Undercover Mama founder, Elisa Op't Hof.
A thousand dollars can buy a lot of things. If you're Elisa Op't Hof, it can give you a business.
Undercover Mama began in 2008 when Op't Hof, now a mother of six with another on the way, harnessed her nursing wardrobe frustrations into a new idea. With less than $1,000, she created a modest way for mothers to nurse without buying a completely new wardrobe and being able to keep their bodies covered.
After she had her fourth child, she started asking friends what they were doing to combat nursing problems. None of the ideas worked for her. She eventually found out the ideal device for her situation would be a strapless camisole that can hook and unhook from her nursing bra to give her baby easy access. Op't Hof set the goal to launch her product by the time her newborn baby turned 1, and she hit the deadline the day before his birthday.
Op't Hof says the secret to Undercover Mama's success is understanding her market and finding the balance between motherhood and business ownership, which was difficult at first. She spends time homeschooling her kids in the morning and then has set business hours in the afternoon when things slow down with her family. "There's always that pull back and forth between the two," Op't Hof says.
In the beginning, she gained her business knowledge at her local library. Not long after the launch, however, Op't Hof found out she was pregnant again and had to spend some time away from the business. Even though she had put it on the back burner, the business continued to grow on it's own. "I thought it had proven itself as a good idea without me doing anything, so I knew I wanted to pursue it," Op't Hof says. "But I decided that I had to give up the idea that i could do everything myself."
In January 2010, she began working with her partner, Elena Leppard. Undercover Mama is now sold in hundreds of stores and all over the world, including Canada and Europe.
Models wearing Undercover Mama camisoles.
She stays connected with customers through social media, especially Facebook. Customers are asked what they would like to see, in regards to color and design. "We take [this feedback] very seriously," Op't Hof says. "Obviously we can't accommodate every taste, but we see what works and what doesn't work and if it would be a worthwhile thing overall. We really love our customer feedback."
Several colors are released each year, usually one to two in the spring and again in the fall. There are seven main colors, including hot pink, two lace styles (only available in black and white) and six limited edition colors.
A new style will be released in a few weeks.
Op't Hof says she started her business during the economic decline, but was still able to be successful because she didn't let all the excuses stop her. "Move forward without fear, do a lot of research and make sure that it is a good idea," Op't Hof says. "It was a long time before I took anything out of the business and I just kept that vision alive."