Our mission at Prickly Pear Sports is to give active women – and women who long to be active again – a way to run (jump, laugh, lift, sneeze) with confidence. without distraction, and without fear of embarrassing bladder leaks caused by SUI.
When I began my entrepreneurial journey, my primary interest was to address a problem that up to 50% of women deal with – we accidentally pee when we run (or sneeze, laugh, or jump – you name it.) This is called stress urinary incontinence, or SUI, and typically shows up during pregnancy, postpartum, or after menopause. As an avid sprint triathlete, I was struggling during my training runs. I couldn’t run a lap around the track without soaking my shorts, and the embarrassment was enough to make me think about quitting. I tried everything on the market, and nothing met my expectations. I wanted a washable (not disposable) product geared toward athletic women. Something that actually absorbed and concealed urine leaks so I could continue to train with confidence.
Just because SUI is common, it is not normal, and up to 20% of women who suffer from it drop out of physical activity altogether. Because of the embarrassment, they are reluctant to address it, waiting an average of 7 years before they even broach the subject with their doctors. Pricky Pear Sports is out to change that! We encourage women to seek treatment from a pelvic floor physical therapist or urogynecologist and to stay active (and look great!) while they’re at it. That’s the story behind our mission.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
In 1976, I embarked on my first long distance bicycle tour – a 4300-mile cross-country journey from Virginia to Oregon. It was an experience of a lifetime. At the end of the tour, I settled in Boulder, CO, and then “life” happened: graduate school, marriage, kids, and a long career in healthcare administration. I was in my early 50’s when my daughter talked me into doing a sprint triathlon, a women-only fundraiser for breast cancer research. “How hard could this be?”, I thought. After all, I used to bike much longer distances. Well, it was humiliatingly hard. I got through the swim and the bike legs okay, but I could barely make it through the run. Undaunted, I vowed to return the following year and to actually train in the meantime. I did much better, and found I had caught the sprint triathlon bug and was hooked!
As I began to train more seriously, I started experiencing annoying bladder leaks. But rather than give up, I started researching what other women were doing about it. Surely there must be an effective solution out there! I tried everything. Disposable pads (a non-starter), washable incontinence underwear (better, but too bulky), and athletic wear with those tiny patches of terry cloth in the crotch that totally miss the mark!
I continued to complain about it until one day my daughter said, “Mom! How about you do something about it?”
“Huh”, I thought, “do you think I could?” I had recently retired, had the time, and was looking for something challenging to do with this new chapter of my life. So yes, I was sure I could.
I tried to sew up a prototype myself but that didn’t exactly go well. Thankfully, I found someone locally who had commercial sewing experience. Since I knew nothing about the industry I was about to get into, she advised me to attend a trade show to learn about fabric types and suppliers, manufacturers, and other aspects of production. I left with my head spinning. Fortunately, I also left with the contact information for Frances Harder, industry expert and owner of Fashion For Profit, whose seminars I had attended. Back in Boulder, I realized that I needed more expertise than I had on hand, so I called Frances and asked for her help. I flew out to LA with my early prototypes. She gently suggested I should start over, and referred me to a designer/manufacturer who worked with start-ups. After a few short weeks, I had prototypes for running shorts and leggings that I was confident my prototype testers would like. They did, and Prickly Pear Sports was launched!
I’m proud of having entered an industry I knew absolutely nothing about, meeting and accepting the advice and encouragement from people who took me under their collective wings (thank you Frances Harder and Carlo Gholami), and turning it into a product that will help women reclaim their love of physical activity. Prickly Pear Sports isn’t just a product company. Our mission is to give women a way to return to sport with confidence, without embarrassment, and without fear.
Are there any books, videos or other content that you feel have meaningfully impacted your thinking?
As a “solopreneur”, I rely on the experience and expertise of people who have “been there, done that” to overcome obstacles, whether those are self-imposed (like procrastination) or externally driven (like COVID). The one book I return to when I’m stuck is How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths To Success From the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Roz. He dedicates his book to “builders and those dreaming of building”. It is not a how-to book, but one filled with the stories, struggles, successes, and failures of entrepreneurs who have persevered while pursuing their dreams. At the end of each reading, I feel validated, hopeful, and proud of what I’ve accomplished.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is very common among women across the age and fitness spectrum, so I figured I’d find clients where active women hang out – at my local running
store, CrossFit studio, triathlon club, or gym. I first approached local running stores to see if they would help me promote my apparel. Although all of them thought my shorts and leggings were brilliant and needed, none of them were willing to give me shelf space. The
reason? They weren’t in the business of selling an “incontinence product”. And I thought I was in the women’s health and fitness business!
Through the marvels of social media, I connected with a woman who is a pelvic floor physical therapist. I never knew there was such a discipline, so I reached out to her for more information. I discovered that, while individual women weren’t talking about SUI on social media, pelvic floor PTs certainly were! One thing led to another, and Prickly Pear Sports started sponsoring pelvic floor PT/OT conferences. I have partnered with Kate Weed, a local pelvic floor PT, to talk to women’s groups about how physical therapists can address the underlying cause of SUI, and Prickly Pear Sports can help women stay active while they’re getting treatment. It’s a great partnership and a more consistent source of referrals and new customers.