Haralee Weintraub “carried the bag” for years as a pharmaceutical sales representative and sales manager. Meeting with doctors and discussing effective drugs for health problems turned out to be perfect training when, years later, Haralee went through treatment for breast cancer and struggled with the side effects of hot flashes and night sweats. She loves telling people about the day she was running an educational “lunch and learn” session with a group of doctors when a hot flash struck. Later, in the ladies room mirror she saw the remains of her drawn-in eyebrows trailing down the side of her cheeks. Haralee knew this was coming in her 50’s when she would go through menopause (an estimated 80% of menopausal women experience these symptoms), but she wasn’t ready for them a decade sooner.
During the day, Haralee found sports attire that wicked away sweat as she skied and hiked, but nighttime was a different story. Often drenched at 2 a.m. and needing to change the sheets, Haralee decided that pajamas should offer the same wicking benefit that was fast becoming the norm for athletic wear. This is when Haralee quite literally put it all together as she began cutting up athletic sportswear and making nightgowns.
In 2004, while still working for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Haralee “Cool Garments for Hot Women” was born. This decision turned out to be prescient when Pfizer bought Wyeth in 2008 and her sales force was discontinued. Haralee could then devote herself to her new business and end the worry about whether she was doing a good job in both places.
Four years later, the company is profitable and has created full-time employment for two people, including health benefits. Gone are the days of endless travel. Her company operates out of her home in dedicated space and her quality of life couldn’t be better.
To get this far, Haralee had to overcome significant manufacturing challenges—the “secret sauce” to her business. Her line of pajamas and pillowcases are made from specialized material that isn’t abundantly available and when sewn requires unique production equipment. Finding a production facility that could produce her product line with consistent results proved to be harder than her business plan (developed with a volunteer at the local SBDC in Portland, Oregon) projected.
Her tenacity and geography are what saved her in the end. Haralee’s company is in Portland, Oregon—home to Nike. In the past few years, many former executives left to start their own companies and this caused new production facilities to spring up. With a good deal of shoe leather and her network, she found the one that was the right fit.
Competition has been another factor, but Haralee’s decision to remain primarily web-based has saved her from the fate of some of her competitors who sold to retail via wholesalers and have since gone under. Large inventories are necessary for this type of distribution and, if sales are weak, maintaining such an inventory can sink a small business.
The only thing missing for this small business is an effective network. Haralee would love to connect with others who are serious about their businesses. She just joined the CareerFuel community to help others just starting out and to connect with some new, like-minded entrepreneurs—she hopes to see you there!