Louth entrepreneur, Yvonne Brady, has taken a literal approach to supporting women — she has developed sports shorts just for them.
Designed to stabilise the core muscles and prevent injuries during high-impact sports, the shorts are now selling in 20 outlets in Ireland, as well as online for availability in 11 countries.
Ms Brady’s company, EVB Sport, sent its first shipment to Australia in January, and is now in negotiations with a large UK sports retailer.
During 2015, Ms Brady raised €500,000 to scale-up the company. In the short-term, she’s focusing on developing sales in Ireland and the UK, but her long-term aim is to turn EVB Sports into a global brand.
Ms Brady created the shorts for herself, because she couldn’t buy a pair that provided the pelvic support she needed to run, after the birth of her third child. As an engineer and marathon runner, she knew what to do.
“There was a company making support shorts in Australia, and another in the US, but these were medical-support garments. I wanted to make something sexy and sporty that women would want to wear,” she says.
In 2012, she enrolled in Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme. “This helped me validate the business idea and draw up a business plan, while I worked on developed the shorts,” says Ms Brady, who received both feasibility and Competitive Start Fund money from Enterprise Ireland.
Turning the idea into a product was easier than turning her product into a business. Finding a manufacturer was the hardest part. She wanted one in Europe, rather than Asia, and eventually located a manufacturer in Portugal.
An appearance on the Late Late’s Enterprise Show, in early 2013, helped her find customers for her first shipment of shorts, which arrived in April. Setting up a company website, she used social media and began targeting sports shops and physiotherapy practices.
In need of funding to develop the business, she appeared on the Dragons’ Den TV programme, in 2014.
“I offered them 10% for €90,000. They wanted 40% for €90,000. So, I turned them down. But the publicity of appearing on the show was marvellous,” she says.
The following day, Ms Brady received a call from Elverys Sports, which now sell her products in 13 stores and are her largest client.
To develop exports, Ms Brady began attending sports and physio conferences and trade events in the UK. In 2015, she began supplying a large London physiotherapy practice.
At one of the events, she made contact with an Australian distributor, who put in an order. The company now sells to five outlets in the UK and, through its website, to customers in Europe, Canada, the US and Australia. Internet sales account for 50% of turnover.
In order to support claims that the product provides both pelvic and abdominal support and reduce the risk of injury, clinical trials are now being carried out at TCD and UCD . Ms Brady has also applied for a patent on the technology. During 2015, EVB Sport was identified as a ‘high potential start-up’ by Enterprise Ireland.
“I secured private investment and matching funding from Enterprise Ireland, and am now using this for new product-development, testing our products at universities, and also hiring staff,” she says. Now employing three people, the company plans to take on four more people this year, mainly for sales and marketing.
“In November last year, we launched new support leggings and capris, and now we are working on a new support product, which we plan to launch in September this year,” says Ms Brady. The aim for 2016 is to double sales.
“Our focus will be on developing our presence in the UK. We are in talks with a major sports retailer, which we expect to start supplying by the end of the year. In 2017, we will be pursuing opportunities in Spain, France, and Germany,” she says.
Drogheda, Co Louth
Support sportswear for women