This month we caught up with MAKEMERRY creator Dr. Katie Deming. Through working as a radiation oncologist, Deming noticed many of her patients were having trouble finding undergarments that didn’t irritate their skin. Dissatisfied with with ineffective and poorly designed options available to her patients, she took matters into her own hands.
Delving deeper into what it means to be a female entrepreneur, the challenges of diving headfirst into a new industry, and how to stay motivated and inspired, here's how MAKEMERRY came to be in Dr. Deming's own words.
You’re already treating and supporting women with cancer, what inspired you to go beyond the doctor’s office and create MAKEMERRY?
I have watched my patients suffer because most bras and camisoles irritate their sensitive skin. For years, I problem solved with them: cutting out soft pieces of cotton to put inside their bras, turning their camisoles inside out or putting panty liners on the seams of the underarm area. Finally, I realized that I understood this problem better than anyone else and needed to solve it for my patients. I had no experience in fashion or apparel manufacturing but committed myself to creating a solution.
What’s the transition been like from radiation oncologist to radiation oncologist - clothing designer?
In a word? Humbling! The apparel world is complicated and an 'insider's' industry. I was clearly an outsider when I started this project and most people did not take me seriously. That is why I am so grateful to Rosemary and Britt at PGF. They are great to work with and were so patient with me in the early phase of prototype development. Since then, I have learned a ton and realized that fashion is very different from medicine. If you don't get something right in medicine, it is a big deal. In fashion, what can go wrong will go wrong. It's almost expected that mistakes will happen. To survive, you need to roll with the punches and problem solve constantly. For me, it is critical that I have a partner in the fashion industry who lives and breathes apparel manufacturing. My area of expertise is in product development and I really needed someone with complementary skills to bring my products to market. My collaboration with Dana Donofree of AnaOno has been so fulfilling because it allows me to practice medicine and develop new products. I could never do this all alone. Strategic partnerships are the key to success in any industry and this has certainly been the case with MAKEMERRY.
Currently, who and what do you draw inspiration from? When you wake up in the morning, what pops into your head and gets you saying, “Today is my day!”
I am a very visual person and need to be surrounded by beauty. Fortunately, I am married to a graphic designer and we have made our home and life very design-centric. Inspiration is everywhere, but it takes deliberate effort to foster creativity in your life. We schedule inspirational adventures - travel, architecture, art, music and nature. I also make time for habits that help my creative process. I meditate every morning and exercise daily. It has taken me years to realize that I am creative and even longer to figure out the best way to foster inspiration. Having a partner who understands and supports this process has been instrumental to my creative development.
What is one thing you know to be true? What drives you to keep doing what you’re doing, even on the hard days?
I have the benefit of being surrounded by people with cancer. Everyday they remind me of what is important in life. Here are a few truths that keep me on track.
1. Life is short: Do what you love.
2. Be authentic: There will never be another 'you'. Be yourself and own it.
3. The best things in life don't come easy: Work hard. Adapt. Keep going.
4. People matter: Nurture supportive relationships. Let go of toxic ones.
What advice, if any, do you have for other female entrepreneurs out there?
Keep putting one foot in front of the other. There are many days when you will feel like you are going nowhere or even backwards. The progress of an entrepreneur is not linear. You are moving forward even if you can't see it. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and remind yourself that you are a #badass!
So grateful to Dr. Deming for her time, wisdom, and dedication to helping women in our community and beyond fight cancer.