Ranada Dalton is all about making people comfortable – in their own skin and in their clothes. Yet it’s her own discomfort that prompted a transition 12 years ago from a career as a therapist working for someone else to starting her own mental health practice and launching a bra line. Now, for this two-time entrepreneur, helping people feel good about themselves is just the right fit.
Dalton spoke with The Startup Ladies about her entrepreneurial journey founding Empowered Living Inc and BH Intimates.
What is Empowered Living Inc?
Empowered Living is a mental health practice. I have degrees in Psychology from Ball State University and Marriage and Family Therapy from Christian Theological Seminary.
The idea for Empowered Living formed when I realized I wasn’t going to find a workplace that would allow me to operate the way I wanted. I presented the idea to my former business partner and we launched Empowered Living Inc. in July 2010. We set out with three major goals: 1) empower individuals to achieve a better version of themselves, 2) decrease the stigma associated with mental illness, and 3) meet clients where they were.
What is BH Intimates?
BH Intimates stands for Beautifully Human Intimates. The company focuses on custom bras for band sizes 34-54 and cup sizes D-M. I am launching BH Intimates to create great fitting bras, specifically for an underserved population. I’ve personally been challenged by bra fits for 27 years, so I am the exact population BH Intimates is designed to serve.
It is estimated that 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. Of these women, 70% wear bras that are too small. – The Journal of Chiropractic and Osteopathy
You’re in an elevator with a potential investor. What’s your elevator speech?
Everyone is impacted by mental health in some capacity. Empowered Living Inc works to minimize the excuse to get the help needed by offering an array of services to meet clients’ needs.
Wearing a bra that fits changes how you feel about yourself. When you have the best fit for your body, you shouldn’t have to think about your bra, your breasts look great, and you look slimmer.
How is BH Intimates overcoming the common challenges of launching an apparel business?
I am making sure not to do too much too soon. I’m funding everything out of pocket currently. It would be easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged, but I just regroup and move forward.
Having the opportunity to pitch for external funding through PitchFeast featuring The Startup Ladies has helped me immensely.
I’ve increased my support system, moved the bra line ahead of where I initially planned, and it gave me the opportunity for proof of concept to answer, “Will they like it?”
Right now, we're collecting all kinds of feedback from prospective customers about what they love and hate about their current bras. Our first version that goes to market will be beautiful, comfortable, and affordable.
How do you handle the inevitable “but what if I fail” when it creeps in?
I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Even if I fail, there’s growth and success in failure. Worst-case scenario I have connected with several amazing people and gotten a few custom bras made in the process. I truly believe that if it wasn’t meant to be, God wouldn’t allow things to fall in my lap as they have. My advice for others is to step out on faith. I think it’s easy to get in your head and listen to the “stinking thinking.” We can’t allow those fears to hold us back. It’s also important to have accountability partners to help keep us on track and cheerleaders to pour into us.
What have been the best resources to help you as an entrepreneur?
To lead Empowered Living, operate a full schedule as a therapist, and launch BH Intimates, I rely on my planner and lots of support.
“The therapist in me loves the opportunity to speak with someone directly who will allow me to live in my curiosity.”
In addition to founding and running two businesses, you’re also both a traditional entrepreneur and a socialpreneur. How does this impact the way you operate?
It is such a major part of my personality to look at how others are impacted. I can’t help but incorporate that into the decisions I make. You can be both profitable in your business and impactful in your community.
For eight years Empowered Living has hosted a performance of The Vagina Monologues. This helps us raise money to continue to offer free or subsidized counseling to individuals without the means to pay for it, as well as supports the mission of ending violence against women and girls in our neighborhoods.
What’s been your biggest aha moment as an entrepreneur?
You must be smart enough to surround yourself with smart people that you can ask for help.
How has The Startup Ladies helped you as a business owner?
The Startup Ladies has provided alternative ways for me to look at business and helped increase my business knowledge. It’s always important to be stretched and taken outside your comfort zone. It’s also energizing to add the support and excitement of being in a room with so many entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs.
What is your five-year plan?
In one year, Empowered Living will have a 20% increase in clientele. I want BH Intimates to be wrapping up the testing phase of the bras and to launch. By year five, both companies should be thriving. I want to continue mastering skills in both companies to help them grow. Personally, I want to have increased confidence in myself as a woman, be operating debt-free, and to be in a position to give back as a socialpreneur at a higher level.