When Holli Harris returned to work following maternity leave, she had to face a number of challenges that most working moms who recently gave birth deal with. Harris found herself pumping in parking garages, ducking out of meetings to pump, and going to business dinners with a telltale black bag. It wasn’t long before she understood why 32 percent of mothers in the US stop breastfeeding 7 weeks after going back to work – it was too inconvenient and time-consuming. Pumping in cars and planes while in business attire was no easy feat. Harris also realized that she was wasting several minutes every day undressing just to use her pump. These problems led her to start HadleyStilwell, a line of work attire especially designed for breastfeeding women, in 2009.
Named after Harris’ daughter, HadleyStilwell offers garments that are comfortable, luxurious, and durable – clothes that women want to wear, whether they are nursing or not. According to Harris, her biggest challenge in starting up was not having any experience in the fashion industry; hence, she had to seek outside expertise right away. Harris says she had to “learn an incredible amount in an incredibly short time.”
In 2011, HadleyStilwell won a grant from Eileen Fisher’s annual Business Grant Program. Earlier this year, Harris took part in the clothing retailer’s Inspiring Women Event as a speaker. Since its inception, HadleyStilwell has been featured in numerous online and print publications, including the Seattle Examiner, FitPregnancy, Hybrid Mom, Maternity & Style, and Working Mother.
“Being a small business owner is a true test of believing in yourself and in your product or service on a daily basis,” says Harris. Don’t start a business if you’re not 100 percent passionate about your idea, she advises, because it’s the passion that will keep you going in the wee hours of the night when everyone else has been asleep for hours.