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Emma Rutherford

City: MELBOURNE

Business: VEE UNDERWEAR

What: Bamboo underwear for a healthier, happier hoo-ha.

What was the catalyst for you launching your business?

The idea was born out of a personal need for breathable underwear that fit comfortably and didn’t look daggy. 

A few years back I went through a frustrating period were I was regularly getting thrush… or ‘irritation’ as I like to call it when I’m trying to be a little more PG (not my strongest point). After too many visits to my local GP, I wasn’t going to take ‘Canesten’ for the answer and this was when the GP finally suggested a seemingly simple preventative – investing in breathable cotton underwear.                                                                                    

To my surprise, this ‘simple task’ quickly became impossible.                                                                                   

Breathable cotton underwear that fit comfortably and wouldn’t be embarrassing to wear in front of my new man-friend just didn’t exist.                                                                          

After much web-trawling and trying on horrifically unflattering underwear, I found a need in the market for underwear that placed vaginal health, comfort and ass-thetics at its core.                                                                                          

During my research I clicked across bamboo fabric and discovered that bamboo fabric is not only breathable, but offers numerous additional health benefits in comparison with cotton and is significantly more sustainable. Inspired by the possibility of creating a female focused product and educating women on how simple environmental factors such as underwear can affect their vagina health, I set out to create Vee Underwear.

When did you have a ‘f*ck-it moment’ and decide you were going to go all-in and start your business? 

And what a great moment that was.

I was working full-time at an advertising agency when I first had the idea for Vee Underwear. I knew that I was onto something special and used every spare second to work on it. Unsurprisingly spare seconds in advertising were scarce… very scarce.

During this time, I was also working towards doing an exchange program with our sister agency in New York.  

I was on cloud nine when the exchange program I had been working towards was a go-er; signed off by our Managing Director. In a few months I was going to be living in New York, making my mark at our sister agency and launching my passion project Vee Underwear… because you know… I can do it all right!?  

WRONG.

Luckily (I say now) my counterpart in New York pulled out of the exchange program and to my surprise, instead of feeling bummed about it, I actually felt a huge sense of relief. This is when I realised that moving overseas to work at a new agency and launching Vee Underwear were conflicting goals. This was the moment that I went ‘f*ck it, women’s hoo-ha’s are more important than living and working in New York’ - I resigned, and threw everything into Vee.

This was not only a defining moment, but also a really valuable lesson for me. Now when making goals I always place them side by side (life and/or business) to ensure that they are complimenting and not conflicting goals i.e., in 2019 I will save for a new car AND I will go to Europe… conflicting goals…not going to happen Emma. 

What were some major challenges you had when starting your business? And how did you overcome them?

Finding suppliers was a major challenge for me. Ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes were not things I was willing to compromise on, but on the same token, I didn’t have substantial order quantities to attract a large pull of manufacturers. I wish that I could give a 101 tip for overcoming this, but it was honestly just endless research, contacting A LOT of potential suppliers and reaching out to anyone that might be able to point me in the right direction, oh and haggling… a lot of haggling. 

 

What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment? 

I haven’t had a “pinch me” moment as of yet (eh, should I have had a pinch me moment!?)… but does a proud moment count? My biggest “proud” moment was my first photoshoot. It was such a big task and a logistical nightmare to pull off with minimal budget and I was so proud of myself when we wrapped.  

 

Starting a business can be gruelling - what keeps you motivated, and keeps you going?

Can’t it! It’s gruelling, but very rewarding when you remember to stop and pat yourself on the back for the little and big victories (something I’m working on). Beyond, my passion for making vagina health a non taboo subject, my desire to create a brand that adds value to women’s lives and of course, that I can be proud of is a huge motivator for me. 

How do you create a work-life balance?

I actually don’t believe in work-life balance, as I believe that it’s an unattainable definition of success. I don’t believe that at one given time you are fulfillingall of the different needs/desires/roles within your life, and thus, you have a holistic work-life balance. I believe that you dial up and dial down your different needs/desires/roles at differentstages, which are often dependant on what requires your attention most, your headspace and your circumstance. I think that it is okay to lean into work and work only for a period of time, and then lean into socialising when that is a burning desire, and then lean into ‘you time’ when you need it. I believe that we have many different needs to feel fulfilled, however, I don’t believe that you can fulfillall of those needs at once and thus, having simultaneous work-life balanceis unachievable. I think that it’s important to feel happy and fulfilled in the moment, and to be okay with adjusting your attention to different needs/desires/roles when they call – you don’t know what life might throw at you tomorrow! 

In short, I try to listen to what will fulfill me at any given time, and lean into that. On an average day, I need to exercise to feel good, I have a desire to achieve my (long) list at work (that might be for Vee or as a freelancer) and I’ll play my role as a gf, friend or family member - usually only fulfilling one of those roles adequately per day haha. But for example at the moment, I have just focused on enjoying the silly season as I really wanted to be around friends, family, food & wine.