In 1977, Gale Epstein gave her friend Lida Orzeck a bra and panty set, handcrafted out of embroidered handkerchiefs. From there, a business idea was born. Today, Hanky Panky is a 50-million-dollar business, selling an average of one thong per second. Their talk with us is packed with advice, and to make it easier on you (who can take notes while listening?) we’ve pulled four of the best takeaways. Two are especially essential for anyone with a product to sell.
Protect Your Product
Apparel designs cannot be copyrighted in the United States, but Gale and Lida immediately trademarked their tagline, the “World’s Most Comfortable Thong®.” This step was crucial in protecting their promotional strategy.
Spread the Word
Gale and Lida never relied on professional publicity firms. In the early days of the company, they secured editorial features by tirelessly calling various magazines. They also personally reached out to department stores, both at home in New York City and on the West Coast.
If the Price Is Right
Hanky Panky has never had any outside investors. The current paradigm for startups often includes the infusion of venture capitalist funding. However, many women lack the resources or connections to proceed in this way. When working without financial backers, properly pricing the product for wholesale is essential to generating revenue.
Stay True to Your Values
More than 40 years in, Gale and Lida are not slowing down and have rejected all buyout offers from big-name corporations that prioritize profit over principle. That’s right, Hanky Panky remains run by its two founders and is entirely employee-owned, proof that it is possible to stay small while being big.