Bonnie-Jill Laflin, Ageless
NBA Scout, Sportscaster, and Founder of Hounds and Heroes
In the all-male realm of the NBA, Bonnie Jill-Laflin became the first-ever and only female NBA scout after years of dealing with the onus of the perpetual “boy’s club.” Adding to this gender disadvantage was her previous career in modeling and cheerleading which, she says, created further barriers between herself and her male counterparts. “The stereotypes of being the first female brought on a lot of scrutiny, judgement and jealousy,” she remarks, adding that it was ultimately this gender-based bias that pushed her to get where no woman has gone before. She shoots, she scores!
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I've been in love with sports since I was a child and would attend games with my father from baseball to football to basketball. I knew I would make sports a part of my life and career. My biggest professional achievement is the honor of being the first and only female scout in the NBA. I am also incredibly proud of my non-profit organization, Hounds and Heroes. My charity combines both my passions of animal welfare and supporting our troops.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
The stereotypes associated with being the first female brought on a lot of scrutiny, judgement and jealousy. From bad write ups in the media to dealing with the bad attitudes in the workplace. This was only made more intense because of my background as a model and NFL/NBA cheerleader, in that many people made the assumption that I was hired for my looks, rather than my knowledge of both the game, players and the business of the NBA.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
Having to constantly deal with this until I was accepted by the "boys club". One of the few humorous stories to come from it was when I was at a game for the Lakers' Developmental Team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders where I was the assistant GM.
The players were all throwing their usual smack talk around, when everyone heard, "Oh yeah? Well, our boss is cuter than your boss." It wasn’t exactly the kind of attention I was looking for, but in retrospect, it was pretty funny.
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
I did the job. Seriously. I worked harder and longer hours. I traveled to as many colleges as I could and I dug through every player in the country until I could find those who would not only play well, but could fit into the triangle offense, culture and mindframe unique to the then-World Champion Lakers Organization. I met with sports reporters and writers who started the interviews with the intent to dismiss me and demonstrated that I knew the job until they changed their minds. I trusted that the people who hired me (namely Dr. Jerry Buss, Jeanie Buss and our GM Mitch Kupchak) would remember WHY they had hired me and would let me do my job. And they did. They believed in me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Never give up on your dreams and push harder to prove the skeptics wrong...those people should give you the drive to want to succeed. You should never give up no matter how hard it gets, you must believe in the end something beautiful will happen and it will all be worth it. Regardless of gender you can do whatever you put your mind to. Don't Dream It..Be It!!!
Laflin and co.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.