Sarah Kallile of Lunnie on building the first community-led brand for modern mothers

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Describe Lunnie in a few words?

Community-led brand for modern mothers. We’re reinventing the nursing bra.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I’m a mom of two young girls. While breastfeeding my second daughter, I was frustrated with my clunky nursing bra and how it made me feel frumpy. I wanted a better alternative. I asked friends and searched online. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for. This problem isn’t unique to me – it’s a universal pain point. 

Moms deserve better. That’s why I created Lunnie. It’s the first community-led brand for modern mothers. No two breastfeeding journeys look alike which is why I assembled the Lunnie Hive, a diverse group of hundreds of passionate moms who believe fed is best. Together, we’re building the perfect nursing bra. And we’re just getting started. 

Lunnie is not only making products. We’re launching a movement to support moms who have been underserved. The stigma around breastfeeding is stifling innovation. Doctors encourage it but society tells mom to whisper about it. This leaves moms in the shadows and unprepared. The time for change is now. I hope you join us!

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I have over a decade of startup marketing and brand building experience, primarily in San Francisco and Seattle. As a marketing leader, I helped several early-stage healthcare tech startups grow to acquisitions. I’m a Bay Area native currently living in Ohio so I understand the diverse demographics of mom communities. Here’s a secret – moms across regions and socioeconomic status will pay a premium for a better nursing bra. It’s that big of a problem.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Yes! When I was in elementary school, my favorite activity was playing “Sarah’s Stores”. I created an elaborate pretend franchise in my family room that consisted of Sarah’s Grocery Story, Sarah’s Bookstore, Sarah’s Videos, etc. My favorite part was typing up official receipts on my family’s Mac computer and printing them out (nerd alert!). A memory my family never lets me forget is when everyone got sick with a cold. Seizing a market opportunity, I hoarded all the cold meds for Sarah’s Pharmacy and made my family “purchase” them – and wait while I formatted the receipts on the computer! 

In college, I majored in journalism because I loved storytelling. But I discovered I didn’t want to just tell the story. I wanted to be the story. My first job out of college was a marketing position at an early-stage startup in San Francisco that grew from 30 to 300 employees. It was there I got bit by the startup bug. I loved the creativity, grittiness, and energy that working at startups brought. I always wanted to start my own company but never felt I had a good enough idea worth pursuing. That is, until Lunnie came along!

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I had the idea for a better nursing bra around Christmas 2020. Because there are such diverse breastfeeding experiences among moms, I didn’t want to develop my product in silo. Within a few months of working on this idea, I built a community of hundreds of diverse breastfeeding moms, gathered insights, hacked a prototype with my mom, built a business plan, launched a website and social media channels. 

I call my user testing the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Nursing Bra” as I hustled a little pink bag containing my prototype around my neighborhood. The prototype itself took elements from different bras I liked – fabrics, straps, design – and “Frankensteined” it together. It’s definitely scrappy but it’s been invaluable in receiving early user feedback. 

My lucky break came in March 2021 when Lunnie was selected to compete in the Female Founder Collective’s Big Pitcher competition with Rebecca Minkoff. I pitched – and WON – the $10k grand prize for my business. That was a huge boost in giving Lunnie visibility and validating my idea was worth pursuing. I used the grant money to partner with a local small batch manufacturer to take my prototype to production level. We’re aiming to launch our nursing bra by EOY.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Since my product hasn’t officially launched yet, I haven’t had too much time to make mistakes (yet!). The biggest hurdle for me was the very first step of putting myself out there. Just declaring out loud that I had an idea I wanted to pursue was intimidating. While I received some skepticism, the majority of my family and friends have supported me and cheered me on.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Winning the Female Founder Collective’s Big Pitcher competition only a few months into working on Lunnie is certainly up there. But the biggest accomplishment is building this company while being a full-time SAHM to a toddler and baby amidst this pandemic. Mothers have been put in imaginable situations this past year. My husband is a healthcare worker and worked onsite throughout the pandemic. I dealt with a lot of anxiety and sadness during the pandemic, especially while raising my girls with my family 2000 miles away. When I decided to pursue Lunnie, I was able to channel those negative feelings into something positive. It made me feel in-control, productive, and connected to a bigger community and purpose.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The pandemic actually inspired me to create Lunnie! When the world shut down, it removed the busyness of our daily activities. The extra time gave me the space to develop my business idea. The pandemic showed me strength I never knew I had and gave me confidence to pursue this idea. Because life is short and I don’t want to wonder “what if”.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

Lunnie is planning to launch our nursing bra in EOY 2021. We’re starting with our daytime nursing bra, but plan to expand to other styles and postpartum categories. As a community-led brand, our goal is to create awareness on the postpartum experience in hopes moms feel more supported and prepared.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means being a like-minded community that lifts each other up, cheers one another on, and makes the entrepreneur journey a little less lonely.

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