Women in Business
Whether they organize half-million dollar events or invent high-tech lighting, these women are changing commerce.
Research assistance by Jennifer Bray and Stephanie Ostroff Published October 9, 2008 at 07:39 AM
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Susan Ledyard has streamlined her luxury shapewear business into a sleek success.
If you shop Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, read Oprah’s magazine or watch “ShopNBC,” you’ve likely seen Susan Ledyard’s undergarments.
Or should we say the shapewear created by her Chadds Ford-based business, CASS and Co.
The newfangled girdles—which help women appear slimmer in all the right places—are not simply underwear, outerwear or swimwear. They’re everywhere.
Ledyard’s stylish invention has put more women in shape than Suzanne Somers. “There’s no grass growing under our feet,” says Ledyard. “We’re shipping 100,000 units per year.”
Ledyard founded CASS and Co.—named after her oldest son—in 2004. Giving birth to a strapping second son left her with what she calls “well-deserved body bulges.” She put her experience in design and business management together to create a product that would help women “take care of the muffin top,” or roll of fat just above the belt.
Ledyard’s mother and sister were in the fashion business and Ledyard lived in Italy for a year after graduating from Concord High School, “so I have a good sense of fine fabrics,” she says.
Ledyard developed strategic stitching sewn into smart fabrics that support the bust and trim the waist. Ledyard had the technology, called Invisupport, trademarked. She received a patent last summer.
Ledyard first marketed her shapewear through local businesses such as Peter Kate Shoes in Greenville and Bare Essentials in Talleyville. “I did research through Peter Kate and sold 88 pieces right off the bat,” she says. “We sold 35,000 units the first year.”
The company made $1.5 million in 2006. The success led to Ledyard’s appearance on “The Big Idea,” a CNBC show that profiles successful entrepreneurs. CASS and Co. has received tons of publicity in national fashion magazines and in most other media.
The company, which celebrates its fifth anniversary in January, has accomplished quite a bit with seven employees. “We’re a big company with a small company’s attitude because we like to pay attention to the details,” Ledyard says.
As president, Ledyard manages operations, customer service, accounting, sales and marketing—and designs the garments.
“I love having my hands in it,” she says. “I know the way it should be run. I know it shows through in the end.”
on the horizon Ledyard says she is working on a licensing agreement with a celebrity stylist. CASS and Co. recently opened a showroom at 183 Madison Avenue in New York City. It already had a showroom in Dallas. “We also have a growth initiative in Europe,” Ledyard says. “And in January, we’re participating in one of the finest shows in Paris.”
Page 2: Women in Business | Michelle R. Brown