Deeanne Akerson is the co-founder and CEO of Kindred Bravely. As a mathematician and former teacher, Deeanne has always loved numbers and problem-solving, but she didn’t begin her journey as a business owner and entrepreneur until after she became a mother. A year after the birth of her second son, when she became frustrated with the lack of options in nursing wear, Deeanne started designing her own clothing. Soon after, Deeanne and her husband launched Kindred Bravely, which they lovingly refer to as their third child. Creating stylish, comfortable, and functional clothing is only one part of Deeanne’s vision; she wants to inspire a community of moms who support and empower each other, helping them to recognize their inherent value and beauty. When she isn’t busy with her boys or business, Deeanne loves running, hiking, backpacking, and traveling. She and her family are often found spending time at one of their favorite beaches in San Diego County.
Talk to me about the early days of Kindred Bravely.
Kindred Bravely started almost five years ago when my youngest son was one and still breastfeeding frequently. I was on the hunt for a comfortable pair of nursing pajamas, and they were on both my Christmas and birthday lists that year. After searching in all the stores close to me, I turned to online. While I found a few sets that were passable, nothing was exactly what I was looking for: they had to be comfortable, cute, and actually functional!
One night, late after our two boys were finally asleep, I found myself in the office with my husband (a serial entrepreneur). He was actively looking for his next business idea when I was trying on the nursing PJs I had ordered online. As I sorted the options, nothing was quite right. I liked the top of one set, the bottoms of another, the fabric of a third, but none of them had the drape I was looking for. I casually asked him if he would consider making breastfeeding/maternity clothing, as I knew exactly what a nursing mom was looking for. Well, he did a bit of research, and within a few weeks, we had decided on our first joint business venture together – creating comfort for new and expecting moms!
I started with exactly the product I was looking for, my perfect pair of nursing pajamas. They would be exquisitely soft, feminine, and stylish enough to wear all day even if company came by to meet the new baby. Soon, we were driving to Los Angeles every weekend to meet with a pattern maker and visit the fabric markets. After a few rounds of samples, we were ready to go into production. It took $7,000 of our savings to fund the first production, and we spent our nights getting ready to launch our brand with our first product, the Davy Pajamas in black.
It took a ton of work to do everything; mostly, because we were doing it ourselves or waiting for contractors to help at odd hours. Since we were still working day jobs, most of the work happened after we put our kids to bed. Of the first 500 sets ordered, I probably gave about 200 of them to friends, relatives, and neighbors – anyone who might possibly enjoy them and give some helpful feedback online. Then one day, someone placed an order, and neither my husband nor I had given them a promo code. Our first sale! What an incredible feeling that someone who didn’t know me personally wanted to buy what I had created!
Customers raved about how comfortable my first product was and they quickly gave feedback that they also needed comfort for their changing breasts – so the second product I developed was our bestselling French Terry Nursing Bra. That’s when we really gained traction, and when I realized that Kindred Bravely was going to be a success. Since that day, we have grown our team, which has allowed us to continue growing our product line. Over the next few years, our products were nominated for (and won) several awards that recognized our efforts to make moms’ lives easier and more comfortable. One of the products I’m most proud (and which took 2.5 years to get right from design, to concept, to patent) of is a hands-free pumping and breastfeeding bra.
Two years after launching, we were named one of Shopify’s fastest-growing online retailers, and we were chosen as one of the eight winners for the “Shopify Build a Bigger Business” award. We were honored to ring in the NYSE opening bell and receive mentoring for a week. In 2019, just four years after launching, we were honored to be named #20 on Inc.‘s list of the 5000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the USA! We’ve been recognized for our unique remote workforce of amazing mostly work-at-home moms who are committed to our vision and desire a place where they don’t have to choose between work and family. I’m committed to bringing mom’s comfort and community through Kindred Bravely, and I can’t wait to see where we go in the next few years.