When Erin Mehagan had an idea for a product seven years ago, she had no clue her journey would be what it is today.
On April 12, Mehagan, a Greenville resident and founder of the underwire bra startup company Livi Lu Lane, had her products featured on the “Today” show on NBC-TV in an innovative undergarment segment.
Although Mehagan didn’t go on the show, undergarment educator Kimmay Caldwell introduced the brand.
Mehagan said Caldwell posted on Linkedin that she was working on an innovative undergarment segment for a national TV show, so she reached out to her, in turn, Caldwell asked for a virtual meeting.
“She was excited for the brand and recognized the need in the market for it,” said Mehagan. “She said ultimately the show producers get to choose, though, and we ultimately were one of the four brands that were chosen. It was absolutely wild. I didn’t think too much about making it on the show but rather just excited to meet someone with such experience and clout in the space who saw our vision and believed in the need for this product. I thought just reaching out to Kimmay could lead to other opportunities in the future, since the show has such a big audience.”
When she got the email that they were selected for the show, Mehagan said it was one of those “pinch me” surreal moments.
“And it’s been madness ever since,” she said.
Since the show, Livi Lu Lane increased significantly in sales, having the best week of sales times two.
A story of resilience in a male-dominated world
After three kids, the cup size Mehagan was used to wearing left a big gap between her skin and her bra. And if she wore the cup size that actually fit, it felt like she had no shape in her clothes. She struggled to find a solution to the problem she was experiencing with the available options on the market. From there, Livi Lu Lane was born.
Livi Lu Lane, which was officially launched in 2021, offers a bra with the option to add shape with bra inserts for a customized look based on individual preference and desire. The "fill up" bra and insert combination offer an option for those who may be unhappy with the size of their breasts or the changes they’ve experienced to their breast tissue from pregnancy, nursing, weight fluctuation, hormonal changes, or menopause.
Last month, Mehagan was also a panelist for the NEXT Women in Innovation panel when Greenville’s most innovative and influential women, who shared their stories of resilience and success in a world primarily dominated by men.
Livi Lu Lane is named after Mehagan’s three girls, not only their names but her journey following birth.
“Everything about Livi Lu Lane represents my personal journey and experience I went through when I had the inability to solve a problem I was having after having three children,” said Mehagan. “I know there are women out there struggling in the ways I was, and I want to give them an option to help boost their confidence and feel like themselves again. I was really disheartened when I was told my only option was to have drastic plastic surgery, and I think women deserve better than that. I wanted to bring solutions that can help and support women as their body changes and help them feel beautiful.”
Mehagan said she never wants to be another voice in the world telling women how they should look or feel by pushing an unrealistic body standard.
“I know my girls are going to hear that, so I want to be the voice that supports women and empowers them to make the best decisions they can for themselves, because that’s what they deserve,” she added.
Starting a company has been the most humbling experience of her life, said Mehagan, and continues to be daily. But there are challenges, too.
“Starting at ground zero, with no manufacturing or design background, I thought the idea would be the hardest part, but that’s not exactly how it worked,” she said. “The product was specifically hard to manufacture, and the manufacturing of underwire bras is a difficult process. There can be 34-36 different components, and special equipment is needed to manufacture them, so it wasn’t an easy product to develop. But when you connect with someone, who you have made a difference in their lives, it really makes all the difference and all those challenges worthwhile.”
Hoping the dots will connect in the future
From where Mehagan started until now, she said the success of Livi Lu Lane has looked completely different than she ever could have imagined.
“I had no idea what I was getting into, but I think there are blessings in being naïve and not understanding fully what you’re taking on,” Mehagan said. “There have been more peaks and valleys than anticipated, and it’s still early in our journey, too.”
Livi Lu Lane started with the underwire bra product line to see if there was a demand for the initial design and prototype. As this initial design is the only product available currently, the company is gearing up to launch a collection of wider size offerings, in addition to wireless and bralette options in three different styles with more sizes and colors. The new collection, although doesn’t have a name yet, is set to launch preorders this summer.
Mehagan said even though Livi Lu Lane started in intimates, she’s envisioned more for the company than a singular idea. For example, there is the demand and potential growth for such items as swimwear and loungewear that would stay true to the original idea behind the company — for women to have accessible options that make them feel beautiful and boost their confidence, not having to rely on surgeries as a solution.
“I try not to get too hung up on the nature of a startup,” she said. “You test and try to see what works and what doesn’t, and that’s how I built a better company and became a better leader. Without mistakes, we wouldn’t be on the path we are on now. You can’t connect the dots looking forward, only looking back, something I heard from Steve Jobs. Sometimes you make decisions based on your gut with no idea of how the future will look, bringing something innovative to the space that wasn’t available before, and there is a lot of uncertainty in that. But you hope the dots will connect in the future when you look back on it.”