This Entrepreneur Couldn’t Find A Bra That Fit So She Created An Algorithm That Could


Four years ago, Orit Hashay was the definition of a multi-tasker. She was visibly pregnant and working her tail off to raise funds for a new start-up – Brayola.com, “the world's smartest personal bra shopper." There are lots of bras out there. So why put yourself through the paces for another one? That answer is simple - Fit. So what made and continues to make Brayola so special in that department? An algorithm that matches every woman to the exact right one.

That algorithm is so effective that in 2016, the company hit a $10 M revenue run rate by the end of the year. And if things keep going as planned, Hashay expects the company to hit a $27 M run rate through this year. Brayola has raised $5 M in Series A financing.

Today you'll find her on Forbes' “10 Female Founders To Watch Out Of Israel" list and listed as one of TechCrunch's “Three Israeli Femme-preneurs To Keep an Eye On." Clearly, it's one heck of an algorithm.

Being the entrepreneurial problem solver that she is, Hashay wanted to find a way to make bra shopping simpler.

Orit Hashay was raised in an ultra-Orthodox family in Petah Tikva in Israel, but, she explains, she “bolted at age 15 for a secular high school." As a kid, she was quite the opposite of what she is today. Then she was as shy as could be. “I mean, really shy, I couldn't even get myself to order food in a restaurant!" But now, she says, she loves “to be on stage discussing what it took for me to get where I am."

Hashay became interested in the lingerie biz because, ironically, she wasn't interested in the bras she was finding. Being the entrepreneurial problem solver that she is, Hashay wanted to find a way to make bra shopping simpler.

“I did not like bra shopping and I thought I could make it better," says Hashay. "I would always leave stores feeling frustrated—some bras I tried on immediately land in the 'no' pile because they were ill-fitting or just off. Others might have looked perfect on, but as soon as I put on my shirt, the silhouette was not quite right. You know how it goes—some bras fit in size, but you can end up looking squashed, separated, droopy, too big, too small…the list is endless!"

When she was growing up, of course, Hashay didn't even give herself the luxury of dreaming about a career, “because in an Orthodox culture like the environment I was brought up in I never saw women having careers. I did know that I wanted to be the boss of my life and have the freedom to say what I wanted."

Hashay is no stranger to tech. She trained as a software developer and, over the course of ten years, launched mit4mit, an Israeli consumer wedding services review site; Ramkol, Israel's leading local reviews site; and Vetrinas, a virtual window on hundreds of stores worldwide. She then joined Israeli venture capital firm Carmel Ventures as an investment manager before founding Brayola, where she had the chance to really see how its portfolio of internet companies got off the ground.

It certainly wasn't easy as a woman pitching to predominantly male venture capitalists about the woes of bra shopping, Hashay says.

“I needed to have both guts and patience," Hashay remarks. "Men don't necessarily know the frustrations that bra shopping can bring, so being persistent and unafraid of shocking the audience helped me get through the initial hesitation that came with pitching a technology targeted specifically to women. In conclusion, I'll leave you with this: Yes, it will be difficult, but difficult does not mean impossible."

A lot of companies are now claiming they offer the perfect bra and the perfect fit. But, Hashay says, Brayola prides itself on being the first online lingerie shop to match women with bras based on their personal sizes, tastes and styles. To date, their algorithm has analyzed more than 50 million data points shared by women, which combined with our Bra Matching technology, has helped them achieve return rates 10 percent below the industry benchmark. With the goal of becoming the smartest way for women to shop for bras, Hashay says, they already carry countless best-selling brands in a size-inclusive range that spans from 28A to 58N.

Raising money as a female founder of a bra startup was incredibly difficult, Hashay explains. It may be 2018, she says, but the tech industry is still predominantly male. She adds, "not to mention, when I was raising money, I was several months pregnant, so some advisors and potential investors asked me if I'd want to revisit this conversation when was I 'less occupied."

"While the investors liked my ideas, they seemed preoccupied with the prospect of my impending motherhood and how it might change my priorities," the Founder explains. "They suggested I wait, which was not in the cards. I didn't want to take money from people that were trying to convince me that I wasn't sure about starting a business that I knew I was passionate about."

Her fundraising advice is simple. “Don't give up and don't take no for an answer!" she says. "Difficult does not mean impossible. There will always be people who will doubt you and your abilities, but it's up to you to prove them wrong. For me, my pregnancy cast doubt in a lot of investors' minds, but I remained passionate about my ideas and confident in my business plan and eventually, they came around. As long as you believe strongly in your ideas, stick to your guns, and put in the hard work, the results will come. I was persistent, using all my patience and guts to push through regardless of the skepticism of what I was trying to do. I have worked as an investor as well as a striving entrepreneur. I know how hard it can be, especially in a male-dominated world. However, I consistently ignored the fact that it is hard and I didn't take no for an answer. Any difficulty that I had, I found a way to resolve it."

Hashay says that seeing the functioning site and the algorithm out there in the real world working to help women find the best bras felt – and still feels – amazing. “You know I founded Brayola when I was pregnant, my body was changing, and bra shopping was the last thing I wanted to do. With my background in software development, I knew I could make bra shopping easier for myself and for women like me. And it makes me so incredibly happy knowing that not only have I accomplished this goal, but I'm helping women feel more comfortable and confident when they shop for bras."

Although this isn't necessarily how Hashay imagined her life. She says it's sure how she hoped it would be. She dreams, naturally, of continuing to grow Brayola, enjoying her family and friends, and, she says, “I'd like to inspire other women to strive for their dreams!" Her work has been full of happiest surprises. But, Hashay says, “I think just the sheer growth we were able to achieve has made me the happiest. Especially because of the speculation we were faced with!"

As for Hashay's advice for turning your own dreams into a reality, Hashay says, “Never give up, and don't take no for an answer! There will always be someone telling you you're not good enough, your ideas are not good enough, but if you learn to tune those out and persevere, you will succeed."

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Patriarchy Stress Disorder is A Real Thing and this Psychologist Is Helping Women Overcome It

For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.

As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.

Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.

What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein

This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.

Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.

Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.

In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.

"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."