Entrepreneur Stories – Haralee.com Sleepwear
Haralee Weintraub is the founder and CEO Haralee.com Sleepwear, a sleepwear company for women suffering night sweats due to menopause, cancer treatments, humid climates or just a high internal thermostat.
What got you started?
In my former career I had been traveling 30-40 weeks a year. I left working as an executive for a Fortune 500 company for a better quality of life. I wanted to return to a life where I woke up in my own bed in my own home every day. Shortly after my new carefree life, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments forced me to look thoughtfully at my life and mortality.
With my health returning I decided to start my own business. I had already faced fear and risks, starting a new business at age 51 seemed mild in comparison. I was familiar with wicking fabric from work-out clothes, but could not find anything comfortable for sleep. Now 7 years later and we are a successful business in a niche market with sales over $100,000.00.
Do you manufacture in the US?
Finding a USA manufacturer has been a challenge. We have gone through 3, one who went out of business and up for auction with-out letting his customer know. We lost all our patterns in the mess, but luckily we were insured! Consistency and timeliness has been issues we have overcome. We currently have a great local manufacturer
Do you have a close relationship with your customers?
We get many emails from customers resulting in a sisterhood based on the common grounds of hope and sweat. Hoping this patch of menopause symptoms or side effect will end soon and an understanding that sweat can be very uncomfortable especially while sleeping. How can you explain what a hot flash or night sweat feels like to some one who has never experienced one? How can you describe that hot, then freezing cold sensation that wakes you from sleep? The emails and phone calls I get from customers, I can assure them, I understand. We are bound together in this unsolicited sisterhood. I sell cool garments for hot women. I am living proof that Cancer can make strangers into friends. I help women get a good night sleep through a sweaty patch of their lives. .
What were the obstacles to starting your business (educational requirements, certifications, licensing, insurance, etc.)?
It took me a year to research and source raw materials to start my business. I talked with everyone I knew and everyone my family members knew about what tools and resources were available to help start-up businesses. I had to sift through some of this feedback to garner the best suggestions, and disregard the negative nay sayers.Throught this sifting process I found organizations like ‘SCORE’, county small business orginizations, and networking groups. I had to sift through some of these organization representatives also to get some one who could be a mentor or a personality match to my style. Since I make wicking sleepwear for women going through menopause I was matched with a retired lingerie buyer from a major department store chain from SCORE.I waited 3 months to get an appointment with this guy anticipating he would have words of wisdom to pass on to me. Talk about an obstacle, he told me my line would never be successful because I did not have enough pastel colors and I use the word ‘menopause’. I aksed to be matched with other mentors!
How did you find suppliers/services you needed to get started?
Finding suppliers and services has been my greatest obstacle. Suppliers like to sell to big companies. Just starting out I was not a big company and could not meet minimum buys on fabrics. I had to find suppliers willing to sell in smaller quantities. I uncovered a niche that my buying abilities filled for the suppliers of raw goods of fabrics. I was willing to buy just a few hundred yards of fabric left over from big companies like Patagonia or Nike.
For services, companies that would sew my products, I ran into the same obstacle as the fabric. Sewing production companies wanted big production runs, bigger than I needed. I found some smaller production companies but their expertise in my specific fabric was a challenge that I have changed production sewers 4 times since I started. I insist on quality and on being made in the USA and now have a great production company!
How did you finance your start up?
I self financed my company. I inherited $10,000.00 when my Father passed away. I matched that amount from my own savings and that was enough to get the business going.
Is this a full time business or a supplemental income?
Haralee.Com Sleepwear is my full time job and business.
What advice would you give others?
Resilience and pereverence are important traits to nurture in starting a small business. Focus groups lead by friends is great to get different perspectives of your product or service. Love what you are doing and talk about it to everyone you know. Make your friends and family your business advocates.
What organizations do you belong to?
I belong to Susan Komen for the Cure as a volunteer ambassador. Since breast cancer profoundly impacted my life, I speak at health fairs on awareness for Komen and my company gives a percentage of every sale to breast cancer research. I am a circle member blogger on Vibrant Nation. I am a memeber of a group that spun off of ‘Make Mine A Million’ of local business women.
How has your lifestyle changed from being an employee to becoming a business owner?
My life has changed so much for the positive from being an employee to becoming a business owner. I get up every day and love what I do. I am helping women. I help women get a better night sleep while still looking great. I understand how important that is in life not only for the woman but for her entire family.