an interview with Marnie Consky.
When you’re selling online, it’s important to remember that you are selling to everybody. Which means, that you are selling to every BODY. When you build an inclusive brand that makes everyone feel welcome, you are telling the world that they are welcome to shop at your store. Which in turn, results in more sales.
This week on the podcast we’re talking all things brand inclusivity - from size visualization to diversity of models and accessibility. We finish this episode by interviewing Marnie Consky, CEO and Founder of Thigh Society, a model brand for inclusivity.
Marnie Consky is the Founder, CEO, and Chief Anti-Chafing Champion of Thigh Society, a niche undergarment brand offering moisture-wicking, breathable, and discreet boxer brief underwear for women. Thigh Society prevents inner thigh chafing while providing modesty coverage, and is on a body-positive mission to normalize this common skin issue while helping women love their thighs at any size.
Marnie grew Thigh Society to a six-figure business while working a demanding full-time job before deciding to focus exclusively on building the business in late 2016, and has grown it to 7 figures since. Before becoming a full-time entrepreneur, Marnie worked for organizations in Toronto, Canada including Accenture, the Ontario Government, and the Rotman School of Management (MBA school) at the University of Toronto in a variety of strategic talent management roles.
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- [05:27] Size visualization
- [07:17] Diversity of models
- [10:38] LGBTQIA+ personalization
- [11:44] Accessibility
- [14:27] Introduction to Marnie and Thigh Society
- [15:00] What inspired Marnie to start Thigh Society
- [17:55] Taking an idea from concept to execution
- [33:32] How Marnie handles international fulfillment
- [38:05] Marnie’s three pieces of advice for merchants just starting out
- [41:28] Why Marnie chose inclusivity from day one
- [48:01] User-generated content for undergarments
- [51:36] Store shoutouts
- [56:06] Where to find Marnie on the Internet
- Universal Standard
- The Phluid Project
- Thigh Society
- La Colombe
When you're selling online, it's important to remember that you're selling to everybody, which means that you're selling to everybody. When you build an inclusive brand that makes everyone feel welcome, you're telling the world that they are welcome to shop at your store which, in turn, results in more sales. This week on the podcast, we're talking all things brand inclusivity from size visualization to diversity of models and accessibility. We finished this episode by interviewing Marnie Consky, CEO and founder of Thigh Society, a model brand for inclusivity. Let's dig in.
Welcome to Commerce Tea, a podcast to help you succeed on Shopify. I'm Rhian.
And I'm Kelly. Grab a mug and join us as we talk about all things commerce.
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Good Morning, Kelly. How are you?
I am doing a wonderful in this fine Tuesday morning. How about you?
I am similarly doing wonderful. Full disclaimer, I am drinking coffee, not tea, but that's okay.
You know what? I actually had a conversation with my husband this weekend about finally buying some tea. So, I think we're going to buy some tea.
Oh, what kind?
I am going to get... I need to remember what was that I was looking at. It's like a sample pack.
Oh, I love a sample pack.
It's like eight different kinds, six different... I don't remember what they call them. I'm so uneducated.
We should do a tea tasting over Zoom.
We should do a tea tasting. I think that's a great idea because otherwise I'm going to just fail at the naming of all things. Yeah, let's do that. Tea tasting will be something we'll do.
Yeah, tea tasting.
So anyway, I'm finally going to actually introduce tea into my life. I love coffee. I'm always going to love coffee, but this is Commerce Tea, so eventually I need to drink tea.
My mom did buy me for my birthday an entire tea set.
She did. It's sitting over here. It's really cute. It's polka dot and with a cat. My mom is British for those of you who do not know, which is probably all of you, and she's like, "You have to drink tea if the name of your..." And not just herbal tea, like British tea. So, I also have some Yorkshire tea en route.
Okay, I have a question for you.
Do you put the milk in first or second? Do you use milk?
I do not like milk. My mom does drink hers with milk, no sugar.
Okay. I don't do sugar.
Yeah. And sometimes I'll have just a splash of milk, but as far as an evening tea thing, as opposed to a morning tea thing for me.
I just remember there being some kind of debate around whether you put in the milk first or you put in the tea first.
I don't know. And I'm sitting here talking to you thinking, "I don't know if I've ever made myself my own cup of classic British tea, even though I grew up over there." I think someone always made it for me. I feel like tea has always just arrived.
It's just us here.
It's always, "How do you take your tea?" and then I say how I take my tea and then it just comes. And then, of course, you have to have a biscuit. Because that is part of the rules.
Of course. Yes.
So, next time we record, Kelly, I'll have my tea set out with my tea in it and I will tell you if the milk goes in first or second. The source will be my mother.
Are you going to use milk? Okay, I was going to say-
The source will be my mother.
... I don't think you're going to change that. So, okay. Yes, please consult your mother and you can get an answer.
Yeah, I will drink just a splash of milk, just so we know. Where does it go and when and why, and we will have a biscuit to go with it.
Perfect. So, this week, we're talking brand inclusivity.
Yes, we are.
I think this is something that is becoming more and more important, and honestly, it should have been important long ago, but it's finally getting the airtime it deserves.
Yes. As Arlan Hamilton says, "It's about damn time."
So, inclusivity represents itself in many different ways on our website.
So, size and diversity of models are going to be some of the two most noticeable ones, I would say, that people would think of first when you're thinking of diversity and inclusion on our website. So, representing different actual sizes of your models as far as what they're wearing, but also different heights as well. I feel like everyone's always a 5'7 model, for example, especially on [inaudible 00:05:52].
5'7, 5'8, 100 pounds, size 0, wears the size Extra Small, and you're like, "Cool. I can't fit into those clothes."
Same. So, I think a brand that does a really good job of this is ThirdLove, and they sell bras. They're the only store that I buy my bras from. I love them. And I think they have over 80 different sizes of bras, which especially for bras, I think that's a really important thing to do because there is so much variation in sizing. They even do half cup sizes which I think is super cool.
I'm never not impressed with the ThirdLove website, the advertising, every part of it. And you know what? It's not performative inclusion either. Because I think it's important to point out the difference.
When there's a store doing performative inclusion where it's like, "Look, we have models that are different," you're like, "Oh, congratulations on doing the very least." And as opposed to your brand is being built around, making sure there is something for everybody literally. And ThirdLove really knocks it out of the park with that.
Also, when it comes to both size visualization and diversity of models, I'm a huge, huge fan of Universal Standard.
Tell me about Universal Standard.
So, I've been a fan of Universal Standard for a long time because they started as an extended line. But they started I think, and I might just be inventing this, I think they started a size 8+. Now it goes from, I believe, it's 00 all the way up... Let me just click on this so I'm not just making things up. It is 00 up to a size 40, I think. And what's rad about that, it's not like, "Oh 00 people, you wear this shirt and size 40 people, you wear this shirt." It's like, "No. This is a shirt that we are making in all of these different sizes so everybody can have access to this shirt."
Another thing Universal Standard does incredibly well is show all types of women and humans in their products, so folks who are older, folks of all different ethnicities, folks with disabilities, visible disabilities. And they show everybody and frankly, that is representative of the culture that we live in. We don't just live in a culture where everyone's like this 5'8, 00 model. We just don't live in that society. We live in a society that Universal Standard shows, and I'm a major fan of Universal Standard because of it.
For those of you listening, I highly recommend going to their website, scrolling down and there's a video, by the way. I'm not always a fan of using video on your page, but they do it exceptionally well. And you see a queer couple, you see just women having fun together dancing around. I don't know, there's just so much joy on this page. So, besides being a brand that was built bottom up inclusive, this brand also captures like, "I know what this brand is about," and it's not performative. This is real.
Another thing that's worth noting when you're creating products in so many different sizes, it goes to... It's obvious, a larger size requires more material, but they're not charging more for larger sizes. It's all the same size. This button down I'm looking... Nope, these pants that I'm looking at... She's also wearing a button down. These pants I'm looking at, they're $148 whether you're buying 00 or you're buying 40. It doesn't matter.
And that's important because you don't want to feel... No matter what size you are, you are just as worthy as the next person.
Yeah, I love Universal Standard for this reason. I hope you all check it out and buy something. I wear their clothes very frequently.
So, what else? What's another way that's important to highlight?
Another thing that is really important to me is having LGBTQIA+ representation and personalization. Someone who does this really, really well is The Phluid Project, P-H-L-U-I-D, and I love... So, everything is non-binary on their store. Everything is gender-neutral. It's for everybody and their line...
Kelly and I always talk about we want to know exactly what you're selling when we go to your store. And it says up front, "The only online retailer where you can shop beyond the binary." Okay. Amazing. You branded it, you threw it in my face. I love that. And then, when you go to shop, there's all sorts of different things that you can buy, and I love that. And the models, there's trans models, non-binary models, femme models, masculine models. They're just humans. The model are human beings, and that is important.
I think the last one we should probably, I think, that's definitely worth touching on is accessibility. I'd say this comes in two forms. One, the representation of models with disabilities like visual disabilities, and two, just making your site accessible.
Yeah. We need to do an entire podcast about accessibility because it's something that people are continuing to swing and mess on.
But I know a lot of our listeners are thinking, "Oh no, no, no my site's accessible," but is it really? You have to serve everybody. You're selling to everybody when you're selling online, and it's really important.
I'm going to tell you something that is probably going to disappoint you if you happen to be using this service, and I hope they don't get upset with me for calling them out. But I know of a certain merchant who paid for [inaudible 00:12:46], and they're currently dealing with an accessibility lawsuit right now. It is so hard to get accessibility right when it comes to eCommerce specifically because there are no standards for eCommerce websites. It's a lot easier to accomplish if you're a blog or a more informational brochure-type website, but there are so many nuances to eCommerce and there's not a proper standard for eCommerce websites. So, I definitely agree. We need to do a full episode on accessibility.
So, I think this would probably be a really good point to introduce Marnie, because Marnie is, full disclosure, one of my clients and she's wonderful, but she, I think, is a really, really, really solid example of how to run an inclusive brand.
Today, we're talking with Marnie Consky, founder, CEO and Anti-Chafing Champion of Thigh Society, a niche undergarment brand offering moisture-wicking, breathable, and discreet boxer brief underwear for women. Hi, Marnie. How are you doing?
Marnie Consky (14:10):
I'm good. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Oh, it's absolutely our pleasure.
Thanks so much for joining us. So, I would love to kick things off with you telling us about yourself.
Marnie Consky (14:20):
Okay. It's a pretty broad question, but-
When I was a child...
Marnie Consky (14:27):
I grew up in... I grew up in Montreal, Canada, but we will fast forward. I currently live in Toronto. I founded Thigh Society 12 years ago, basically out of a need for a product that didn't exist on the market. And I had always had an itch to be an entrepreneur, but never really found an idea throughout all the years of thinking through ideas that actually felt to me like it had potential. I did a few entrepreneurial things in my teens, I was a math tutor and I had a little college tutoring business. Throughout college, I sold some arts and crafts and some Christmas fairs and things like that. But I knew I always wanted to start a business. I just knew I needed to think of an idea that actually I could monetize.
Marnie Consky (15:17):
And so, the idea came in July of 2008 where I was walking on a very hot day in downtown Toronto on my lunch break from work, wearing a skirt. It was one of the first warm days of summer and my thigh started to rub together, and I realized that I hadn't put on any long-leg underwear that morning. Because in Toronto or in Canada, our summers are pretty short and our winters are pretty long so it can go... Sometimes it feels like we don't have a spring. The weather just changes overnight and suddenly your whole wardrobe changes and you've forgotten how you used to dress in the previous summer.
Marnie Consky (15:54):
So, I realized, "Oh yeah, I forgot those black bike shorts that are sitting in my drawer at home." That were the shorts that I was wearing every summer since, tattered and shiny and stretchy and hideous really, but they were my go-to for underskirts and dresses. And so, that was the genesis of starting to think about where and why were there no long-leg boxer brief underwear for women to solve that problem. I know I just fast track right into myself and entrepreneurship in the business.
Marnie Consky (16:26):
But a little bit of background, I have a business degree from McGill University. I worked for seven years at a multinational consulting firm doing a blend of recruiting and consulting and human resources management, and then worked for the Government of Ontario for two years doing more strategic human resources. All things clearly related to underwear and intimate wear.
Marnie Consky (16:57):
So yeah, I really did not have any background at all in eCommerce, or apparel or retail, product design, sales, none of that. I really just had a need for a product that I couldn't find on the market and a curiosity that turned out to be strong enough to continue to pursue and build a business out of.
So, when you had this idea, you are like, "My thighs are chafing. This sucks," which I feel like most women can absolutely relate to. I've tried the deodorant trick, doesn't work. Full disclosure, everybody, I own a couple pairs of Thigh Society and they are my go-to. But prior to that, I was like, "Deodorant? Does this work? What's happening here?" Then, I tried bike shorts. They weren't quite hitting the mark. And then, I don't know how I found Thigh Society, but I found it a few years ago. I was like, "Yes." So, you had this idea. How did you then go from idea to concepts to execution? How did that all work?
Marnie Consky (18:06):
And also, just to start, I have tried deodorants, I have tried lotions, I've tried cream, powders, gel. I literally have a box behind me, you can't see, I'm in my office at home right now, and I literally have $300 worth of products in a box. It's like the product graveyard because nothing has ever worked. And I've always just thought, maybe I just have extra sweaty thighs more than the average person. But for whatever reason, none of those products really worked for me. And if they do work, it lasts for 10 minutes, then I have to reapply.
Marnie Consky (18:35):
But from a timeline perspective, the minute I had the idea for Thigh Society was in June of 2008. We launched our store on WordPress/Shopify in July of 2009. So, it took roughly a year from concept to full-blown product to open our doors.
Marnie Consky (18:56):
But what I did in the summer of 2008 was when I first had this idea, I started talking to any woman I met and asking all my friends, asking all my family members if other women had had a similar issue with thigh chafing, women of all shapes and sizes, because I did believe right from the get-go, I knew from the get-go, having had my weight and size fluctuate over the years that thigh chafing was something that happen independently of my weight and pants size. It was literally a function of skin sensitivity, friction, and moisture. And so, my thighs were just more susceptible to chafing because of my skin and the conditions were ripe.
Marnie Consky (19:39):
Also, at the time, this is 2008, so the internet was around, but there wasn't Instagram, there wasn't Amazon. I searched online for all the online stores. I could find with any keywords around chafing, chub rub, long-leg underwear, I really wanted to see if something out there existed to solve this problem. It's not that I had the idea and went from idea to "I'm going to start this company and make this brand." I really actually didn't want to get into garment manufacturing. Having come from Montreal, that used to be very akin to New York when you hear about the garment district in New York. Montreal had a very strong garment industry. And growing up, I had friends whose families were in that industry.
Marnie Consky (20:25):
And I just always remember feeling like it wasn't something I wanted to be in. It felt like it was really stressful, a lot of work, and who really wanted to carry tens of thousands of units of inventory and sizes and all the things that I'm doing now. But the initial reaction was, "I don't really want to do this, so let me hope that I can find something online that will solve this problem." So, I did my due diligence and my research online and I really didn't find anything.
Marnie Consky (20:53):
There were a couple of yoga companies, very small companies, that I had ordered from and those shorts were always, the fit just wasn't right. Either the waist is to low cut or the legs are right up. And there were a few companies that were catering mainly to plus-size women like size 18+ who were offering a similar type of shorts, but still didn't have all of the things I thought a short like Thigh Society should have.
Marnie Consky (21:17):
At the same time, I posted in some online forums for fashion and for, I think one was called, actually fashionista, which was also geared at plus-size fashion. Even though I wasn't plus size, just wanting to figure out if there were brands that I was missing out on that that other women could tell me about, at the same time with serving people in these chats and saying, "If you could wave your magic wand, what would these shorts look like? What would they be made of? What would they feel like? What colors would they come in? How would the fit be?"
Marnie Consky (21:48):
And I really spent the summer data gathering. I also pounded the pavement and started talking to boutique owners in Toronto who were more like specialty bra and lingerie boutiques, and would chitchat with the sales people and sometimes the owner was there too and just ask if customers would ever come in looking for a boxer brief type of garment that I was looking to create. And sure enough, they all said, "Yes, we frequently get these questions. We really don't have any recommendations." There was one brand that was long gone, and I think was from Greece, that had been filling that niche to some extent but mysteriously disappeared.
Marnie Consky (22:31):
And so, I really wanted to make sure that I had enough of an audience or that there was a market there. At this point, I really wasn't sure if there was a market for anti-chafing garments. This is, again, 2008. I could pull up my... I have a folder full of Google Alerts and things like that wherever the word "thigh chafe" or "chub rub" comes up, and it is full. I mean back in 2008, I would say that people weren't really talking about this in the media, in the news. It was still considered somewhat of a taboo topic to talk about thigh chafing, or had been relegated to these chat rooms in the deepest, darkest internet or very niche, if you will, groups online. Anyways, I veered off on a whole tangent there.
No, I'm loving this because the idea, just real quick to click on something you just said, of you have this idea but you're like, "I don't know about the viability of the product," so you set Google Alerts. That's so brilliant.
Marnie Consky (23:36):
That wasn't the way I would do it now. I did Google searches proactively. I don't even think I knew what a Google Alert was in 2008 and if it existed. But one thing I'm really good at and one thing I knew I was really good at even before I had any experience in eCommerce was I'm a very good researcher. So, if you want me to find something for you on the internet, I will find it, or anywhere pretty much. I won't stop until I find what I'm looking for and I really set my mind to this goal of, "Please let me find a long-leg short that exists out there, so I can buy it and not have to [inaudible 00:24:10]. Legit that was my thinking.
Marnie Consky (24:15):
Even though I was sort of... Even though every step lead me closer and closer to starting the business, again, I just had this weight on my shoulders of, "Oh, being an entrepreneur sounds so good, this would be a great idea. But then I have to go into manufacturing and apparel, and I have to learn all this stuff about eCommerce." This is still 2008. I like to joke that I think I was probably one of Shopify's first 500 stores online. Maybe Thigh society was at the first 1,000. I'm not sure.
I think yes. Every store has a unique ID and I think yours is under 1,000.
Marnie Consky (24:50):
Wow. So, it's not... Wow, that's so cool. That is so cool. [inaudible 00:24:54] 1,000 stores, you think they'd be giving you the platform for free, they are not.
Tobi, if you're listening.
Marnie Consky (25:02):
Thanks, Shopify. My site was built on WordPress actually because you couldn't buy themes at the time from Shopify. They were just literally the payment processor.
Marnie Consky (25:14):
But yeah, so at the beginning, I really had to be very creative and curious, I would say. I also am an extrovert. I love people. I love talking to people. And as it turns out, I was working out at a gym and I used to do group fitness classes, and I started talking with a couple of my gym friends about my idea. As it turns out, one of my gym friends was the production manager for Nike Canada. So, he was... I had no clue.
That's so convenient.
Marnie Consky (25:49):
Right? And the crazy part is we have been working out together, doing step aerobics back in the day when step was popular. We've been working out together for probably like a year or two, but we never really hung out outside the gym. And in our conversations, I guess we're always very superficial in the moment and not really getting an understanding of what the other person did. So, when he said that, I thought, "Wow, this must be a sign. This is almost too easy."
Marnie Consky (26:15):
He ended up making an introduction to this local factory. And luckily, they were able to work with smaller minimums, which is always a concern when you're starting any product-based business, I think, especially when you're talking about clothing and you need different sizes and what are you going to launch with, is this going to be one style or more, and colors, etc. So, working with them and their in-house expertise as well as reaching out to my network of people that I knew who had had experience in intimates and apparel if they knew any local pattern makers, because at that time, this factory didn't have any pattern makers, and essentially worked with the pattern maker, and the factory pulled together our first prototype, which I remember getting around between Christmas and New Year's Eve of 2008.
Marnie Consky (27:08):
And so, once we got the first prototype, we worked to size it out to a couple of different sizes to make sure that we could fit it on certain women and advance to the next stage of design. And so, that took many, many months. I remember it was winter, January through March, here in Toronto, freezing cold snow weather that's not really conducive to testing an anti-chafing long-leg underwear. So, I again reached out to friends and family and asked if people had friends in the West who were in Florida and Vegas. And sure enough, I ended up shipping a bunch of shorts to various samplers across the U.S. with questionnaires and feedback.
Marnie Consky (27:54):
We aggregated all of the feedback after testing it on women, at the time, from sizes Small through 2XL, got the feedback, and then the remaining months were spent working and refining the fit. I think I skipped over the part about the fabric. So, I mentioned earlier that we needed to find... I was very set on finding a factory that can meet our minimums. I was very fortunate that that factory was willing to entertain my very small minimum first order.
Marnie Consky (28:26):
And I also found a local fabric importer who was importing bolts of fabric from overseas, and went there and ended up getting a bunch of samples of different fabrics that I thought would work for these shorts. At that time, we were looking at bamboo cotton and cotton spandex shorts. So, I was buying fabric that was pre-made, and then buying that in a quantity that would be adequate for our first order, and that was shipped to the factory and they would cut and sew the garments. That was in 2009.
Marnie Consky (29:02):
We launched with a very different product than what we have now. Our manufacturing now is completely different because we've moved to what's called seamless knitting, where we actually make our own fabric. There's a lot less waste in the seamless knitting process and also the fabric stretches a heck of a lot more than you'll get with any cut and sew product.
Marnie Consky (29:21):
And I think that's why Thigh Society slip shorts are so awesome and they're so much better than what else is out there on the market because of the 360 stretch that we get through our knitting process.
Marnie Consky (29:33):
But I digress. Then like I said, it was winter, we were testing, I was obsessed with making sure that I could get samples on as many women as possible even if it meant them wearing it around their house. And then ultimately, we got our website set up. I hired a graphic designer, I hired a web developer, and then we went live in July of 2009.
Marnie Consky (29:59):
I've forgotten another piece which was again, 2009. So, Instagram, if it existed, I wasn't cool enough to be on it or know about it. But I did know that there were bloggers, and I did come up with a pretty hearty list of bloggers internationally that I felt were talking about fashion in a way that it would make sense for them to try Thigh Society. And so, I did what most people did in that day which was email, find a way to get in touch with these bloggers. I would email them, offer to send them free product, and then keep my fingers crossed and hope that they loved it and that they would write about it and share with their followers. And sure enough, that happened.
Marnie Consky (30:41):
I found an amazing blogger actually in Australia who ended up writing about us, and that that's how our business got started in Australia mainly because of that one influencer, is what she'll be called now, but she was a blogger then. And then did the same for a huge list of influencers then-bloggers that I found in the U.S. and Canada. And so, that led to us showing up, I guess, on what editors at BuzzFeed were looking for anti-chafe shorts inevitably would take them to these blogger's sites. And we got some of our very early press from Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, which was really cool. I still get excited when we get press now, and we're still always working to get Thigh Society to be what better known because no one should suffer from chub rubs.
I just want to say I love how much research and planning went in before you even got to the prototype stage. I feel like so many people skip that step. They're like, "Yes, there's a need for this. I want it, so let's do this." And then, a lot of businesses end up failing. So, it's so important to actually do that research upfront, and I love that you spent so much time doing that.
Marnie Consky (31:56):
Thanks. Yeah, I think it was the only way that I could justify moving forward. And I had set aside a very small amount of money for this project. I'd set aside, I remember it was $8,000 that I launched the business with, and $5,000 of that, which is going to sound crazy to your audience, $5,000 was devoted to the website design. It was insane, because right now you could pretty much do that like get some logo, clip art, some image, take some photos on your phone, and then download a free theme from Shopify, and you could be up and running in a couple of days. But most of my initial spend was on development for that WordPress site.
Marnie Consky (32:34):
And so, as far as the research piece goes, I made it my mission that if I found any reason that I really shouldn't pursue this business, whether I could find another product out there that met all of my needs or that it was going to be too expensive to launch or any number of excuses I could come up with, I felt that the research kept pushing me along in the direction of launching.
Marnie Consky (33:01):
And I also felt that I was okay with parting with that initial investment in the business. It was one of those things that I thought, "If I don't do this, if I don't try it, I'll regret it." And in the grand scheme of things, this $8,000, I'll probably be able to make it back in some form. So, it was a risk worth taking coupled with the research that told me it was probably a decent idea. I never thought it would get to where it is now, but it was enough to start researching and prototyping and launching.
So, I want to touch on the fact that you ended up getting a review from somebody in Australia. I imagine when you're first starting, you're probably not intending to figure out how to handle fulfillment to New Zealand and Australia. How did you figure that out? How did you figure it out?
Marnie Consky (33:55):
Well, yeah, so I would say, I'm trying to remember if it was for the first... I've been doing the business now for 11 years. And I think it was for the first 6 years, I was doing all the fulfillment myself out of my home office. So, how did I figure it out? I literally boiled it down to the basics. I went online and found a packaging company where I could buy some supplies, some envelopes. Different kinds of envelopes, some were bubble wraps, some were poly mailers in different sizes, ordered them all.
Marnie Consky (34:33):
Tried to figure out how many shorts I could fit per envelope, and then made friends with my local post office and sat there and had them explained to me, coupled with some more research online, about how the pricing would work for different ways to different countries. And so, once I understood the cost, I worked that back to make sure that I would at least cover my shipping costs. I wasn't covering my labor costs back then. So, it really was a matter of doing buckets of, "Okay, if a customer orders one pair of shorts and it's going to the U.S., it's going to cost me roughly X dollars to ship it." And then, I did the same thing like really a very hands-on tactical project.
Marnie Consky (35:25):
Once I came up with numbers that I was happy with, I ended up buying a little scale and I hooked it up to my laptop. I would pick and pack every single order myself from my home office with the boxes of product behind me. And then, depending on the day, sometimes will be once a day, sometimes would be every couple of days, I would march with a bag or two to the post office and ship my orders. And back then, I didn't offer any shipping with tracking because I felt like tracking would be too expensive of a service to offer. So, I just drop it in the mail and pray that it arrived, especially overseas.
Marnie Consky (36:02):
Just crazy now to think about because I was shipping quite a bit to Australia but, you know what, it worked. I mean, it was very affordable. It was probably around the same as what I'm charging now, and people were willing to spend that to have it shipped.
Marnie Consky (36:15):
Now, we offer tracking. It was very unscientific. And I think that was some of the painful, really, I would say, hard, frustrating work at the beginning. Well, it's not even that it's hard actually, it's more that it takes time because when you're a solopreneur at that point, no one else is giving you the answers. You have to go out and figure everything out yourself because there is no other product exactly like yours on the market. So, you have to figure out, "What does my product weigh? How am I going to fold it? What's the best way to fold it in this envelope so that when someone on the other part of the world opens up their packaging and gets it, how is she going to not rip into the shorts?" Because I was not using, at that time, any sophisticated packaging.
Marnie Consky (36:57):
It was literally, I had a hang tag on the shorts. I was folding them up and I was shoving them in an envelope. So, you would open up the envelope and then the shorts would come out. So, very environmentally friendly, we're doing that. But a little underwhelming, I guess, in a sense, because there wasn't really any anything to wow you, just the shorts, which were impressive enough, right?
Marnie Consky (37:20):
But yeah, that's... I hope that answers your question. I don't think I would do it any differently now. I really don't think there'll be any way to fast track that process. It's a bit painful, but I think when you're shipping, you have to really figure out what's this going to cost. And especially in this world now where everyone expects free shipping, it's really tough for smaller businesses who haven't heard Amazon to offer free shipping unless it's on multiple units.
Marnie Consky (37:46):
So, yeah, literally I used to do everything myself, and I was very sad when my local post office closed the branch and I had to find somewhere else to go. It's a huge pain but you make it work.
I love that you just made it work. That's something that a lot of merchants have to do, but also struggle with doing. What advice would you give to a merchant starting out right now who has an idea and doesn't... Top three things. Do these three things or three pieces of advice, let's say.
Marnie Consky (38:26):
I mean, obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is research, as we've touched upon. I would say, "If you have an idea for a product, find out what pain point are you trying to solve and has somebody else already tried to solve that pain point? And how can you make it better?" Well, actually, there you go. There's three right there. [inaudible 00:38:45] on the fly. Just because something already exists, right, doesn't mean that there's not a compelling case for you to improve upon that. And in a lot of cases, you don't need to reinvent the wheel to have a great business.
Marnie Consky (38:57):
One could argue that I took men's boxer brief underwear and reinvented them for women, although that would be an oversimplification. But ultimately, it's not like I invented a cure for cancer. You can think about something in a different way. Especially as consumers, we all have ideas for the products that we love to be better.
Marnie Consky (39:17):
So, let's see, where did I start? I said research and see what else is out there in terms of the idea you have, look at maybe even complimentary products to try to get some inspiration. I would say talk to people to figure out specifically what problem you're trying to solve, because sometimes you might think you're solving a problem, but is it really a problem? Are you overcomplicating something with what you're trying to invent or is it legitimately solving a problem? And sometimes, too, we can get stuck in our own heads thinking we're the only ones.
Marnie Consky (39:55):
In case of thigh chafing, I'm a very much... There's no such thing as TMI for me. I will talk about anything you want, everything's on the table. For a lot of people, talking about a rash between their thighs isn't exactly the first conversation they want to have.
Marnie Consky (40:12):
But if you do have a pain point, in my case, a literal one, but if you have a figurative pain point, talk to people about it because these people might ultimately be a representative sample of your target customer and you want to be able to cater what you're making for that target customer. And then, I guess the third point was seeing how you can improve upon it. And so, that customer research and that customer feedback from other people who have similar challenges to you, it's going to help you build in the best possible prototype and make continuous improvements to your products.
Marnie Consky (40:45):
We continue, to this day, to get ongoing feedback from customers about what they'd like to see added in the product line. We've made those changes over time. We've changed the rise of our waistband. Over the years, we've added new colors, we've lightened up the fabric. We've done a bunch of stuff all through the direction of our customers. I mean, it helps that I'm also a target customer, and I feel like I'm the target woman who went out anyways to wear the products. But certainly, we always look to our customers for feedback. They have the most valuable nuggets to give us better than any market research that we can do.
One of the things I love the most about your store is that your models are representative of everybody. And I think that's really, really important because I'm a curvy girl myself, and I don't often see myself represented in on-screen, so to speak. So, was that decision made hyper-intentionally or that just where the product went? What was your thinking behind that?
Marnie Consky (42:02):
So, thank you for recognizing that. And that was very highly intentional on my part since day minus 365, since before I even launched the product. It was important to me as I was having those early conversations and talking about the idea for this product. It was interesting that it didn't matter what weight or size the women were that I was speaking to. They all, in some form, experienced chub rub and knew what I was talking about.
Marnie Consky (42:34):
But by the same token, there were women who were also plus sized who had no idea what thigh chafing was from firsthand experience. They had heard about it, but they never experienced it. And women who were size 0 or 2 knew exactly what thigh chafing was and suffered from it.
Marnie Consky (42:53):
And so, I knew, having grown up whichever I've been having had a very open conversation ongoing with my girlfriends about it and joking about it. But this was not something that had to do with your size. And yet there was a stigma around it that tended to be weight-based. And that really bothered me because it just seemed ridiculous. First of all, why is this taboo? And secondly, why do people think this has to do with weight when it doesn't?
Marnie Consky (43:21):
And so, I was very intentional early on that I wanted to offer the product in a very wide size range, especially since, at that time back in 2009, there really weren't any companies making these types of shorts, and the few that I had found were either catering to an 18+, like a plus size range, or catering to size 6 to 10 range. And I wanted to blow that open and have a range that spanned as wide as I could with a minimum order quantity that I could afford.
Marnie Consky (43:56):
And so, I started with a size Small through size 2XL, which is still... I think about it now and I think, "Wow, that was still pretty great that I was able to offer such a broad size range." We now offer Extra Small through size 6XL, and that's a function of growth and being able to afford higher and bigger orders. Also, the manufacturer we're working with now has different equipment and machinery that allows us to expand our range, which we hadn't had when we were manufacturing with our former factory.
Marnie Consky (44:30):
But it really was... It's been my mission, and before body positivity was even a hashtag, to help women feel like they could dress however they want and wear whatever they want in these shorts without feeling bad about themselves. I remember feeling bad about myself putting on my old bike shorts, not because I felt like I was overweight and this is why I needed to wear this product, but because the product was such a crappy alternative. It's like, "Why can't I find something better?" This is a totally normal problem. I know other women of many different sizes who suffer from chub rub. Why do we have to put on these old bike shorts as an alternative? Surely, we deserve better than this.
Marnie Consky (45:09):
And that's why from the get-go, I was very intentional about being size-inclusive, as well as inclusive, of course, on different ethnicities, and ultimately different ages as well because chafing doesn't depend on your age, and different abilities because women of all abilities also experience chafing. But fundamentally, I'm a believer that you... We absorb so much media in our day-to-day, right, and we look at our Instagram feed and a lot of what we're seeing is sometimes subconsciously going into our brains.
Marnie Consky (45:47):
And I think the more you expose yourself to diversity of people that don't just look like one body type or one age or one ability or one ethnicity, the more you expose yourself to a broad range of beautiful bodies and beautiful images, the more you will start to see those bodies as beautiful. It's just almost like training your brain in a way. It sounds very... I'm not an academic, so I don't mean for it to sound scientific. But I really believe that it's true. And I think that brands have a responsibility, especially when I think about my customer base. I'm representing my customer base on my website, on our website. That is not rocket science, right, for any company. You want to represent your target customer to make sure that she feels represented on your site. So, that's really the business perspective.
Marnie Consky (46:38):
But just from the real-world perspective, I live in a big metropolitan city, when I leave my house or when I used to leave my house pre-COVID, I take the subway. I would be exposed to women who look all different shapes, sizes, races, ages, ethnicities, abilities. This is why I love multicultural cities, and I wanted that to be reflected in our branding because our products will work for everybody. So, I don't know if that makes sense.
Marnie Consky (47:09):
I'm thrilled to see that body positivity has gained traction over the years. I think some brands do use it to jump on the #bandwagon and to be seen as inclusive when they're maybe not really being inclusive with their sizes or with the models that they choose. And I still think there's a really long way to go in terms of continuing to represent especially plus size models, women of color, and women who are differently abled. I think there's still a lot of opportunity to continue to showcase those women in beautiful imagery that that's totally normal, so that we stop being surprised when we see an image of something we're not used to seeing, where we're used to seeing so much diversity that the diversity becomes completely normal. Do you know what I mean?
I love it, and I hope we see more of it as... Yeah.
Marnie Consky (48:03):
I do, too.
I do have an interesting question. So, the slip shorts are technically an undergarment. For also celebrating body positivity too, how do you think it has impacted collecting user-generated content for you, like videos and photos from your customers?
Marnie Consky (48:26):
It's such a great question, actually, because it's something we talk about constantly. So, the short answer is some of our products are less see-through than others. And so, they might photograph like a bike short. In some cases, we have customers who are styling our shorts with oversized T-shirts, and so it doesn't necessarily look like they're wearing "underwear." But some have used captions like, "Look at me, working out in my underwear," when it looks to everybody else that they're wearing shorts.
Marnie Consky (48:59):
What we've done recently is try to give examples of content that we've created, that somebody who just bought from us can feel that "Oh, I feel comfortable replicating that. I don't have to be sitting on my couch wearing these with no underwear underneath and just sprawled on the couch posing." It's like, you could do a totally cute little Boomerang wearing a skirt and just lifting up your skirt and showing the shorts.
Marnie Consky (49:23):
And I think too as the brand has gotten more well known, and we still have ways to go, but as the brand has gotten into more hands, we've also started to send more influencers. And so, as our customers or people on our social see other people wearing the shorts in beautiful poses and pictures and outfits, that inspires them to do the same. And so, sometimes people just need a little nudge or a little validation that "Oh kay, other people are doing this. There's no taboo." Yes, these are called underwear, but again, like I said, we're not asking anyone to take risky photos. And also being part of breaking the taboo like, "So what if you're wearing little shorts underneath your dresses?"
Marnie Consky (50:13):
And I think if I could make a parallel, Thigh Society are totally not shapewear at all. But if you think about even what Kim Kardashian has done for shapewear and Spanx, they've really brought the idea of Spanx and undergarments like that into the mainstream, where even, I remember back when I think it was years ago at the Oscars, sometimes some celebs would make some comments like, "I'm wearing 14 layers of Spanx under here." I think women are used to hearing a little bit about undergarments, right, so some of that taboo isn't there.
Marnie Consky (50:50):
But certainly, it definitely would have been challenging for us at the beginning to get some pictures. And I would say also, just lastly, the bike short trend in the last couple years has certainly helped because [inaudible 00:51:01]. People are like, "Yeah, I got these bike shorts," even though they're really meant to be or they were designed to be an undergarment. And depending what you wear underneath them or not, you have to see the sheerness on your own body.
Our listeners love actionable advice, and you are providing so much of it. We could talk to you for so long and get so much more, so I think we should have you back on again. But in the interest of time, we wrap up every single one of our podcasts with store shout-outs. So, what store you're loving this week, and do you have a store in mind that you want to shout out?
Marnie Consky (51:43):
So, I do, I have to say. I know your listeners can't see me, but I have lots of dark curly hair and I try to wash it only about once or twice a week. Actually, I lied. I try to wash it about two to three times a week. I shower every day, so I had been looking for a shower cap that wasn't a super flimsy-crappy-hotel-pharmacy shower cap. So, I'm going to give a shout out to a company called SHHHOWERCAP. It has three Hs. S-H-H-H-owercap. They make stunningly beautiful, high quality shower caps. And I love their aesthetic. It's super clean, modern. Their designs are super funky.
Marnie Consky (52:33):
The founder is a woman. She's based in Brooklyn, I believe. And I love how they are also breaking down taboos about hair washing and acknowledging that most people don't wash their hair every day, and that's okay. You're not dirty if you don't wash your hair every day. In fact, one could argue it's not good to wash your hair every day. But it depends on your hair type and your scalp, etc. So, I love that. I love SHHHOWERCAP shower caps because they are functional and beautiful and they make great gifts. I've bought a bunch for friends and family. And I'm a fan.
I'm also a-
Rhian, you're a fan too, right? I was going to say.
Our listeners are like, "Yes, of course, Rhian also has this product."
It's another direct-to-consumer brand that Rhian owns.
And speaking of direct-to-consumer, my store shout-out of the week is kindroot. And kindroot... Kelly and I were introduced to kindroot through GrowthLab, which we host about once a month in collaboration with the Shopify LA space that now, of course, has gone digital so people from across the world can join in including, I think we're having one on September 24th.
I think so. Whatever that's [crosstalk 00:53:49] is.
We do teardowns at the end, and people just post their websites in this chat box, and the chat box goes bananas. I happened to pick this one. A, it is so... Kelly and I didn't even have anything bad to say about it. Not that teardown should be bad necessarily, but we pulled it up and we are thinking, "This is beautiful." And so then, you have to start nitpicking things apart because it's so wonderful. Their product looks so great. I'm actually ordering some today. And it explains what adaptogenic plants are, what the product is, why you want it. The assets they use are stunning. It's fast. It's responsive. It's dynamic. I love the store so much.
Marnie Consky (54:41):
I'm going to check it out.
Yeah, it's beautiful.
It's a beautiful store. Yeah. So, my store shout-out this week is La Colombe. It's coffee roaster. I've owned their coffee before. I was given their coffee as a gift actually from Recharge, I believe. And I am not usually one to buy from Facebook Ads, especially immediately as they show up, but they targeted me perfectly and they're like, "We now have pumpkin spice draft latte in cans." And I think it went from clicking on the link to hitting checkout within 30 seconds.
You're like, "Yes."
I need this. So, they should be arriving tomorrow and I'm really excited to try them. But yeah, I mean, their coffee is great so I'm excited to try these draft lattes.
Dare I say? I also really like La Colombe.
Of course, you do.
Well, I went... They have brick and mortars in New York. I think pre-canning it, they might still have brick and mortars. But before it was canned and shipped nationwide, I went to their stores in New York and then I saw them locally in the sprouts when I went outside and did grocery shopping. I was like, "La Colombe in Redlands, California." So, I'm just saying.
A great progress is history. The rest is history.
So, Marnie, a very important question, where can we find you on the internet?
Marnie Consky (56:13):
So, you can find us at www.thighsociety.com. Bonus points for anyone who got the pun of Thigh Society made into [inaudible 00:56:24]. And you can find us on Instagram @thighsociety, and Facebook as Thigh Society, as well as Twitter @thighsociety.
I love the brand consistency. Well, Marnie, it was absolutely wonderful hearing your story. Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today. I'm really excited for everyone to hear this. Or by the time they reach this point, they've already heard it. Thanks for listening. And also, Marnie, thanks for joining in.
Marnie Consky (56:54):
Thanks for having me. It was super fun.
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