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Q&A with Keira Kotler, Founder of Everviolet

December 4, 2020

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds, raised funding, and are now leading successful companies.


Keira Kotler, founder and CEO of Everviolet, is changing the adaptive intimate apparel world, by creating elegant and functional lingerie for the needs of cancer and other postoperative women. 

A Boston native, Kotler relocated to San Francisco in 1999, where she worked as a brand director for retail clients in the home design and beauty industries. Leading those brands from concept to execution, she managed strategy to design and production to advertising, seamlessly bringing brick-and-mortar business into the e-commerce space. Kotler is also an esteemed artist whose paintings and photographs are represented in galleries throughout the U.S. and collected internationally.

I sat down with Kotler, virtually of course, to learn a bit more about why she founded Everviolet, the challenges she’s faced as an entrepreneur, and her advice for other entrepreneurs.


 

Q: What’s the story behind how you founded your company?

Everviolet was born out of my personal experience with breast cancer. Following a double mastectomy and reconstruction, I struggled to find comfortable, functional and beautiful intimate apparel to wear throughout the healing process and beyond. Pretty lingerie didn’t fit or caused pain, and bras designed for post-surgery were synthetic, scratchy and unattractive, literally adding insult to injury. 

The more I spoke with other women, the more I learned not only how universal this issue was, but also how far beyond clothing it went. The inability to start each day free of pain, discomfort or the reminder of what we had been through, was a barrier to emotional and psychological healing. 

I founded Everviolet with the mission to help women renew a sense of self and femininity following significant body changes, enabling them to feel like women first and patients last.

 

Q: What challenges did you face as an entrepreneur? How has Ureeka helped?

Like most bootstrapped small businesses, working capital is a challenge, and my original plan was to fundraise a seed round in April 2020. I paused this initiative due to COVID-19 and the unfavorable ethics around fundraising during a pandemic. I was introduced to Ureeka in June, however, and through the mentorship of co-founder Dave Jakubowski, I have since reframed the impact of the coronavirus in meaningful and relevant ways in our investor presentation. 

Through medical partnerships and the introduction of organic cotton, reusable face masks into our collection, Everviolet is now leaning further into our commitment to serve cancer patients and women post-surgery. Future growth will further support our medical partners and the immunocompromised community and their loved ones.

 

Q: What has been the biggest impact Ureeka has made on your business journey?

For the first time in my professional career, I have active mentors and one-on-one collaborators who are specific and hands-on. Over the course of conceptualizing, launching and building Everviolet, I have had many advisers offer sound, yet general, recommendations. However, none have been willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in to details to the extent that Ureeka mentors have. 

In addition to the learnings I’ve received through the Ureeka platform and conversations, it’s that feeling of support that has been the most profound. No one achieves success single-handedly, and I am personally learning that the more one can ask for assistance, input and guidance, the better we set ourselves up for success. 

 

Q: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in a similar situation?

Entrepreneurship is humbling. It’s a constant learning curve, and unless one has navigated similar roads prior, that curve is often fraught with ongoing lessons and mistakes. I knew from the start of Everviolet that success would require the expertise of people with skill sets different from my own. 

The best advice I would give another entrepreneur is to get really clear about what your strengths are and aren’t. Know which roles you’re most adept at playing, and surround yourself with other brilliant people who can complement those assets. Believe in the power of teamwork and allow everyone the freedom to be their best selves. Magic happens when intelligent minds come together. Trust that. 

 

Q: What was your biggest challenge during the fundraising process, and how did you rise above it? 

I am still in it. In fact, I am just beginning the fundraising process due to putting those plans on pause at the start of the pandemic. I can say that thanks to Ureeka, I feel a lot more confident in the investment opportunity I’m offering now than I did back then. But check back with me at the end of the year, and hopefully I’ll be able to share a lot more on this part of the process.

 

Q: There’s an old but common belief that women have to be twice as cutthroat as men to make it in business, do you believe this to be true? What has your journey looked like as a female founder?

Everviolet is lucky in that we’re a female-founded business, run by an all-women team that creates products for women. If anything, this positioning enables us to leverage our uniqueness and strengths as females. 

For example, because our product caters to people in vulnerable moments in their lives, our audience responds strongly to marketing that highlights authenticity, honesty and emotional transparency. 

Furthermore, because nearly everyone has been touched by cancer, directly or indirectly, our mission inspires quite a bit of compassion on the part of our partners, contractors and customers.  

 

Q: How have you grown as a leader since starting your company? 

The more success Everviolet has experienced, the more confident I have become as a leader. I have always had faith in my ability to create quality products, market them effectively and manage teams well. 

However, as a first-time founder, there have been many other hurdles to climb and lessons to learn. Thankfully, I trust in my intelligence and abilities, and I have the good sense to surround myself with brilliant partners and co-workers. I always say, if I can beat cancer, I can build a strong business. 

 

Q: How do you move through fear or hesitation as a decision-maker?

Because I wear so many different hats, I no longer have the luxury of being circuitous in my thinking or decision-making. My life experiences and role as a founder have helped cultivate my intuition, and I trust and lean on that heavily. 

When faced with a challenging decision, I often do a “gut check” and then sit with the conclusion a day or so before acting on it. Almost 100 percent of the time, my gut is my compass. That and my incredibly smart husband. 

 

Q: Lately everyone is talking about this concept of ‘disruption,’ what does that mean to you? 

I see disruption as breaking from the norm, challenging previously held assumptions, and paving the way for change. I always say that the one thing we can always expect is that things will change. And I believe this truth to be a good thing. 

Disruption, in the best meaning of the word, is about opening one’s eyes and encouraging new ways of thinking and perceptions to come forth, so that instead of remaining stagnant, we progress. 

 

Q: If you could change one thing you did when first starting your business, what would that be?

While my path has not been free of mistakes and misjudgements, I believe I am here because of the journey I took. I could go back and say that I regret hiring the designer that ripped me off or taking too long to develop samples, but had I not had those experiences, I would not be here. And I believe I am in the right place at the right time. 

While I will never say the pandemic is a good thing, I strongly believe that Everviolet is a better brand because of it. We have pivoted, rooted more deeply into what is important both for our customers and the world, and we are proud to be part of a movement of change for the better. 


Azizza Brinson headshot

Azizza Brinson has been a Media Relations and Strategy Specialist at Hotwire for the last 2 years where she works with tech companies driving results across media in the US. Prior to joining Hotwire, she has 5 years of public relations and digital media experience working with startups and large enterprises across the tech, entertainment, consumer/lifestyle, wealth management, and cannabis sectors. She received her Bachelor’s in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations at Georgia State University.