Meet Be-with, specialists in touch-through clothing with love-filled secret passages that allow room for warm hugs and the release of everyone's favourite bonding hormone; oxytocin. Made from super comfy and sustainable materials, be-with actively encourages couples worldwide to reconnect through a single, soft touch.
Research has shown time and time again that physical interaction is paramount to both our physical and emotional health, leading not only to better relationships, but better self-esteem.
As a result, Be-with pride themselves on being a clothing brand that isn’t just all about fashion. Instead, the focus is very much on the products purpose; to support building stronger, warmer and more intimate relationships.
As part of our #WomenInSMEs campaign we chatted to be-with's founder, Anna Andersone, about her journey as a successful female entrepreneur.
1. What’s the story behind Be-with?
To tell the story of be-with, I have to take a few steps back - to one of the darkest and loneliest corners of my lifetime. It all started with a personal crisis. You know - one of those life-changing periods that leave you heart wrenched and exhausted? Not being able to figure out what to do with life and asking the what’s-the-point-of-it-all questions, that kind of thing. That was me.
I was building a startup and had raised 500K euros in investments for my previous venture FROONT. At the same time, I was operating a non-profit - a coworking space for designers and developers. And I had two daughters at home.
In addition to that, my husband and I had drifted apart due to our hectic schedules (he was working in the startup environment, too). We'd lost romance, attachment, and trust. At some point, I really believed our marriage wasn’t going to make it.
This turned out to be too much of a load and I got very ill and could not get better for two months, underwent a series of treatments, but despite it all still continued to work. Finally, my doctor advised me to quit work for some time - or he would hospitalize me.
This is when I decided to take matters into my own hands. I quit work. I quit everyday routine. I decided to give my all to rebuilding my well-being and that of our family.
Coincidentally, my husband also quit his job and we rented a small room near the beach and lived together with the kids. After a month, I started feeling better, my head stopped hurting and I managed to see that there is a life “out there”.
But something else happened. During that month at the beach house, our family healed and the relationship with my husband significantly improved. Spending just one month together in the same room, holding hands and walking at the seaside together healed the relationship.
I started digging into this: what makes a warm and happy relationship last? It turns out that regular physical contact is super important in building and maintaining that connection.
So I set out to build a community for couples through be-with. My mission became to talk about the importance of touch and hugs and I decided to create products and services to remind others about that.
2. That’s certainly quite a journey! What has been your biggest achievement since launching and have you experienced any challenges?
I'm really proud that we are producing in quantities and working on more sales points in export. More and more people find out about be-with and appreciate the idea. We've been mentioned on Wired and Lifehack. Our products ship worldwide, and be-with is also available in concept stores in Latvia and Estonia, and we're working on representation in Luxembourg and Helsinki. Next, we want to go to the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Russia!
As to challenges, building an innovative product was not as easy as I thought at first. We made over 40 different prototypes before we got to products that proved to be just the way I envisioned them to be. We spent half a year looking for great fabrics, as I wanted the fabrics to be really soft to the skin, but also eco-certified and superior quality.
It was quite the challenge to build the production chain, as clothing was a new thing for me. I tested over 10 different production companies until I found the ones that fit my needs and values. I wanted to produce locally with fair pay and good working conditions for the people that would be creating my products.
3. What would be your biggest piece of advice to female entrepreneurs just starting out in business?
Keep on working and be persistent. Don't be afraid to spread the word about your ideas and talk about your business, and start with the people around you. I started telling my friends about be-with, and they loved it!
They said that they have never heard of anything like that and that I absolutely must do that. Use this support to boost your enthusiasm!
Another important thing, surround yourself with people with the same life values. I value positivity, good energy, friendship, kindness, efficiency, environmental friendliness, great service and understanding. That, in my honest opinion, is much more important than profits, power, perfection. I want to be happy to go to work every day and I only want to work with people who make me feel great, happy and help me grow. That is why I take time to grow the team and take good care of who I feel is right.
4. Why were you drawn to the campaign, can you offer a comment on why you think it's important?
I know from my own experience that it can be difficult to start a company from scratch. It's one thing to invest all of your time. But we have to invest A LOT of finances, too. And that's something a young entrepreneur, no matter what sex, has to be ready for.
For example, I invested everything I had into launching be-with. Making the first collection took about 20-30K euros in investment. I even took some short term loans from friends during the first years, but made sure I can repay them back in time.
Currently, the cashflow is self sustainable, I am not investing any more of my own money. But financial support is definitely something you have to think about. It's great to have options that enable business owners to access the necessary capital.
5. Amazing! Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
It's okay if you're starting small and that it feels overwhelming at first. If you have great ideas and you're willing to put in work - hours of it! - good things will happen. And while your business grows, don't hesitate to outsource.
For example, we are an extremely small team - just two of us, me and our sales manager Undine. We are outsourcing everything (social media communication, digital marketing, legal advice, etc.) that is possible to outsource until we grow big enough to hire full time people for those roles.