When you’re a new mom, you may not feel as if you’re looking your best. Your body takes a long time to return to its pregnancy shape, you don’t have a lot of time to spend on your appearance, and you’re leaking breast milk at inopportune moments. This is why, when Wendy Armbruster-Bell of Snugabell is designing hands-free pumping bras and clothes for new and expectant moms, she goes out of her way to make them look good. We caught up with her late last year to hear more about her, her business, and how she’s redefining the word “mom” for herself and others.
Two Worlds Collided
Wendy was born and raised in Coquitlam, and she started off her career working at BC Tel, which later became Telus. It wasn’t the best fit for her, though, so even before she had kids she sent about redefining herself by going back to school to study fashion. Like a lot of moms, things changed for Wendy when she had a baby. She says, “My two worlds collided, and that’s where I came up with the idea for our first product, which is the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra.” She was pumping once a day, so that her husband could take a late-night feeding, but she didn’t enjoy it. “The thought of sitting on the couch, unable to do anything else, pretty much drove me crazy.”
Wendy made her first hands-free pumping bra for herself. It wasn’t long before other people heard about it, though. She shares, “A couple of friends caught wind of it and suggested that I sell it. I never had any plans to sell it. But then I thought this product-based business would be passive income, naively.” It’s been a lot of work, but Wendy loves it. “It’s been really successful, we’re now launching a nursing line, but I just really kind of fell into it.”
Wendy and her PumpEase pumping bra were on Dragons’ Den in late 2010. While they didn’t choose to invest in her business, she had a very positive experience. Wendy says, “It was anything I could have imagined and more. The people at the CBC were amazing. There was no negative experience there at all.”
Hands-free pumping bras are outside the mainstream for a lot of people, on or off TV. It’s certainly not something most of us would ever have heard of before we had kids, let alone actually considered buying. Wendy gets some varied reactions when people encounter PumpEase for the first time. At consumer shows, she says, “I actually love watching people’s reactions when they walk by my table – the double-takes, the looks of horror. I totally take that opportunity to talk to them about it. It’s pretty funny.”
Bringing Sexy Back to New Motherhood
Wendy runs really cheeky ads for her products. She says, “When it came time to come up with a marketing image I didn’t even consider having some generic, kind of frumpy, mediocre, mainstream image. That’s just not what I’m about. Our bras are the only fashionable hands-free pumping bras on the market, and the only organic ones as well. When it came time to choose fabric I considered solids in pretty colours, and I also ended up with these prints.” She adds, “I’m just trying to make it a little more fun. I mean, pumping is not fun. If I can bring a smile to someone’s face when they’re reaching for their bra … you’re a mom, you know. The postpartum period is not when you’re feeling really sexy.” She’s redefining the way moms feel about themselves after having a baby.
Wendy’s recently branched out by introducing the Toni Top, a maternity and nursing top. Her fashion background once again combined with her experience as a mom. She shares, “I never really went out and bought maternity clothing. A couple people gave me these jeans with the big panel on the front, and I hated them.” She wants to avoid that fate for other people. “I just wanted to beautify the world a little bit by offering moms something that didn’t scream maternity or nursing, and also worked through pregnancy and nursing, and be something they would want to wear after they were done.” She sees that mothers have a negative relationship with the clothing they wear during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and she wants to change that. She says, “If you can get something that looks good, and feels good, then that’s my goal.” She’s redefining maternity and nursing fashion.
Inspiring Others, Redefining Motherhood
Wendy is on a mission to make moms look good and feel good at a time when they otherwise might not. She says, “My mission is to support a mom’s decision to breastfeed through education, community and beauty.” She isn’t just re-defining motherhood for herself, by raising her kids and running her own business. She’s redefining motherhood for other moms, too. That’s what keeps her going, and brings her inspiration. She shares, “What most inspires me is when I get a testimonial from a mom. Some of them bring tears to my eyes. I never, ever set out to do this. I’m working from my home office, and I kind of get holed up in this small little mindset, and then I realize the reach that I’m having and how I’m changing people’s lives and I’m just like wow. I’m honoured to be able to help moms reach their goals.” We can’t think of anything better than that.
Thank you so much, Wendy, for sharing how you’re redefining the word “mom” for yourself and others!
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.