Monday Motivation from Darrah Christel, CEO & Founder, LOHO
Mondays can be rough and, sometimes, we can all use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.
This week, we chat with Darrah Christel, CEO & Founder of LOHO, which strives to “change the way women feel in tights, and feel about themselves.”
What inspired you to start your business?
I wore my underwear on the outside of my tights for years. It was the only way they’d stay up after I cut that nasty elastic waistband off. It was a “trick” I had, like many women, to make tights more comfortable.
I’ll never forget the day I came up with this bright idea. I was getting ready to go dancing, and a girlfriend told me if I cut the sides of my tights, they’d loosen up. It honestly didn’t do anything for me, so I cut the entire elastic waistband off. Little did I know, they wouldn’t stay up without it. Halfway through the night, I about had it. I was tired of pulling up my tights and charged into the bathroom to rip them off. After taking them off, it dawned on me that I could just wear my underwear on the outside of my tights to keep them up. And the minute I pulled my underwear over the top, I had this epiphany: why don’t my tights have the same waistband as my underwear? A waistband that didn’t dig in, roll down, sag, or go up to my bra, but looked sexy and followed the curves of my body. So that’s when I decided to make a pair that did.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Ha, I wouldn’t say I’ve had just one. Time, money, working three jobs, dealing with real life shit like helping loved ones in recovery from addiction, finding time for self-care, figuring out the illusive work-life balance, patenting a product, finding manufacturers in the U.S. that would work with me, building a business on my own when I’ve never built a business on my own. It’s hard to pinpoint the biggest one.
However, I will say my biggest challenge currently is funding. I’m starting this business all on my own, and don’t come from a lot of money, so I haven’t been able to launch as quickly as I would have liked. When you have a truly innovative product, there’s a lot of pressure to be the first to market. But I’m only one person and can only make so much money. So I’m doing things as I’m able to do them, and honestly, it’s given me that much more appreciation for every milestone I’ve achieved.
This being my biggest challenge is why I’m taking pre-orders for fall via a crowdfunding campaign. I’m extremely thankful for Project Entrepreneur connecting me to iFundWomen founder, Karen Cahn. We went around the room introducing ourselves prior to the Bootstrapping & Alternative Resources panel discussion, and after I described LOHO, she said, “When can I get a pair?!” And I replied, “When I get funding!” The whole room started laughing, and she said, “Let’s talk Monday.” And thank god I met her because iFundWomen isn’t your typical crowdfunding platform. They help you prepare for your campaign months prior to your launch, and are built exclusively for women-led startups and small businesses.
Their platform was created in response to the very real funding and confidence gap that female business owners are faced with. It’s a massive problem that only 2-6% of venture dollars go to women and iFundWomen’s committed to doing something about it. They provide a whole new framework for crowdfunding, I’ve never heard of before. When one woman’s project gets funded, so does another, and so on, and so on. iFundWomen’s unique “pay-it-forward” model directly reinvests 20% of each woman’s campaign profits into other women’s campaigns on the platform. Which felt like a natural fit for me, as I’m a huge supporter of other female entrepreneurs and women in general.
My crowdfunding campaign on iFundWomen is live.
What’s been the greatest reward?
Seeing women in my tights. I’m obsessed. And I’ll tell you about this one moment in particular. A few months back, I went to my girlfriend’s house to have her fitted before my crowdfunding video shoot. I gave her a few different samples to try on, and I’m not going to lie, I was worried. She told me she was a size 12, and all my samples were around a size 4 (my pattern maker’s been making them for my size). But they’re tights and they stretch, so I hoped for the best and just had her try them on in the bathroom. Her husband and I stayed in the kitchen and started talking about tea when all of a sudden he went silent. The minute she walked out of the bathroom, all of his attention was on her like she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. I looked at her, and she was glowing, confident, feeling good, and said, “Your birthday’s not until tomorrow.” Haha, I was cracking up, but I also had chills. They fit her like a glove, and she looked great. I swear, everyone who puts these tights on, including myself, has a similar wave of confidence rush over them. They’re so incredibly comfortable and beautiful, they make you FEEL beautiful. I seriously can’t wait to share that feeling with you all.
What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
Tights have been made the same way since the beginning of time. They take two tubes of nylon and sew them together. But women’s bodies aren’t shaped like two tubes sewn together! We have curves. Rolls. Love handles. And the hosiery industry has chosen not to design around that. Instead, we’re told we need to slim and shape.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling like my body needs to be something it’s not. Whenever I wear traditional tights, the elastic digs in at the worst possible place on my waist, directing all my attention to an artificial “problem” area. It’s impossible to feel good in them!
That’s why I’m so excited about LOHO. Wearing these tights has really helped me find a source of self-love, self-acceptance, and body positivity. I just had to shift my perspective—from me being the problem—to the hosiery industry is the problem. It wasn’t my fault tights didn’t fit me. The industry wasn’t thinking about me.
And they most definitely weren’t thinking like me. The entire hosiery industry is still focused on slimming and shaping. But when you find a pair of tights that aren’t designed to suck you in, and instead meet your body where it’s at, something crazy happens: you start to love your curves. Why? Because you feel comfortable having them!
And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that with the rise of athleisurewear, there’s been a rise of body positivity. Comfort equals confidence. The more comfortable we are in our bodies, the more confident we are in the world. And who wouldn’t want more of that?
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I don’t know if this is just me, but things get tough almost every day.
So it’s really a lot of people and a lot of things that help me keep going. My family, my boyfriend, my girlfriends, my entrepreneur tribe, my puppy who forces me to wake up even though I am so very sleep deprived, all the local businesses who believe in me and are willing to discount their services to help me get off the ground, the baristas who know my order by heart and know I’m living on dreams and chai tea. And gosh, so much more people and things.
As much as I’m “doing this on my own,” I’m really not. My circle is my everything. And I can’t tell you how much I’ve needed them throughout this process. Whenever I hit a wall, one of them would open a door. And a lot of them probably don’t even know they’re doing it. Some days just watching my boyfriend go after his dreams as a musician, listening to one of Cara Alwill Leyba’s podcasts, or admiring someone’s artwork is all it takes to motivate me. Other days, I need more coffee, a 6-hour pep talk, and a hug.
I’m just so grateful to have so many sources of inspiration to keep me motivated, focused on my goals, and continuing down this path.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Surround yourself with dreamers, optimists, and doers. Make sure you’re around like-minded people that believe anything is possible. Doubters will bring you down. And there’s just no time for that.
What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?
I’m not a morning person, but every Monday night I do find a coffee shop to hunker down in and listen to podcasts for a few hours. It totally sets the tone for the week and has become a ritual I’ve grown fond of.
For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Georgene Huang, CEO and Co-Founder of Fairygodboss.com, which aims to “improve the workplace and lives of women.”