When you think of women’s fashion, spacious pockets are probably the last thing that comes to mind. Why is that? Because it’s pretty much the last thing that comes to a designer’s mind when creating women’s clothing. Founder and CEO of Holdette, Sarah Greisdorf, saw this as an issue worth solving. When developing her clothing line, Sarah considered the on-the-go working woman who doesn’t have time to sort through a purse for her everyday essentials. Holdette offers suits for women with real pockets and an opportunity to be at your best self from the moment you get dressed in the morning.
Your suits have multiple functional pockets that are rare for women’s clothing. At what point did you feel this was a problem worth solving?
There were a couple of key moments. The first was actually my senior year in high school. I was taking a shower one day and thinking to myself “why is it that every time I go out I have to carry my belongings in my hands or in a purse when none of my guy friends have to?” It just didn’t seem fair and I wanted to do something about it. I went off to college at Boston University. That fall, I studied Computer Science and I started talking about the idea. All of my female friends were like ‘Yes, I obviously experience this issue. You should do something about it.” So January of 2018, I started sending out a newsletter to anyone who would subscribe that included clothes with pockets. That summer, I got into an accelerator program where I spent the summer replicating what we did in the newsletter.
I pivoted this idea [for the suits] about three times and last spring came up with the idea to aggregate from independent designers who made clothes with pockets, similar to Etsy, but literally just clothes with pockets. Then last May, I entered a pitch competition. My ‘ask’ to the judges was “Does it make sense to manufacture the clothes for the independent designers or should we let them manufacture themselves?” The advice was to manufacture me to cut out extra risks. So with that information, I thought if I manufacture myself I might as well design myself and at that point, I might as well launch my own clothing line. Here’s the part where you think “She studied Computer Science, how exactly is she going to do that?” I spent the entire last year learning about the fashion business, design, and supply chain.
What is the symbolic meaning of the pocket when it comes to your company’s values?
Our mission statement itself is “supporting women from the moment they get dressed in the morning.” We believe in supporting you from that moment and beyond. The reason I started the company in the first place was because I was going out carrying my phone, keys, and wallet in my hands when none of my guy friends had to do that. I thought if they’re able to carry all of their belongings then I should be able to carry mine fundamentally from a feminist perspective, but it represents so much more. We started with workwear and suits because that’s where I feel like you’re on the go the most. If you can carry your phone in your pocket instead of your hand, that’s just one less second of attention you have to devote to that. It’s like the butterfly flaps its wings equivalent to what else you’re even capable of doing.f
Maybe it’s as simple as being able to carry a snack in your blazer pocket so you don’t have to worry about finding one if you get hungry in the middle of the day. It’s these small things that I think represent so much more. It can even get to slightly more intense things like if you have an inhaler or EpiPen that you can’t carry on you; that’s terrifying. It’s very real things like that we don’t even think about. It’s life-changing because it can be life-saving, but I also feel you shouldn’t have to carry a purse everywhere you go so that you can actually use your hands for what they’re made for, which isn’t just to carry all your belongings.
Back Pocket is a networking community you created alongside Holdette. Why did you feel it was important to incorporate this type of membership/mentorship program into your brand?
I think the way many brands approach consumers is “This is the product, this is what I can offer you.” We really thought about our customer’s identity and what we can holistically offer that allows us to provide more resources than just suits. There’s all of this psychology around how many touchpoints a consumer has with your brand. We wanted to actively offer beneficial resources to our consumers in a way that allows us to engage with her. The mentorship component adds so much value to our company. There’s plenty of online communities, but to have someone who’s a couple of years further along in their career who can look back on their experiences and guide you in yours really makes the difference. We have that mentorship community we can call on for things like workshops and panels also. These women all have different experiences and can answer questions with different insights.
People say the difference between a community and a company is that a company just engages with consumers. In a community, the consumers engage with one another and that’s exactly what I wanted to build. From an investment perspective, it’s always “How does it affect your bottom line?” We’re running a crowdfunding campaign now and a lot of our community members and mentors have either bought suits or donated to the campaign. It intertwines nicely because it’s beneficial to us as a company that needs to stay afloat financially but also fulfills our desire to build a community.
As you’ve mentioned, starting a business takes lots of time and funding. Why did your team choose to work with IFundWomen as your crowdfunding platform and how has this experience been?
I love IFundWomen. I’m basically a brand ambassador but not really. I’ve heard from friends and other entrepreneurs who’ve used kick-starters like Indiegogo, there’s literally no support for starting your campaign. IFundWomen is the direct opposite. There’s so much support. You can sign up for their coaching program where you get one-on-one coaching calls and there’s an entire playbook. It shows you how you should set up your campaign and the things you’ve probably never done before.
They also have a Slack community which has roughly over 5,000 members who are so ready to help you. I used to view it very passively but I’ve started to actively comment on people’s posts and react to them. You get out of it basically what you put in, but at the core they want female founders to succeed. They even have a Pay it Forward Grant where they re-invest 20 percent of the money they make from their crowdfunding fee back into campaigns. Of course, they take a percentage just like everyone does, but it feels like I’m helping support their success as they support me. It’s very cyclical. I honestly can’t speak highly enough about my experience.
To learn more about Holdette, get on their waitlist for suits, and support their crowdfunding campaign visit: ifundwomen.com/projects/holdette