighting bacteria and stops odour, ensuring you stay dry and feel fresh throughout the day. The middle layer absorbs fluid, from 2.5-20mls, with the extra safety-net of the bottom layer, which provides waterproof protection for extra security.
Bladder leaks and excessive sweating are topics that are rarely discussed, but they can have a crippling effect on a person’s confidence, Kristy explained. The available solutions were inconvenient, uncomfortable and a hazard to our environment – disposable hygiene. Once I realised how problematic this issue was, I could not understand why with all the advancements in technology, underwear and disposable hygiene had not evolved. Since then, I set out to create a whole new product category for women. We’re not just creating new products, we’re also about breaking taboos, opening minds and offering a reusable, sustainable option that’s not just for women ‘ but for the benefit of all bodies on this planet.
Modibodi was self-funded by Kristy herself, and with the help of her PR and marketing background, she was able to pitch her business to journalists and influencers for her marketing campaigns, giving Modibodi the platform to be heard by the masses. The business was able to generate $3 million in sales within the first three years of launching without outside investment. Gaining investment wasn’t easy for Modibodi ‘ especially because the product was revolutionary and seen as taboo by many large retailers, Kristy said. I founded Modibodi in 2013, and as you can imagine, it was far from simple not just due to tech and business sectors being notoriously dominated by men, Kristy tells me. Figures showing that 98% of VC funding goes towards male founded products but also because we were not just selling a new brand of lipstick or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category based on talking about things that made people and retailers uncomfortable. As a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights, I knew that I needed to persevere because the amalgamation between technology and feminism is a major force of social change and one that can have a wide-scale impact on our world.
As any entrepreneur will admit, there are many challenges along the way, especially at the very beginning because I had never worked in the textile industry before, Kristy added. To overcome a limited budget and my lack of knowledge, I really had to focus on owning the niche I was trying to be involved in and doing copious amounts of homework right from the start. I also underestimated how big a market challenge it was going to be. We were not selling a new brand of lipstick or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category. We couldn’t distribute through large retailers because they found the product too taboo, so we had to go direct to the customer and build this category awareness and education around our offering.
Through sheer hard work and determination, Kristy was able to secure two international deals in the US and Dubai with Modibodi – all while managing a full-time job. With the help of an incredible team behind her, Kristy was able to keep herself motivated and disciplined, and in her heart, knew deep down that her brand would make a difference to thousands of people and improve their lives for the better.
Through hard work, determination and really knowing who our market audience is, as well as what they want and resonate with, she tells me. Starting a business does not come without 100% persistence, you really have to be self-motivated and learn how to do your own marketing and social media, before you’re able to bring in people to help and mentor you. While it is stressful and exhausting some days, I know in my heart that I am building a great brand that is making a difference. Our international expansion is a testament to the great team we have and the connection between the brand and our products.
Kristy always had a very goal-oriented mindset and forward-thinking approach when it came to her business. With a supportive husband and family by her side, Kristy was determined to make a change and create ethical and sustainable products that would help her customers.
I have a goal-orientated mindset and am thankful to be working for a purpose that is close to my heart, Kristy explained. After the birth of my second child, my personal experience with ‘unmentionable’ bladder leaks made me determined to start my own brand. One that would change our mindsets ‘ and the planet! ‘ by changing underwear for the better. Modibodi’s purpose is to create limitless positive impact on people and our planet. Beyond selling leak-proof apparel that empowers people’s lives, we are committed to being sustainable in all we do, helping to end period poverty and supporting health education programs that normalise or open conversations around our bodies and leaks. To date, we have already donated 25,000 pairs of underwear to women in times of crisis and women in need. We’re also passionate about educating the next generation about loving themselves and encouraging them to be adventurous and to get on with all the amazing things that need to be done today, period or no period, leaks or no leaks. Knowing the positive impact Modibodi is making in people’s lives around the globe is amazing and makes it all worth it!
Despite the struggles that came with the coronavirus pandemic, Kristy was able to use the time to connect more with her customers and address their needs and concerns, enabling her to expand Modibodi’s product ranges and provide customers with a wider range of products for their daily needs. In 2020 alone, Modibodi launched Maxi 24-hrs, active running shorts, a detachable bikini and including four seasonal ranges across their youth and women’s range. They have also expanded their absorbency ranges and styles to give their customers more choices.
Like many businesses, 2020 provided us with the opportunity to regroup, assess our performance and then adapt, Kristy said. We’ve had to recalibrate and shift a couple of our initial timelines, but our customers and partners have been super supportive throughout this whole journey. As an e-commerce native brand, one of the many benefits is the ability to pivot swiftly in multiple markets at the same time and this is a blessing. We are a customer-led business and we ensured we listened to the consumers and continued to support them. We used 1st party data to continually engage with our customers and leveraged our 100% brand trust to acquire new customers. Overall, 2020 has been a productive year for us, with numerous product launches including the launch of Maxi 24-hrs, active running shorts, detachable bikini for the ability and travel market, expanding our absorbency and style offerings, as well as four seasonal ranges across our youth and women’s range.
As an e-commerce brand, Modibodi has seen substantial growth this year. Kristy hopes to continue developing and creating new strategies to innovate and push boundaries in the FemTech sector. Modibodi has seen substantial growth year on year, which is proof of how people around the world are embracing period pants and choosing to help protect our environment from damaging disposable hygiene items. We hope the future looks greener and brings a sense of freedom surrounding the all too taboo topic of periods, Kristy said. From a business perspective, 2021 will be a big year for the brand. We want to continue stirring our product development strategy towards innovations that will push boundaries for the FemTech sector whilst growing substantially across all of our markets. From a UK perspective, we’ve got a pipeline of strategic milestones planned for the next year which we hope will grow our customer base in the UK even further and move the needle in some key debates such as the VAT issue applied to reusable hygiene products.
In a few final words, Kristy reiterated her goal ‘ developing products to help people and continue speaking up about key global issues to truly make a difference. For us, the key going forward is continuing to listen to our customers and understand their stories whilst developing products that continue to change lives and spark debate, she said.