KATY Payne discovered a gap in the lingerie market aged 15 when she had a fitting for her first bra at Bravissimo.
Measuring as a 28F, Katy found that she needed a much smaller band and larger cup size than was available in store.
As she got older she struggled to find luxurious lingerie that fitted well, with most brands either not offering her size or not coming in the kind of fabrics she wanted.
As she reached her mid-twenties, Katy, 35, from North Somerset, had a degree in psychology and was working for the NHS while applying to study a doctorate.
But she had always had a creative streak and after a prompt from her partner at the time, she decided to fill the gap and create her own line of luxury lingerie called Katherine Hamilton – which launched just as she became a first-time-mum to twins.
The lingerie brand is now entering its fourth year of trading and is stocked in a range of luxury retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges and Net-a-Porter.
It’s set to turn over £600,000 this year.
Katy spoke to Fabulous Digital for our #BOSSINGIT series which features ordinary women who have launched successful businesses.
One of the main challenges Katy faced when launching her lingerie brand was timing.
She said: “Having twins at the same time as our launch was incredibly intense and I credit my mummy hormones for my ability to keep going – despite sleep deprivation and no time.
“I had started developing our first collection two years before we launched. During this time I was incredibly fortunate to receive one course of IVF on the NHS.
“We didn’t think it would work but amazingly it did, and the due date of my twins just happened to coincide with our launch”.
On 1 August 2016, Katy welcomed her twin boys Kaden and Deven.
Katy continued: “Before the boys were born, my then husband and I agreed to do everything fifty-fifty which I reiterated frequently to ensure I could cope with the demands of motherhood and growing a business. This really was essential.
“The first two years were the hardest, but as finances improved and my boys started to play together, it started to get much easier.”
Financial struggles also created a strain as Katy worked hard to get the business going with an original investment of £100,000.
The aspiring businesswoman and her ex-husband – who worked as a website developer – invested some of their earnings into the brand at first but raised the remaining money by maxing out their credit cards and getting EU grant funding through government initiatives.
Katy said: “The most significant hurdle of launching a lingerie business has been finance. I needed to invest in years of research and development to create designs that genuinely offer superior support and comfort in 54 bra sizes”.
“I also needed to purchase stock in a wide size range before selling a single item. We were therefore in debt for a long time which made being a new family additionally stressful.”
All the label’s bras come in 26-38 D-HH, and creating them is much more expensive than people think.
The initial design concept of her Mariella bra cost approximately £250, while sourcing and sampling was around £1,200 and the technical development of patterns cost around £4,000.
Photographing the range for the website cost a further £500.
She said: “The aim is to bring pure joy and indulgence to the fuller bust lingerie shopping experience.
“I wanted to provide the opportunity to peruse a wide range of colours, shapes and luxury fabrics without compromising fit, shape and comfort. Essentially, make lingerie shopping fun again for those relying on good fit”.
Expanding the company’s global growth and growing direct sales are Katy’s two key goals for 2020. She also has plans to launch her first swimwear range.