TV presenter Carol Smillie takes on a new lifestyle venture; Pretty Clever Pants and we caught up with her to find out all about her new take on period pants.
From veteran TV presenter to businesswoman, what made you decide to launch your own business?
probably the biggest driver was the fact that life as a female ‘tv veteran’, didn’t hold much appeal! I wanted to have the strength to walk away from TV with my head held high, and try something completely different. What that was going to be, I had no idea! Looking back on it, I was quite naive, there’s a LOT more to it, than I ever imagined
Where did the idea for Pretty Clever Pants come from
I overheard a random conversation my two daughters were having on the beach on holiday, about a forthcoming sleepover. They were discussing whether is was worth risking it when their period was due at the same time. It occurred to me that nothing much had changed since I was their age, and that surely someone had come up with something that young girls might actually choose to wear, that offered protection, but was also really pretty and attractive…apparently no one had.
Tell us a little about the target market.
Although we started as a teenage brand under the name DiaryDoll, it quickly became obvious that the bigger market was not so much focussed around periods, but was women of 40+ who took up sport, or exercise and realised their pelvic floor just wasn’t holding! Say the word ‘trampoline’ to any woman who’s ever had children and see the fear in her eyes. The name DiaryDoll no longer worked and so we rebranded as Pretty Clever Pants
How do Pretty Clever Pants differ from the competition?
Our pants have a secret waterproof panel sandwiched between two layers. The inside layer is 100% cotton, and the outside is super soft viscose. They will hold up to 3 teaspoons of liquid on their own, but we recommend you wear them as a back up, together with your normal sanitary protection. You then have plenty of time to get to a loo and change the pad or tampon, knowing there will be no marks on your clothes. The gusset is also extra wide to be able to wear a pad without it hanging out at the sides. They are completely washable and look and feel just like normal underwear, and did I mention how pretty they are?
There are a couple of other brands in the US that offer similar protection but are absorbent, and much more expensive. We all know when we’ve had a leak, we just don’t want anyone else to know!
Did you have to overcome any challenges bringing the products to market?
Lots! Mostly people’s awkwardness around the whole topic. In a world where we are so comfortable with the understanding around sports bras protecting breast tissue and shape wear holding in all of our wobbly bits, it’s so surprising that periods and bladder issues are still taboo. 1 in 3 women suffer from embarrassing leaks when they laugh, jump, run or sneeze, but don’t realise how common it is
What has been the reaction from your customers?
Incredible. Our customers often describe Pretty Clever Pants as ‘life-changing’ and that makes me feel very proud. I get letters and messages on social media from all over the world, telling me how they have given women so much more confidence, or they feel so relieved their daughter no longer worries, or how delighted they are to receive a pair after having a baby.
Do you think Pretty Clever Pants has helped to challenge the stigma surrounding periods and incontinence?
I really hope so. There are so many different reasons why women leak, periods, bladder issues, endometriosis, Crohns & Colitis, peri menopausal flooding, post maternity, and yet we still are shy to share or discuss. NOBODY wants to wear an adult nappy, yet the big brands don’t seem to have woken up to the fact that we are still women and want to feel feminine!
Do you think the public’s recent interest in their own environmental impact will encourage women to give reusable menstruation products a try?
It doesn’t seem that long ago that moon cups were only used by hippy types, but they’re far more mainstream nowadays, people are far more educated when it comes to the environment. The more pressing issue at the moment is period poverty. If women can’t afford to feed their family, how can they afford disposable sanitary products?
What’s the next step for Pretty Clever Pants?
Earlier last year, I licensed the brand to tv shopping channel High St TV (the success behind Nutribullet) who are growing it, and plan to sell the pants through their global network of 91 countries. We have 10 different countries trialling them through their own tv shopping channels next month, it’s incredibly exciting! The next shape, a deep brief with lace and tummy control, has also just been launched
What have been your favourite parts about running your own business?
The freedom to make decisions myself, and plan my own future. My tv career was always on the whim of the latest producer/ controller/ director, and I never like the uncertainly of it all. I’ve also loved learning so much about manufacturing, warehousing, retail supply, marketing, IP protection, social media the list is endless!
Who were your main sources of inspiration when launching the company?
Jacqueline Gold CEO of Ann Summers, what a woman! She turned a male dominated, taboo subject into a mainstream phenomenon and gave women the freedom to buy their own sex products without feeling it was something sleazy. Ten years ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of seeing young girls walking into a sex shop on the high street. She was so generous and helpful to me with her time and support.
Find out more about Carol Smillie’s latest venture online.