Designer Cat Foshee has been designing and selling her Wholester hands-free belt pack on her own for years. Recently, she teamed up with us to market them to the masses. We recently sat down with her to ask about her experience working with Betabrand:
Tell us about yourself, Cat! What do you do every day, and what are you passionate about?
I’m a creative. I live life looking for creative opportunity. I fill my time with writing, photo journaling, costume parties, seeking truth, sewing and friends. I believe being a part of a healthy, supportive community is key to thriving in your personal life.
What was the inspiration behind the Wholester?
Wholester was inspired during outings to art and music festivals around Northern California. I really admired the hip bags that were seemingly ubiquitous at every gathering. I loved all the unique designs, but the pockets were usually tiny and most belts were made of leather — giving them a tribal feel. I wanted a hip pouch that would actually carry all of my stuff. “Hands free living so I can be my whole self” became a motto. I wanted something I could wear everyday that didn’t look like I just came from a rave in the desert. Simply put, I saw that there was a huge gap in the market and believed everyone could benefit from owning this kind of accessory. Since style and function were fundamentally key, I reworked the designs I’d seen — making custom renditions for friends and myself. Eventually, the Wholester was born.
You have been sewing and selling your Wholesters on your own for years. What made you decide to collaborate with Betabrand to push your Wholester business even further? What were the biggest benefits from doing so?
I had been thinking about producing Wholester on a larger scale for a while. I even began working with someone who had connections in China. In the end, I didn’t want to send it off-shore and Betabrand gave me the opportunity to manufacture right here in my hometown. Quality is a big deal. No one wants to purchase something that will fall apart. Betabrand produces great quality products. It was a no-brainer for me.
After submitting my design to Betabrand, I had immediate access to designers, marketing/media teams and an in-house attorney. Collaboration with Betabrand has been fantastic. Everyone has been super supportive and have really gotten behind my product. It feels great to know that someone really believes in my design. My success is your success. I highly recommend submitting designs to Betabrand if you are considering taking your business beyond your own capabilities.
Here’s a list of my personal favorite reasons for working with Betabrand:
- U.S.-based company.
- Alternative, community-supported products. People vote on your product, if they like it, Betabrand makes a prototype and puts it up for crowdfunding. It’s smart business — for me, a win win.
- Collaboration. I’m a one woman shop. I do everything for my business. Having the Betabrand team look at my product and give suggestions and ideas with the underlying thought of “how can we make this a successful Betabrand-exclusive product?” has been validating and encouraging.
- I don’t have to make the product!!! Seriously. Betabrand handles everything. From fabric and notion purchase, to slight redesign, prototyping, manufacturing, payments and shipping. I just help market the Wholester! Who wouldn’t want to have a company doing this for them?
- Expansion. Betabrand has wide reach. Working smarter and not harder is what I want so that I can enjoy life’s adventures without giving 100% of myself to work. As Betabrand grows I have a chance to grow too.
- I still own my design. I continue to make custom Wholesters, which include a double sided version, in my little sewing studio for anyone who wants to purchase them via Etsy. This partnership with Betabrand has given me more visibility and I have actually gotten quite a few new orders because of it.
What about the Wholester do you think made it a success on our Think Tank?
Wholester was successful in the Think Tank because it’s an awesome product! People who have purchased Wholesters LOVE them. I’m also very fortunate to have the support of a large diverse community of people around the world. I took the time to ask people to help support me by voting for Wholester — and they did. I also have the types of friends that wouldn’t vote on it if they didn’t like it. I like their honesty. It feels good to know I have made something most people would wear. After all, it is cooler than fanny-pack. 🙂
How did you promote your idea to help it succeed in crowdfunding?
Social media played a huge role in the success of crowdfunding. I have a very supportive web presence. So I utilized all my channels once a day: Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest — I use them all. Hashtagging also helps get more eyes on my posts. Again, collaboration: friends really wanted to see me succeed, so they shared my links with their friends and blasted out posts to their own networks. I’m seriously grateful to all those supporters. Virtual high five to you guys!
What about the process with Betabrand sticks out as most positive?
The most positive part of the process so far has been the friendly collaboration. Working with Betabrand doesn’t feel like I’m handing over my designs to someone so they can make tons of profit while I sit and collect pennies. It’s a partnership. I’m fortunate that I can walk into Betabrand and talk to anyone on the team face-to-face. My concerns have been heard and acknowledged. Answers to my questions have been timely and honest. I can continue my normal business while the Betabrand Wholester is live and running. There isn’t one single aspect that sticks out the most for me; the entire experience has been pretty awesome. The Betabrand team is so freaking friendly!
Would you recommend the Betabrand ThinkTank to other aspiring designers and entrepreneurs?
Absolutely. I love that Betabrand encourages creativity, lets your peers vote on your product and then produce it. Crowdfunding is a great business model with lots of potential for success.
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