Mum in business: Kristy Chong

Kristy Chong, managing director of Modibodi Underwear, with her sons Lucas, 6, Jason, 4, and Isaac, 6 months.
Kristy Chong, managing director of Modibodi Underwear, with her sons Lucas, 6, Jason, 4, and Isaac, 6 months. 

Kristy Chong is the managing director of Australian-made Modibodi underwear and a mum to Lucas, 6, Jason, 4, and Isaac, 6 months.

Before starting her own business, Kristy worked for 13 years in public relations/marketing roles for large multinational organisations. During her two years as a stay-at-home mum after the birth of her second child, she decided she wanted to start her own business and change the world for the better. She says that one day she had a 'eureka' moment when she asked herself why women wear uncomfortable, eco-damaging disposable panty liners to stay dry and fresh – and from that moment, Modibodi was born. The brand now includes a wide range of underpants and bras, and will soon offer a breastfeeding singlet, too.  

We asked Kristy a few questions about being a working mum and starting her own business - here's what she told us.

Comfy yet stylish: Some of the underwear in the Modibodi range.
Comfy yet stylish: Some of the underwear in the Modibodi range. Photo: modibodi.com.au

Tell us about your business …
Modibodi was officially launched in 2013, out of a desire to help women and our environment. Fed up with failing underwear and disposable panty liners, I designed a line of underwear that not only looks stylish but uses innovative technology to keep women dry, fresh and worry free.

What was the first thing you did to kick-start your business?
I set up a Facebook page and invited all my personal contacts to Like and share the page with their own contacts. This help spread word of mouth and generated sales from the moment I had garments to sell.

Has starting your own business lived up to expectations? 
Business is going well and the thing I am most proud of is the positive feedback I am receiving from my customers that Modibodi garments do work. As a business we are less than a year old, and I am thrilled at how we are doing so far and the number of repeat customers we have.

In August we'll be expanding our range to include a breastfeeding singlet which replaces the need for disposable breast pads and reusable pads that never stay in place. I'm confident mums will love the comfort and convenience. 

The hurdle for my brand is getting customers to try a new and still unknown label, and change their behaviour by replacing their liners with Modibodi underpants. What I have found is once a woman has tried Modibodi and has experienced the benefits, she will always come back to buy more.

What have you enjoyed most about running your own business?
The opportunity to take a great concept and oversee every aspect of its evolution and launch into the marketplace. What started out as just a good idea has quickly grown into a reasonably sized brand that includes underpants, sports bras and maternity wear, and we are still looking to grow our range.

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What is the biggest challenge? 
The biggest challenge was my lack of textile and dress making knowledge. I found the communications with my designer and maker challenging at times because I knew what I wanted but didn’t have the textile expertise and language to communicate it. I was forced to put a certain amount of trust in them. However, to overcome my lack of knowledge, I made sure I worked closely with them so I could learn the techniques and language for future. Whenever I was unsure about their advice, I would also refer to a third party for independent advice. Organisations such as the Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia and the Textile Clothing Footwear Union of Australia were fabulous at giving that advice.

How do you manage to juggle the running of your business with family?
It is a juggle, and some days I drop the ball. However, things that help me juggle the two include having a rigorous daily task list that’s connected to my iPhone and laptop, outsourcing cleaning, asking for help from family and friends, shopping online, weekly meal planning (all meals must take no longer than 30 minutes to prepare), encouraging kids to be independent from a young age (my two eldest dress themselves, get their own healthy snacks and put their own toys away).

Lastly, planning helps me to juggle the two. It allows me to be realistic about what I can achieve, as well as providing me with the flexibility to relax and be present in the role I am doing at that time.

What's the hardest thing about being a working mother? 
There are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done, and sometimes I wonder if I am doing either job very well. I also find myself saying to my kids “just wait a minute” a little too often. 

Do you manage to fit in some 'me time'? 
With a small baby and two older kids it can be difficult, but to be honest, I went into this knowing that if I want to have a successful business and three children then life might be a little out of balance for a few years. My ‘me’ time includes going for a run three times a week, often with Isaac in the pram sleeping. Plus all of our kids are in bed by 7.30pm, which means I can also grab ‘me’ time on weekend nights (week nights I usually work from 8pm to 10pm).

Have you ever thought about giving it up? 
You have your moments, but I have never enjoyed work as much as I do now. I’ve always wanted to do something that would change the world for the better. With Modibodi I have an opportunity to help women, help our environment and help contribute financially to our family, while pursuing my dream of managing my own business. I couldn’t want for more than that.

Do you have any advice for someone starting their own business?
Do your research first to make sure there’s a viable market for your product. As I have a background in public relations and marketing I was firstly concerned with ensuring there was a viable market that would want to buy the garments I wanted to make. I spoke with family and friends, spoke to leading experts in the industry and conducted surveys with women, prior to engaging in any real product development.

Meet other mums in business in the Essential Baby forum