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#UpWithHer: Dressing room disaster spurred friends to conquer entrepreneurship with maternity line

Shocked by the limited choices in athletic maternity wear, Loren Heller and Hillary Cullum leaned into their retail roots and began designing.

DALLAS — The frustration of shopping for maternity clothes inspired two best friends to make it easier for expectant moms to find the perfect fit. 

Loren Heller and Hillary Cullum launched Berkley Clothing in 2020. They shared their brand-building strategies and how honesty helped them grow their business in this #UpWithHer. 

Heller and Cullum met 15 years ago working retail. Both were accepted to Neiman Marcus' executive development program, and they’ve been besties since.  

"The executive development program was to say, cutthroat would be an understatement. We busted our butts," Heller said. 

A boot camp of sorts, their business would benefit from more than a decade down the road. But a dressing room disaster spurred the friends to conquer the world of entrepreneurship.  

"I resorted to the desperation move that a lot of women make, which is I bought non-maternity clothes two sizes too big that weren’t designed for me, and didn’t make me feel good and certainly weren’t very comfortable," Heller said. 

Shocked by the limited choices in athletic maternity wear, Heller and Cullum leaned into their retail roots and began designing.  

"Just because you give birth doesn’t mean you’re done with your pregnancy journey. You’re still healing in this post-partum period, so we wanted to ensure our garments were able to support the new mom during this time and add life to our product," said Cullum. 

With the goal of making maternity moms feel stylish and comfortable, they launched their line with a staple – leggings! 

"The early days of Berkley involved the two of us getting together at one of our houses with our laptops and looking at each other," said Heller. 

Between stares, they spent hours making cold calls, researching, and writing a business plan 

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"We were able to identify and say where the areas are where we know we’re going to need help and where we know we’re going to need to spend some money to hire outside consultants or advisors to help us because you can’t be an expert in everything," said Cullum. 

"There are a number of free resources online to help you identify what a business plan is. We leveraged lots of different free online platforms that outlined the questions that you would need to answer to build the business plan," said Heller. 

Helping them define Berkleand their business relationship, they even createa strategy to help them work through disagreements.  

"We have to be completely honest with each other and if we don’t agree we have to speak up, so it doesn’t build up," said Cullum. 

"Setting out on that foot, the same way you would in a marriage was one of the best things we ever did," said Heller. 

The next best thing? Recognizing consumers interact with brands differently now.  

"Our consumer wants genuineness even down to our photography," said Heller. 

All Berkley models are pregnant, with no fake baby bumps online or on social media.  

"At this point in our lives we can say that what we’re doing isn’t just developing a clothing line it's making women feel confident and beautiful in their skin during this really important time of their lives," said Heller. 

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"Anything is possible. I think the power of patience I’ve learned a lot of that. There’s so much time that we’ve put into this and it’s just now coming to fruition, and it was not overnight," said Cullum. 

Considering going into business with a partner, Heller and Cullum said it helps to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, take an Enneagram Personality Test.  

Berkley Clothing carries two different styles of leggings, Heller and Cullum named a pair after their moms. They’re working on launching a top and expanding beyond direct to consumer in 2021.