Susie Taaffe: Founder & CEO of Skanties

Episode 449

It was that ‘aha’ moment that led Susie Taaffe, Founder and CEO of Aussie undergarment brand Skanties, to know she had to create it– undergarments that integrate the comfort of yoga pants, the silkiness of nylon and the breathability of cotton underwear all in a wonderful, fun undergarment that you will love to wear! Susie successfully launched Skanties in the Australian market in 2019 where it has been a huge success, and this year, has brought the brand to the U.S. to expand its global movement. Her journey developing Skanties, developing a mission based movement, scaling it in Australia and bringing it to the U.S. is fascinating, authentic, insightful,inspiring and I know that you will be glad you listened. Now on #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be you just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show and I’m so excited to have my next guest. Here we have Susie Taaffe, who is the founder and CEO of an incredible brand called scam tees. And if you have not heard of scam teas, you will soon become very familiar with it. It has just arrived in the US although we have a global audience. This is a brand that actually started in one of my favorite countries Australia. And Susie is actually living and calling in today for this podcast from Brisbane. But Skanties is undergarments in or Skanties underground garments integrate the comfort of yoga pants, the silkiness of nylon, and the breathability of cotton underwear all into a very wonderful, super cute garment that you will love to wear. I was just sharing with Susie that the couple that I have have actually been removed from my drawers by my 21 year old daughter, who was like, Wait, what’s this? These are amazing. So definitely have to get a few more. They’re really, really adorable. So the Australian market in 2019 was graced with Skanties. And as I mentioned, she is now expanding into the US to really expand globally the brand and they are direct to consumer only at this point, but hopefully soon into stores as well. I’m super excited to hear all about Susie’s mission for scamp teas beyond them having incredibly comfortable and cool products, plus her own unique journey before creating Skanties. So really, really excited to have you here. Susie,

Susie Taaffe 2:32
thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here chatting with you today.

Kara Goldin 2:36
Absolutely. So I’d love before we get into hearing about Skanties and your journey as an entrepreneur, I’d love to hear more about you and what you were doing actually before creating this incredible brand.

Susie Taaffe 2:49
Well, I have a really interesting background, which I’ve bounced all over the place with certain things. So I’m actually an engineer. So I started out in chemical engineering in wastewater, no waste treatment. So which has completely nothing to do with that.

Kara Goldin 3:09
So Susie, welcome and before we get into hearing about Skanties and your journey as an entrepreneur, I’d love to hear more about you and what you were doing before you decided to start Skanties

Susie Taaffe 3:23
Thank you, Kara. Well, I haven’t really bizarre background in that I have done a combination of things. I started out as an engineer and I was working in the electrolytic recovery of metals in waste solutions as one does. And but I found that I really enjoyed the business development side of it more than the engineering side of it. So I went back to uni and did a master’s in finance. And in the Masters in finance, I had thought I work in that industry but I ended up then jumping and becoming a maternity clothing designer with my sister you know, early 20s which was we actually did an international business subject that was to find a normally in a market like an easy entry point. And the maternity clothing business in Australia at the time was had a really easy entry. So it was sort of 22 and 24 I think, never been pregnant and started a maternity clothing company. So So we did have experience in fashion and design I suppose and also in fashion and design in a way that is not normal. So like with with a maternity, obviously you’ve got to be able to make things expand and contract and change shapes for different stages of the pregnancy for post pregnancy etc. So you have to sort of think a little bit outside of the box. So fast forward to the GFC and that’s that. So that business closed down, and then I went back to engineering and this time I was building gas compressor stations out in western Queensland. which also seems very random but it’s really no different to maternity clothing designing etc. Because it’s, you’ve got a design that needs to be manufacture it. So you did the piping, and then I had the logistics was shipping it out to remote sites, and then having it fabricated on site and quality control finalized, like the painting and the MDR is etc. For the companies. It seems like a big jump, but it’s really not. So when I I created the products guarantees just for myself at the end of when we were leaving the maternity business, so 2008. But I didn’t realize that other people needed something like that, probably for quite a few years later. And it was only through talking with a few friends that I realized that that actually could be a commercial product.

Kara Goldin 5:51
Hmm. So so interesting. So what was it about the fashion industry that really I mean, obviously, you went into maternity first and then you decide to start Skanties. So what was it about the fashion industry that really drew you to away from engineering,

Susie Taaffe 6:08
I think I think I have a very creative side to me. And I know engineering is not particularly creative. It’s sort of more maths brain, but I love fashion, I love textiles, I love designing things. So whilst games is just one product, which we’ve kept small intentionally for now, I still get all my own clothes, I design them and get them tailor made. So I have a whole like curated wardrobe. But I suppose that goes to the point of Skanties is I have a different body shape where I’ve got small at the top and big down the bottom. So I find it really hard to buy things off the rack. So just to go into a shop and buy something it will fit me if it fits my waist, it doesn’t fit the bottom. If it fits my like dresses, I’m two sizes smaller at the top and down the bottom. So I’ve always struggled. So I suppose like skaters are made because they needed something like that. The same with the clothing that I make as well because I can’t buy off the shelf like lots of other people can so I’ve sort of had to do it out of necessity.

Kara Goldin 7:12
So how would you describe Skanties to anyone who isn’t familiar with the brand?

Susie Taaffe 7:18
So Skanties is the they are underwear product that are designed to but they’re sort of supposed to be your support, buddy, they’re there to make sure that you can wear whatever you want to wear and feel good about yourself at the same time. So there’s sort of a tool like I’m not sure if you’ve ever put on and these are the types that are cutting in and then they give you muffin top or they’re writing up or they just don’t really make you feel very good about yourself. So the point of what I what I wanted number one thing for scarcities was when people to put them on, I want them to feel oh my god, these feel amazing. Like it’s actually like a feeling and when I’m doing the test of the different fabrics and and trying them on, if I don’t feel like that I’m like, Nope, that one’s no good. It has to make you nearly gasps Oh my god, this feels so good. Because that’s when I’m trying. So the brand is not just a product, it’s really a movement to have women start to feel good about themselves and good about their bodies and give them some of that confidence back.

Kara Goldin 8:20
And do you feel like, obviously the uniqueness of the brand? Visually? It’s so so different? But also is Was anybody doing this out there that you saw? Maybe if you could just tweak a little something? Or did you really I feel like you started an entirely new category around undergarments making, you know, comfortable and other there’s other undergarments that are comfortable, but I don’t know there’s some uniqueness about it. And that the thickness of it and the feel of it is just really amazing.

Susie Taaffe 8:55
Yes, no, there was definitely no products out there. Because if there hadn’t been, I probably would have just bought that and this would have never adventure with it. So and I think that having the maternity background and having the contacts in manufacturing allowed me to create an entirely new category of garment basically. So if nothing like this does exist out there, nothing with the cotton, the cotton panel is super important design factor in that lots of women can be highly susceptible to infections if they have anything synthetic in that area down there. So the cotton panel is was extremely crucial to the design. And then definitely the soft, the yoga waistband so that they fit that’s they sit flat was also something I really really wanted it to a pet peeve of mine when that digs in there. And then you get who you don’t feel good about yourself. Like we sort of, I think as well as everyone, everyone in our body confidence, etc. Like we have to work on that every day so we may as well have tools like flat, Weisman’s that just give us that little bit of extra boost in that confidence sector, I think.

Kara Goldin 10:06
Yeah, definitely. So can you take us back to that aha moment when you knew you wanted to really create this, this product, this change? And, and you’ve you’ve had another company before? I mean, maybe it’s what did you learn from that experience where you just decided I want to go do this again, but differently?

Susie Taaffe 10:30
Well, I will definitely 100% say when I hopped back on that plane, to go and do Skanties, I just said, I never thought I would be back on a plane. So I had absolutely no plans to go back into manufacturing whatsoever. But I also had a marriage breakdown. And so my kids were they were five, three and one. And so all of a sudden, I was a single mom. And I knew I couldn’t be doing fuck become a FIFO engineer anymore, because I needed to look after the kids. So I was normally flying in and out of sites, etc. So I knew that that wasn’t an option. And I had the aha moment was actually, at this point in time in my life, I have a chance to choose a path that’s going to really fulfill me and drive my passion and give me that like life purpose. And so the reason why Skanties is was like it was it just made so much sense was because A, I could help women feel good about themselves. And it’s even amazing, the rapes that scare these have had in sectors that I hadn’t thought of like the ostomy community. So we’ve got people with ostomy bags, apparently they’re fantastic for that. And I’ve seen my own see the write up on blogs and stuff about how it gives them the confidence to win for fitting clothes more, which just to me makes me feel so thrilled. And also gender affirmation, surgery and HRT and people that are transitioning with all the hormone changes, etc. I’ve had some beautiful reviews emailed to me saying how much they supported them emotionally, through those physical changes so that all of those when I get those emails, that’s what so that’s my why it’s like I’m actually helping people give them giving them back their confidence and helping them through emotional parts of life. That IVF is another one where people bloat a lot in their stomachs, up and down and Oh, miscarriages. I’ve had people with hysterectomy surgeries that have said that like life saving to wear after that. So it’s actually been such a broader application than just underwear, which is just makes my heart sing.

Kara Goldin 12:40
I hear this a lot. And I can say firsthand that that consumer feedback is definitely the thing during those dark days, those hard days when you’re going through challenges of something breaks or a person quits or, you know, something dramatic happens. And then you get a customer email or you run into a customer who hears you’re the founder of Skanties it’s just a it’s a really powerful thing. It sort of changes everything. When you say

Susie Taaffe 13:17
yeah, definitely because you can see that you’re actually making a difference. And that’s why we’re all in this really these days now people like people’s passion and their Why is really the driver behind businesses these days, which is fantastic. And so when you get that, that confirmation that your Y is actually getting that reach, it’s just yet I remember I go to someone at the passport desk, I was stabbing my passport now, the owners kit I was like I am like a total fan moment but it just it felt amazing.

Kara Goldin 13:51
That’s I love it. So you launched in Australia in 2019. And obviously, during a incredible crazy time in the world right before everything was happening. What like first of all, why did you choose to launch just with one product I’m sure a lot of you’ve come up with a million ideas where you can go with with this product but why was it so important for you to just get it right with this one product first before expanding beyond that?

Susie Taaffe 14:24
I think because I’m from my experience with maternity clothing like we would do with that we would do a summer summer range a winter range. We were constantly designing new things and I just knew as a single mom I didn’t have capacity to do that so so i That’s why I just stuck with I’ll just do the one and I have brought out new colors and and changed a bit of that. But I just didn’t have any more capacity other than to do the one product and then now I have got some great mentors who are now preventing me from doing what they just said just dig deep and narrow with this one. And then we can preserve Would love to add in the leakproof? Where because I think that that is the next sort of stage with helping women with their confidence, etc. And so but yeah, so I’m just doing deep and narrow for now under guidance not to spread myself too thin.

Kara Goldin 15:15
Yeah, definitely. How many different fabrics are you using? Or? Or I should say is it is it a

Susie Taaffe 15:25
different weight, so there’s like a super thin one, which is nearly share so and then there’s a medium sort of weight, which is a bit thicker. And then there’s one that’s a firm awake. So some people prefer the feeling of the for firm ones I like to it depends on the weather wet personally, which ones I prefer to wear, if it’s really hot, the super sheer thin ones, just feel like you’re wearing nothing. And so they feel absolutely amazing. And then the moderate ones are fine for anywhere, basically. But they’ve got a bit more coverage. So say you want to wear them around the house with a singlet top on as as just around the house, they’re not see through it. So you can wear the moderate ones. Whereas the thin ones are a little bit more see through.

Kara Goldin 16:07
I would imagine if you’re not doing them yet, just different links to could also be interesting.

Susie Taaffe 16:15
Definitely that’s on the list. Once we get to get this expansion in the US happening, we’ll definitely do some different things.

Kara Goldin 16:21
I love it. So how did you decide to actually go into the US.

Susie Taaffe 16:25
So that is because I found in Australia, they were predominantly a summer product. So So I did do Asian sort of Singapore expansion, but I was shipping them from Australia and it was in COVID. And I’m sure your freight times were a nightmare. And they’re a nightmare here and so it just became logistically impossible. And so basically the reason I chose the US was because you have the longest summer which like out like to Europe etc. They didn’t have as much hot weather, whereas us does have a lot of hot weather. However, since I’ve been since I’m as business has progressed, etc, I found there actually a really great winter underwear as well. So under ski pants or hiking pants, or they’re really good at the traveling because you can wash them and they dry overnight. So they’re so they’ve actually got a whole lot more applications than just summer underwear. But the US is also like it’s such a fantastic market and I love the US people I feel like you’re so open to new ideas like this. I feel like you’ve got really great positive attitude towards like, adopting a new, totally new category and underwear, I suppose as you’ve mentioned before,

Kara Goldin 17:35
so you’ve obviously this is your first undergarment business, you’re not new in the fashion industry, I’m sure you know a ton. Now about fabrics and materials, you’ve immersed yourself into this industry. I know as an entrepreneur, I’ve immersed myself into the water category. I’m I’m a fun dinner guest for people because I know way too much about water, fruit and labeling and all kinds of different stuff. What how do materials factor into the safety of shapewear? I heard an interview that you did where you talked a little bit about that.

Susie Taaffe 18:14
Yeah, so I’ve just been looking into. Luckily, my fabrics aren’t treated with it because of the type of fabric but with some of the Shapeways and I think also the leakproof were there there is some like moisture wicking and sweat wicking and treatments that can be put on fabrics, that they’re not quite sure about the long term effects of it, they call them forever chemicals. So when they’re absorbed by the skin, it means that your body can’t actually eradicate them out. So I think consumer awareness around that is starting to be peaked. And so I think people wearing their loose like, I won’t say brand, but wearing their athletic way day in and day out, it’s actually not healthy for your skin to have sort of that those treatments up close to your skin, especially in wearing them with no underwear because that’s a highly absorbent area. So if you get any of the PFA is in there, they’re just not sure what the long term effects are. So that’s why again, always wear cotton underwear under anything that is potentially made from plastics etc. So exercise wearing things like that to just protect that area. And we will always be making sure that our fabrics never have been treated with anything like that definitely and always keeping cotton in contact as the engineering part of my brain loves this but as the awareness of this is increasing, I think there’ll be more clever, clever research etc done into absorption methods in in natural fibers such as nearly like going back to the old old old days where they did use cotton’s and things like that, but I think with our with the research we have available, we can create something that’s amazing for the absorption without the harmful chemicals involved.

Kara Goldin 20:01
Yeah, definitely. So interesting. We talk about, I talk about pee fast in PA phase a lot as it relates to water, and the industry overall. So it’s really, really interesting that and totally makes sense that it’s also in so many garments, too. So really, really interesting. So with all the difficulties attached to starting a physical goods business, what can you share? What were some of the more difficult points and starting this company? I think sometimes it’s being a second time entrepreneur. Obviously, you’re smart from the get go, you’ve had a lot of this is not your first rodeo. You’re have a lot of industry experience business experience overall, but there’s always difficulties along the way. And was there anything in particular that you just didn’t plan on when you were launching standees?

Susie Taaffe 21:00
Oh, definitely 100%. So I am, I’ve reordered some of the nude the beige color. And on my fabric swatch card, there was two colors that looked nearly identical in the beige. So I reordered them, like 1000 pieces or something, and got them and then I actually had a massive sales of like a massive marketing event came through. So I pretty much dispatched the whole lot out. And then I started getting the emails. And then I started getting the Facebook messages of these are terrible, they don’t stay out, they don’t stay, but they keep falling down, etc. And so this is amazing. But you need to test everything on every batch of everything. Because they were I picked the other one the other beige, and it literally the same fabric type the same composition, everything. And it did not behave the same way. So I then was like, obviously, you can imagine the gut feeling of like, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Anyway, so but what it was fantastic for Is It was it actually gave me an opportunity to showcase what we’re about. And our number one goal is happy customers. So no matter what your what it is, I want to talk to you and and solve the problem for you. So I tracked down all the people that were having problems with them, and contracted them or offered them at the replacement with the good stuff. And I was getting the replacements in the right fabric. Or they could choose a different color or they could have a refund. So I basically just tracked everyone down. And it was amazing, because I ended up having people who had had problems becoming my number one promoters and the number one like they’re on Facebook. And so I actually had like a team of people that I had helped that were out there. And if other people were having problems said no to contact Susie, she’s fantastic. She’ll sorted out for you. So I’d absolutely the worst time I’ve actually managed to turn into like a fantastic way to promote how we will go above and beyond to make sure that people are happy. And I think people are so people are so willing to give you a go if you just front foot and say, Look, I’m really sorry, I’ve messed up here, and how can I help you feel happy to have a happy outcome. And I think people just appreciate you taking the time to listen to them. And so we’ve adopted that now in all of our customer service. It’s always number one thing is fast response time, get back to people quickly, and how can we help you and listen to people? Because I think that that’s what most people want these days?

Kara Goldin 23:28
Yeah, definitely. Well, when you can turn your consumers into your advocates, then that is really the best the best thing you can do. How are you getting the word out about Skanties

Susie Taaffe 23:40
so in Australia, I’ve been using influencer marketing. So we, which has been really successful over here. And then us is talking on podcasts, writing articles, doing all the things I tend to talk because it’s not so much just a product, I really want it to be a movement like body confidence and body positivity and helping people to feel confident and comfortable in their, in their bodies. So So I have a lot to say.

Kara Goldin 24:09
Now I love it. And really you’ve started a a movement around and really created community around a physical goods product. How How do you do that? It’s, it’s a, I get it when you’ve got a mission and a message but it really you’ve done a really nice job, particularly in Australia, where you’ve been for a few years now. But people are talking about it. Like how do you get that to happen?

Susie Taaffe 24:39
I think you just have to chip away at it. Slowly but surely. And I think we’re so lucky because we have the tools like Instagram and Facebook. That is such a storyboard. I suppose you get to put inspirational quotes you get to like you can shape it so much more and I think also I learned a lot Some time ago is that I’m not set, like selling the product is actually like about fifth on the list. You know what I mean? So it’s actually that the movement and the discussion around body positivity and, and even sort of self worth and self love and self confidence, all of the messaging is actually what I’m here to do. And the product is just a tool like fifth on the ladder that they can use to help enforce that message.

Kara Goldin 25:28
I think it’s so interesting that you say that, because it’s, it’s really a, you know, when you get the rest of it right, then that’s when the product will sell. Right? You get all of the quality, right, and the community and and all of the pieces, it’s not just about having a great product or influence or strategy, all these different components are really what make the product successful. And I think that you’ve really nailed it. 100%. So funding a company. You talked a little bit about this? Definitely when as you’re coming into the US, are you looking for funding now? Or are you how have you viewed funding this company today?

Susie Taaffe 26:10
Yeah, so Bootstrap today, but I will be needing to look for funding for the expansion because I just as a single person, I can’t, I cannot roll it out fast enough. With with my own funding anymore. So yeah, I definitely will be looking for funding. Probably strategic partners, someone that is in the game in some area, just to also help us being a solo founder, as you would know, it can be tiring, and just having someone else to bounce things off will be great.

Kara Goldin 26:42
Definitely. So being an entrepreneur is brutal. You’ve been an entrepreneur, in in another company, and what what would you say to yourself, when, you know, maybe maybe even before starting a company, what what really makes an entrepreneur? I mean, what what is it that that kind of, I guess, a few different ways to look at it, but what would you warn yourself about maybe is the way to

Susie Taaffe 27:14
look, it’s gonna be really hard. I think it just how you pick yourself back up, isn’t it, it’s like, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get knocked down, you’re gonna get knocked down. Time and time again, things will go wrong, and just the ability to pick yourself back up again. And so I think just holding on to that for me, because I know I’m helping people. I know that it is like this business is divinely guided, it is meant to be a thing because it is for the good of others. And so I really have to stick with that. Because sometimes I’m like, Am I doing the right thing? Am I do have those moments? And I’m like, What am I doing? And then just remembering? No, this is helping people like thinking back to the reviews, thinking back to the kind words that people have had about the product about how much it’s emotionally supported them. And then I’m like, No, that’s right. If you’re here, it’s service. And I think is that Gary Vee that talks about, you have to be of service all day, every day be of service be of service be of service, and as long as you’re coming from that place, then that is how you can keep going. I think it’s bigger than Yeah.

Kara Goldin 28:21
I I love that. And that’s super great words of wisdom, terrific things to end on to we’ll have everything in the show notes for everybody to be able to purchase Skanties too. Thank you so much Susie for coming on and sharing and good luck with everything everybody needs to get at least a pair of these. They are so awesome. In just congratulations on everything that you’ve done.

Susie Taaffe 28:50
Thank you so much, Kara. It’s been great chatting to you today.

Kara Goldin 28:53
Yeah, you too. Thank you. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review. And feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week. And 2023 And goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where by A new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time, you’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight? Send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening