Allison Jenkins Schickel wanted a robe with a built-in bra to provide support after she got out of the shower.
When she couldn’t find one, she created it by sewing a sports bra into a bathrobe.
Schickel took the bathrobe bra combination to Fredericksburg for a girl’s weekend wine trip and her friends fell in love with it. They called it the Brobe. The name stuck.
The following year, Schickel’s friend Wendy was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and The Brobe took on a whole new meaning. Wendy told Schickel about the need for a hospital robe that could support the drains women have after undergoing surgery. The existing robes were “ugly as hell, overpriced, and not made from a nice material,” Schickel said.
“They were only focused on the sickness,” Schickel said. “They were not focused on wellness.”
The women recovering from breast cancer surgery needed something to make them feel beautiful and to give them their power back, Schickel said. So, she created The Brobe, a “bra” and “robe” combination with pockets for ice packs, prosthetics, drains, and more.
“I wanted to do something that mattered,” Schickel said.
Schickel officially launched the company in 2012 and to date, “Brobe’s functional and fashionable post-surgery apparel has reached more than 50,000 customers and garnered sales of $2.7 million.”
Last week, Schickel launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine with the goal of raising $1.2 million. So far, the company has been bootstrapped and running on revenue along with a $150,000 Small Business Association loan from PeopleFund.
Schickel has secured three U.S. patents on The Brobe and two in the United Kingdom and two in Germany. The company was also selected as one of ten companies nationwide to participate in a 2017 fellowship cohort with the Tory Burch Foundation in New York. It also participated in the Monarq Incubator and Quake Capital’s Fall 2018 cohort in Austin.
Brobe sells direct to consumers online at retailers like Amazon. It also sells directly to plastic surgery centers, lingerie boutiques, and hospital systems.
Brobe started off focused on functional fashionable adaptive clothing for breast cancer survivors but has since expanded to helping people recovering from other major surgeries like open heart, organ transplant surgery, vasectomies, and more, Schickel said. Today, 70 percent of her sales are non-breast cancer related, she said.
The company also recently launched the Elliot Superhero Robe for children who are undergoing treatment at the hospital.
Schickel plans to use the funds raised from the crowdfunding campaign to buy more inventory because she’s not able to meet the demand for her product right now, she said. The Brobes are made in a factory in Shenzhen, China. She ran into supply chain problems during the pandemic and her inventory actually sat on a ship in the ocean for four months. Now that manufacturing and supply chain problems have subsided, Schickel is ready to ramp up production and inventory.
“I just keep pushing forward,’ Schickel said.