A woman from Barry who was inspired by her mother’s illness to launch her own lingerie range for women who have undergone mastectomies has won a £20,000 prize fund to kick start her business.
Catherine Williams, 23, came up with her business ‘O’Honii’ after her mother, Debbie, could only find bland mastectomy bras after having an operation when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Debbie found it difficult to find underwear that made her feel confident after her mastectomy, and Catherine realised this was a problem that many women who had survived breast cancer have to deal with.
It was then that Catherine had a light bulb moment and set out on a journey in May 2019 to create 40 different lines of bras tailored for women who have had part or all of their breasts removed.
Catherine recently presented her business idea to a live audience at the Baldwins Young Entrepreneur KickStart Awards, who voted for her idea ahead of two other candidates.
The Swansea University graduate has taken home the £20,000 prize – made up of £10,000 cash injection, and £10,000 worth of mentoring and business advice.
“I honestly didn’t expect to win but I was inspired on the night by another mother who had lost her son to cancer, which really fired me up in the presentation,” said Catherine.
“I am so excited about what the future holds now – this prize money will enable me to launch my business and start making a difference to other women’s lives.
“Over the past six months I’ve put a lot of time and energy into designing the bras, getting them to a prototype stage and establishing my supply chain, but I just needed extra funding and guidance on getting the product out there to start making an income.
“My sister has a background in fashion and my mum is a designer by trade, so I’ve taken inspiration from them both in my products – all of which appeal to a variety of age groups.
“My aim for year one is to establish an online platform where I can sell my products and stabilise the business. Then, in subsequent years, I hope to roll out the products into other stores with a view to opening a store of my own.
“I’m already in conversations with some big high street brands about my items. There are so many women who are in a similar position to my mum, and I’m encouraged that some big names are starting to pay attention to this part of the consumer market.
“It’s been a tough year for the whole family, so this victory is a culmination of the support we have shown for each other.”
Baldwins – a CogitalGroup company – have run the Baldwins Kickstart Awards for the past seven years, where 18 to 25-year-olds can share their business idea in a bid to win the £20k prize.
David Baldwin, board director at Baldwins, helped to shortlist the award finalists.
“Catherine’s resilience to turn a negative experience into a positive one is truly inspirational, and will help her as she starts her entrepreneurial journey.
“Her business idea identifies a clear gap in the market and has strong potential to scale up over time.
“We’re looking forward to working with Catherine over the coming months – whether it is to do with business compliance or identifying growth opportunities – so she has all of the foundations in place to make her venture a success.”