Some of our all-time favorite female-founded brands were launched by new moms who needed a product or service that just didn’t exist—so they created it themselves. Ollie Gray is a great example of that. This innovative maternity line was founded by Kate Rech, an attorney who didn’t love any of the options for maternity and postpartum clothes when she became a mom for the first time. Tired of homemade pump bras and unflattering styles, Kate set out to create a brand that was all about function and fashion — pieces that would make mom feel like her best self during a time when that can be hard to do!
Started in 2016 with a Kickstarter campaign (that had 544 backers and quickly raised over three times their initial goal), Ollie Gray now includes bras and underwear, loungewear, sneakers, tees, accessories and more. Their recovery underwear was just chosen as the top postpartum recovery underwear by Reader’s Digest! We spoke to Kate about her growing business, other female founders who inspire her, why moms make the best entrepreneurs, and more.
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Can you please tell us about what lead you to launch Ollie Gray?
Ollie Gray really came to be when I returned to the courtroom (I started a law practice in 2010) and realized pumping in public was not as easy as I had expected. I wanted a pump bra that I could put on in the morning and wear all day, regardless of what the day may bring. I’d be spearheading a seven-day trial and trying to change into an old school pump bra during breaks in a coat closet. Needless to say, I am sure I was walked in on nearly a dozen times… Beyond the lack of functionality, to find one with any level of fashion, feel good sense was nearly impossible, and I was sure other women shared in my frustration. After months of research, I found out the struggle was in fact real, so we started this crazy journey of launching a maternity brand.
Were you surprised that there were no functional and stylish maternity bras out there?
Yes. I was so surprised. And with no experience in apparel, I decided to fix the problem! The difference really started with our prints and color selections. Heck we could have probably copied the less than desirable bras on the market and just slapped some fun colors/prints on them and been successful. But I knew we wanted a two-in-one bra that moms could wear anytime, anywhere, regardless of what the day brings to both breastfeed and pump in. The Anywhere Bra did just that – it mixes functionality with fashion, allows mom to pump or breastfeed with ease, and with the variety of colors and prints, it makes wearing a pump bra feel good. Since hard-launching in 2018, we’ve kept this thought process (where fashion meets function) in mind with the development of all our lines.
How did the rest of the line—underwear, loungewear, footwear, tees and accessories—come about?
We have really become accustomed to letting the consumer decide what comes next. Our customers were asking for cute, functional underwear to add to their bra purchases, so we launched four underwear lines to cover all the bases – Briefs, Hipsters, Boy Shorts, Non-Mesh Recovery; it’s all there. With Footwear, it’s no secret one of moms biggest complaints are that our feet hurt during and after pregnancy. We heard this A LOT. With that, the OG Sneaker was born. From Bras to Footwear, why not…? I think we always envisioned a brand evolution, but we have always wanted the consumer (Moms) to lead the way.
Why is maternity wear that makes you feel *great* during pregnancy and postpartum, so very important?
Growing a baby inside you is hard – beautiful, but hard! Any woman that has gone through a pregnancy can attest to the roller coaster of emotions and changes it projects onto us. Our bodies are changing – hello huge boobs and swollen feet. And considering the emotional toll pregnancy puts on us, why not feel fabulous in your postpartum wear… If we can create maternity wear that feels great, functions well and looks great in the mirror, we have done our job.
What other female founders have inspired you?
I’m a big fan of what Kristen Bell has built over at Hello Bello. Ok, fine, I am super jelly of what she has built, but in a I need that in my life kind of way. I love women entrepreneurs that go out there and get.shit.done. For some, it’s hard to fathom someone launching a diaper company to go against the giants who have been in power for decades – hey Huggies and Pampers. To see women step up and change the game in industries that have been common place for so many years is not only inspiring, it’s contagious.
What is your “working mom” mantra?
Show them how to lead is something I tell myself every day in the mirror. Having two kids, an overly supportive husband (he is really the brains behind Ollie Gray – Go Bryce!), and running two businesses it’s a lot to juggle. Once I gave birth to our sweet Loughlin & Olivia Gray, it all changed. I developed this yearning to show them how to lead – specifically how to make the most of life, how to take chances when it means so much to you, and how to lead by example. My children are the ones who really push me professionally. Oh and my Peloton Bike – I picked up cycling three years ago and have never looked back. I can hear my kids now – Pulse! Pulse! Pulse! Mommy!
Why do women (and moms in particular) make excellent entrepreneurs?
It seems like women and moms in particular are drawn to businesses born out of life experiences. There is an emotional connection, a passion and a personal link to the businesses we are creating. It’s not always about getting rich quick or building a conglomerate. It’s about changing lives and solving problems that affect others.
If a mom is reading this and has an idea for a business, what advice would you give her?
- Be Ready. Be prepared. Be You.
- Be ready for it to be successful. If it fails, you will move on to plan b, that’s easy. But if you succeed, what will you do with that success? How will you make the world a better place?
- Be prepared to work your ass off.
- Do it your way and be you, but don’t make it about you.
What’s next for Ollie Gray?
Product Extensions and Acquisition! Over the next year, we have a high focus on continuing to change the way moms view maternity wear with multiple new product lines launching in 2022. Up to this point, we have self-funded the company for the most part and look to combine our efforts with a larger parent company to allow us to expand at a quicker pace. We feel like maternity is here to stay and we think others agree.
Anything else you’d like to share?
You don’t have to, you get to. – Alex Toussaint
This story is sponsored by Ollie Gray.
Previously shared by The Local Moms Network