Life is going to get a lot more interesting tomorrow for Rochelle Behrens, the 28 year-old designer of The Shirt, a women's button down shirt with hidden inner buttons that prevent 'gapage' around the bust (sorry, guys, no more sneak peeks for you!). Behrens, a former Washington, DC lobbyist, was inspired by her own frustration with finding shirts that fit properly. 'I was pinning my shirt one morning before work, and it was hole poked and wrinkled where I was trying to pin it,' she recalls. 'And I had a flash of inspiration.' She filed a patent, had a prototype made in 2008, went into production with a few hundred shirts, and managed to drum up a good bit of publicity. By mid-2009, she had quit her job and was working on The Shirt full-time. Behrens developed a small but devoted following; Fred Segal started carrying her shirts last October. Bloomingdales will follow soon.
Then, just last November, Behrens leveraged a cocktail party connection to get her shirt into the hands of folks at the Oprah Winfrey Show. To her amazement, 'they called me back in 24 hours,' she says. 'They said they loved the shirt and they wanted to include it on the show.' The segment, called 'The Five Things You Need to Do in 2011,' has already been taped and airs tomorrow, Jan. 13. And that's when Behrens expects her life and her company to change dramatically. 'It's the most phenomenal way to jump-start your business as an entrepreneur,' she says. 'When you get a call like, this, everything has to have so much more clarity. And you have to learn how to scale quickly.' In anticipation of tomorrow's 'O' effect, Behrens has:
Ramped up production with her manufacturing facility, based in Spain. Several thousand shirts, in all styles and colors, have been made and are being shipped from Europe to her warehouse in the U.S. More fabric is in the works.
Begun to outsource fulfillment and distribution to a company in Andover, MA.
Expanded her web-hosting platform. The Shirt's website was re-launched with a new hosting company to make sure that the backend is as secure as possible. 'There's also more functionality so that I can communicate with customers,' says Behrens.
Hired a sales team to build out wholesale distribution. She's already nailed down a deal with Bloomingdales and hopes to attract more attention from retailers after the show airs.
'I've spend the past month honing in on how to make the transition as seamless as possible,' Behrens says. 'The big focus has been on infrastructure. This is the opportunity of a lifetime without that much time to prepare. I'm not totally aware of the obstacles ahead and that's what's keeping me optimistic. It's go time for me.'
Stay with us here as we chronicle Behrens' entrepreneurial journey and the impact that Oprah has on her company. How would you prepare for the 'O' effect?
DONNA FENN | Inc.com Contributing Editor
Donna Fenn is the author of Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.