Introducing Colleen Caine's Bratopia.com
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While working in retail, Colleen Caine noticed that many women were extremely frustrated with the lingerie shopping process offered by traditional brick and mortar retail channels. "They would travel to the mall only to find many unknowledgeable salespeople, their sizes out of stock, and crowded dressing rooms," says Cain.
That is when the 23-year-old salesperson decided it was time to become a netrepreneur. "I knew that if women could bypass the mall and department store altogether they would jump at the chance," says Caine who then began the initial steps to realize her dotcom vision.
"I was a college student at Santa Clara University at this time and was immersed in the Silicon Valley phenomenon. I took my education from the SCU Retail Management Institute, my sales and customer service experience from Nordstrom, my passion for lingerie and gave birth to BraTopia.com."
Now, about a year and a half later, Caine is officially launching her company which sells branded lingerie products, including bras, panties, bridal, and sleepwear. The Web site (www.bratopia.com) features everything from original photography to a special "Behind The Bra" section to help women with fit and fashion advice.
The road towards the recent launch, however, has had it ups and downs. At first, Caine was able to secure a seed round of financing. She even took home the "People's Choice Award" from last year's Techviews event. In order to make an impact on the investment community Caine showed up with models in select lingerie items.
However, then came the April crash. Caine, fully aware of the new set of realities in the Internet space, decided to not give up on her dream. After sizing up the market, however, she knew that in order to survive she would have to scale back as much as possible.
Caine took a huge step back and cut out virtually all overhead to keep the company alive. She also brought on a new technical partner, Radical Software. Radical Software, a Seattle company that specializes in getting new technical ventures off the ground, began the important task of building the bratopia.com Web site and also provided Caine with technical strategies that would allow her company to reach a revenue producing state quickly.
Caine also moved her business from an office building to her business partner's home. She began focusing on word of mouth marketing via email newsletters and solicited guidance from successful local women entrepreneurs in the high-tech community through organizations such as the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE).
Caine remains very optimistic about her company's recent launch. "We are a niche player in the e-commerce field, and don't expect to go head to head with the Amazons of the online world. Our focus in on developing a large base of loyal customers, who want an easy, quick way to shop for lingerie. Our customers can literally select a product and move to the checkout page in as few as three clicks."
As regard customers, Caine is confident that her site will not just attract women. According to Caine, bratopia.com provides a private, safe and easy way to shop for men too. "I know how difficult and embarrassing it can be for men to shop for lingerie for I helped many uncomfortable men during my stint as a salesperson at Nordstrom," says Caine.