Interview with Lerryn and Lucy, inventors of the Halto

When Lerryn couldn’t find a comfortable bikini for her GG boobs for her honeymoon, she set about designing her own solution. Now, together with her sister Lucy she’s now launching the Halto.

What’s your career background?

Lucy: My background is in marketing and business start-up (handily!). I am currently working as part-time business development manager in Cornwall. It is great to be part of other people’s business journeys, but I am super excited to be starting my own!

Lerryn: I started my career in advertising, but after completing a degree in psychology, I became a lecturer and embarked on my PHd. A turn of fate saw me then becoming the first female general manager of a new multi-million pound Cornish cinema. So, quite a varied career! I am now a stay-at-home mum to my two and a half year old son.

How did your career change after having children?

Lucy: We went thought quite a lot to ‘fall’ pregnant so I felt passionately about reducing my working hours once my daughter was born. My focus is more on being a good role model than on money, whereas before it was more about climbing the ladder. That is one big change.

Lerryn: Due to the demanding nature of running such a big organisation, it simply wasn’t feasible to work part-time, although we gave it a good go! My day to day challenges have now switched from big people management, to little people management. Definitely a bigger challenge! Much stickier!

Where did the idea for the Halto come from?

Lerryn: I was heading off on honeymoon and found the dream bikini. It fit around my GG size boobs AND was in the sale. My heart sank when it was a halter neck though. The thought of having two melons hanging on a cheese wire around my neck for 10 days filled me with dread.

So I did what any girl would do. I bought it! I assumed that there must be a solution somewhere for this problem and set about trying to find it. Extensive searches revealed nothing available in the UK however so I made one out of an old shoe sole and bit of neoprene.

Suffice to say it wasn’t pretty, but I got to wear my dream bikini all day and evening with no pain or headaches. Upon returning I brought my sister on board to help me assess whether there was a business opportunity in designing and manufacturing something to solve this problem. Before long we realised that there was a big gap in the market and got to work!

How did you move from idea to actual product?

Lerryn: With great difficulty at times! We spent much time looking at the designs and what the best materials, size etc would be.

We often struggled to be taken seriously within the male dominated sector of manufacturing, but have lost count of the number of times we have had an email the next day being told that their wife thought the idea was genius!

After conducting a national survey and finding a huge market of around 50% of women that would buy a product to make halter neck swimwear more comfortable we started to make real progress.

Lucy: We have been lucky to have the support of several mentors within the industry acting as real advocates for us and being a huge help in a variety of ways.

Last year we were helped by Rob Holmes, co-founder of the Gro company with an excellent team of product and graphic designers that have really understood what we needed and delivered to us some well thought out and effective designs.

We now need some money for the first round of manufacture and decided that we would raise that money via Crowdfunder in order to build awareness of the product and help prove the market.

What’s your USP?

Lucy: There is currently nothing in the UK to solve the problem of neck pain when wearing halter neck bikinis. Halto makes halter necks comfortable to wear all day and into the evening, thus filling this gap in the market.

Lerryn: It means that women no longer have to choose between an unflattering, but comfortable design, bikini and the styles that they feel more confident in. Now any halter neck bikini can be flattering AND comfortable!

Who’s your target audience?

Lucy: Anyone who wears a bikini! There tends to be more pain the larger the bra size, but it doesn’t always follow.

Lerryn: And age wise we have spoken to people that are aged 18 and desperate to own on, right up to 82!

How do you spread the word about what you’re doing?

Lerryn: Crowdfunder has been a really important strategy for us to get the word out there about the product. We have used our video to explain about the product and what the need is for it and it has been met really positively.

Lucy: We have been focusing on social media to share our message, including some paid for advertising. We have also had some excellent media coverage and been using all available networks to make sure everyone knows what a great product we have.

What’s been your most successful marketing/PR strategy?

Lerryn: Lucy.

Lucy: Ha ha! With a background in marketing and PR it has certainly given us an advantage, but there is a different pressure when implementing your own strategy!

I actually think its been about getting in front of people and telling our story. We are so passionate about the product, and people respond really well to us. We are frazzled mummies and are very honest about that. People get it, and they value that honesty!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Lerryn: Being taken seriously when we first discuss the product. As mums to young kids we have entered meetings with people making assumptions about us and the product. Once they see our research they tend to start taking us more seriously however!

Lucy: Time has been a big factor. With young children we have had to do a lot of work after the kids go to bed so that we can spend precious time with them around other work. We have had to really believe in the product to stick with it. Its amazing where you can fit in bits and pieces around the day to day bonkersness of motherhood!

And your proudest moment so far?

Lerryn: When we raised over 10% of our target in a matter of hours on Crowdfunder I was totally overwhelmed and burst into tears in my car! The fact that so many people believed in us and the product made the hard work we have put in so worth it.

Lucy: Making page three of the local paper! (Just kidding!) I actually agree with Lerryn on this. It was the confirmation from our friends and family that we were doing the right thing, and that they believed in us. It was very touching.

Why is work so important to you?

Lucy: As a mum to a little girl I really want to be a role model to her. Our Mum was always inspiring us to believe that we can do anything, and I want to inspire my daughter in the same way.

Lerryn: We’ve both had varied careers, but the challenges of running our own business is something that we have wanted to do for a long time. The opportunity for us to work together is also amazing and have loved it at every stage.

Who inspires you?

Lerryn: Definitely our mum in the way she has always had the bravery to start again and jump into projects with both feet. She has inspired us to feel we can achieve things if we just believe in ourselves.

Lucy: I agree. We have also met some amazing people on our journey that have inspired us in a variety of ways. Whether its people that have had rough starts in life, only to use that to power then to achieve great things, or people whose positivity and drive has been nothing but infectious. We have been very blessed in the people we have been influenced by.

How do you balance your venture with your family?

Lucy: It’s not always easy. We tend to try and be flexible with our working so we will be working into the evening to make sure we spend time with our children during the day between other commitments.

Lerryn: Our children are really close in age and get on like siblings because we spend so much time together. We are able to help each other out with childcare as needed to get things done, so if we need to attend a meeting, one of us can take both kids for a while, giving us a really flexible approach to working.

What are your three top pieces of advice for other mums with a brilliant idea?

Lerryn: We had a real turning point last year when we met a really inspirational man. He has an infectious positivity and that has helped us no end to believe we can achieve anything we set our minds to. So I would say that if you try and remain positive you will be far more likely to succeed.

Lucy: Surround yourself with the best possible people to work with. If the chemistry isn’t right you will struggle to get what you need to succeed. And finally I would say make a plan for where you want to be and work backwards from there. If you don’t know where you want to be, you are far less likely to get there!

You can find out more about the Halto and donate on their Crowdfunding page