Getting your very first bra is a huge deal—even more so when you’re bombarded with sexy images before you’ve even reached puberty. When Wendy Herman, our NJMOMpreneur of the week, took her preteen daughter to look for her first bra she was at a loss—instead of seeing comfy styles for an active tween, she found racks of racy lingerie that neither fit the body nor the lifestyle of a young girl. That shopping trip would prove to be a game-changer for Wendy: With her experience in the industry (we’re talking Calvin Klein Underwear, people) and a goal of encouraging body positivity among growing girls, she created BRABAR, a junior intimate apparel brand and store for teens and young adults. We chatted with Wendy to learn how her daughter and entire family helped her launch BRABAR, the time her son taught her an alarming but important lesson about motherhood, and why Highland Park is such a fascinating place to raise a family.
Founder of BRABAR & NJMOMpreneur, Wendy Herman
NJMOM: What is BRABAR, and what makes it stand out from other bra brands?
Wendy: BRABAR is a brand for teenage girls, providing products and sizes of bras and underwear that are not readily available in stores. Primarily, we service ages 13 to 22—think middle school, high school, college and graduate school. We find that many people outside of the teen space actually wear the products, but we’re really focused on that age group.
NJMOM: Where do you live and vacation in New Jersey?
Wendy: I live in Highland Park, right outside of Rutgers University, and I vacation on Long Beach Island.
You could be really hard on yourself, but just be present in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. When you’re working, be in the moment, and when you’re being a mom, be in the moment. ” —Wendy Herman, BRABAR Founder
NJMOM: Was there an “aha!” moment that pushed you to open up BRABAR?
Wendy: It was a compilation of “aha!” moments related to the bra shopping experience with my daughter. I have three children—but when my daughter was 13 (she’s 18 now), she was reaching puberty and ready to start shopping for bras. When I started shopping with her, it made me look at the intimate apparel category from a different point of view—we were looking for bras and underwear that were not readily available in any store. I knew what to buy for her, and I still couldn’t find it.
NJMOM: How does BRABAR encourage self-love and acceptance among its young women clientele?
Wendy: I think what we’re really saying is that we represent the whole girl—what she does, how she spends her time and what she wants to accomplish. We ask, what are your dreams, goals and aspirations—are you a dancer, a coder or a gymnast? The girl we’re representing is a dynamic individual with a busy, active life. At BRABAR, we believe that comfort is the foundation of confidence. Giving our teens the appropriate product gives them the ability to be their best self. She’s not her body, she’s somebody. In the store, we have the opportunity to ask teens what they do in their life. We can figure out why she needs these products, and what they’ll do for her, taking the adult lingerie aspect out of bras and underwear.
NJMOM: What is the best aspect, or biggest perk, of owning BRABAR?
Wendy: Having something I believe in, and to see it come to life, while sharing that with people I love. In this case, it’s a double blessing. All of my kids helped me start BRABAR: My daughter helped with the fitting, picking out colors, samples, sizes, while my boys helped with the tech in the store, laying things out and setting it all up. Their touches are all over this project, and they’ve learned the reality of hard work.
NJMOM: What is the most rewarding part about working for yourself?
Wendy: It’s being able to spend different kinds of time with my family, and with a type of flexibility that I didn’t have before. I’ve also enjoyed the meaningful interactions I’ve had with our customers: I’ve loved seeing the impact I’m making first-hand. I couldn’t always do that when I was working for someone else and a part of a larger organization.
NJMOM: If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
Wendy: To chill out a little. Some things that seem so big and so important at one moment are barely a memory now.
NJMOM: Tell us one of your most memorable mom moments.
Wendy: One story that immediately comes to mind is about my oldest son. He’s pretty crafty, and one day he went into our garage and got out an old vacuum. He took it apart, took the motor out and duct taped the motor to a broom pole. He plugged it in and started using it as a weed whacker, cutting down weeds! On one hand, I’m applauding his innovation and creativity. And on the other hand, there’s a spinning motor with blades right near his hand just taped to a broom pole. As a parent, you’ll feel split on two different sides—I was celebrating his brilliance but also internally freaking out.
NJMOM: What’s the best part about being a mom?
Wendy: My husband and I joke that raising our kids is like putting a little bit of my husband and I mixed up in a blender. Together, we see the good and bad in everything. I see my job as a mom kind of like being the bumpers in the bowling alley. The ball is going down the lane and aiming at pins and thank God those bumpers are there. They don’t have to knock all the pins over, but I’m the bumper that keeps the ball in the lane.
NJMOM: Tell us your family’s favorite go-to New Jersey spots.
Wendy: Overall, I’d probably say that I love to frequent anywhere in downtown Highland Park or New Brunswick. We are in a unique place because of its proximity to the University, with so many diverse people that live and work here and bring their cultures to our area. We often walk across the bridge from Highland Park into New Brunswick which is always a highlight because it’s such a beautiful route. In the summers, we spend our days at Long Beach Island, where we’ve brought our kids since they were young
NJMOM: Who’s your role model? What’s the best piece of advice they ever gave to you?
Wendy: When I worked at Calvin Klein Underwear, I went to a Women and Leadership Conference, and Nike CEO Mindy Grossman (who’s now the CEO of Weight Watchers) spoke about being a mom and trying to have it all. What she said has always stuck with me—that we can’t do everything well at the same exact time. When we’re juggling work and home life, we might not be hitting all the cylinders, but we still should celebrate what we’re doing well at that particular moment. Sometimes you feel like you’re a great mom, but not a great boss, or vice-versa, and we have to accept that it’s okay to feel like that.
NJMOM: Any tips for a new NJMOMpreneur who’s just starting their own business while taking care of their family?
Wendy: Try to stay positive and continue to keep your eye on what you’re trying to accomplish. You should give yourself credit for the small wins. With BRABAR, I feel like we have 12 flights to climb, and right now we’re on the second story staircase, and I feel good about that, but we still have a long way to go. Other moms and entrepreneurs have to look at their vision ahead, not just what they haven’t done yet. You can be hard on yourself, but just be present in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. When you’re working, be in the moment, and when you’re being a mom, be in the moment.