A Brisbane lingerie entrepreneur is defying tough markets by providing great service and by putting her assets to work for the business.
No one can question Karen Edbrooke’s survival instincts – in life or business.
After a near-fatal car crash in the early 1990s, the Brisbane woman put on 30kg while recuperating and could not get a bra to fit her.
Sensing a business opportunity after buying plus-size bras in the United States, she decided to import them into Australia.
“It was tough at the start,” Karen recalls. “With no Google and no mobile phone in those days, I’d go to the library, look through Yellow Pages and contact lingerie manufacturers. I knew exactly what was missing in the marketplace. But believe it or not, the first bra I brought in had nothing to do with big girls. It was a front-opening bra for the elderly and I still sell that bra 28 years later!”
Thanks to some smart financing options and a lot of hard work, Karen’s business, Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore, is a thriving lingerie and swimwear retailer for plus-size and curvy women.
With a new website (hits have soared), a virtual fitting service (customers can use Skype or Facetime to get a professional fitting from corsetiers in the comfort of their own home) and the launch of Big Girls TV (featuring live streaming of fashion parades with everyday Australian women as lingerie models), sales hit $4 million last financial year and are on track to double this year.
On the money
Great customer service aside, Karen says that taking decisive steps to address cash flow and working capital – the most common issues most small businesses will face – has been crucial to turning her ambitions into success.
For more than two decades, she has teamed up with ScotPac for Invoice Financing – an on-demand line of credit secured by one or more outstanding sales invoices.
With Invoice Financing, Karen has been able to convert her business assets (the invoices she issues) into a powerful and immediate source of cashflow.
Unlike most bank loans, this style of funding does not require personal assets such as the family home as security.
It has solved her challenge of having to pay upfront for products when customers take 30 to 60 days to pay.
“It was so easy to set up with ScotPac. We didn’t need to provide security, and when you see your suppliers are happy working with ScotPac and they’re getting their money, I’m happy,” Karen says.
Following Big Girls’ switch from wholesaling to direct distribution of lingerie products, ScotPac took the initiative to offer another funding option to suit Karen’s changing needs. The ScotPac Tradeline account improves her purchasing power throughout global markets and gives Big Girls a line of credit to pay suppliers.
Unlike traditional bank trade finance facilities, which can take months to get a decision, Tradeline is known for its quick approvals and can get clients up and running in as little as 24 hours.
Karen says the facility has given her the flexibility to buy bulk stock from overseas at cheaper prices and, in turn, maximise her sales profits and give her a competitive advantage.
“So, for example, when the United Kingdom dumps its summer stock I can buy it at a good price and sell it for our summer. I couldn’t do that without ScotPac.”
She adds that suppliers in international markets have more confidence in dealing directly with a reputable finance company such as ScotPac rather than a small business client, because of the higher levels of professionalism.
As a former loans manager with a major bank, Karen says she values the personal financing relationship she has forged with ScotPac over many years and would not swap it for dealing with banks or fintechs. ScotPac offers her the reliability of the banks combined with the speed and flexibility of the fintechs.
“ScotPac look after you. You’re not just a bank number.”
Watch this space
From a light-bulb moment almost three decades ago to a multi-million-dollar business, Big Girls Don’t Cry Anymore has come a long way.
Karen, now in her 50s, is still dreaming big and knows ScotPac can provide the funds to help her keep unlocking the business’s potential. With Big Girls TV driving online sales, she also wants to become the first lingerie shop to have a full-service coffee shop and a pop-up shop area for other small businesses to show off their products.
The threat from major online players such as Amazon is constant, but Karen says that on the back of ScotPac’s know-how and with her technology initiatives proving popular, she’s confident of keeping ahead of the local and international competition.
“We’ve been going for 28 years and it’s all about old-fashioned customer service. We are just doing things that they can’t do. I’m ahead of the curve.”