Kylie Boreham, founder of Powerpants by Bham, has created underwear with uplifting messages that aims to empower women by reminding them they are worthy of love. She spoke to Hive Life about her highly personal motivations behind her burgeoning business.
An estimated 35% of women worldwide have experienced either domestic violence or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Kylie Boreham, a Sydney-based mother of three, is one of them and it was her experience in the wake of her trauma that inspired her to create social enterprise Powerpants by Bham in 2019. “What really changed for me was when I started speaking kindly to myself and recognising that I am worthy of love and deserve to be happy,” she says. It’s an attitude she wants to share – and she’s doing it via pants emblazoned with uplifting messages.
“For a lot of women, when something like that happens, you’re in this state where you are missing somebody from your life,” says Kylie. “I was in a 5-year relationship that ended quite violently and it was a very long journey to recovery. I had plastic surgery to put my face back together because it was fractured in a number of places. The bruising and scars heal within a few weeks, but the emotional recovery was quite intense. When you’ve had someone as your life partner for five years and all of a sudden they’re sitting in prison, there’s this guilt that you feel because you played a big part in how their life turned out,” she recalls as she addresses the moment her life turned upside down. “For a while, I was scared of loud noises. I remember jumping out of my skin when a balloon popped one day. I was scared of any man that was angry in the workplace. It really petrified me.”
With over a decade in business development and an MBA under her belt, Kylie first began to contemplate entrepreneurship after having her third child. “I was taking a break from work at the time. I guess, after being really, really busy with little people, a full-time job and studying, I felt there was a question of, ‘What next?’” Driven by her personal experiences with domestic violence, she explains, “I really wanted the business to tie back into something that was important to me, so raising funds for female survivors of violence, but also recognising that the fashion industry is really driven by women and the majority of garment makers are women.”
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Having launched in April 2019, Bham is not your average underwear label. Offering customers both online monthly subscriptions and one-off purchases, they offer women underwear that makes you feel good about yourself in every way – with a corresponding affirmation card to match. Statements such as ‘I’m beautiful’ and ‘I’m brave’ are printed on the underwear to remind women they are loved. “Underwear was the obvious place for me to start,” says Kylie. “It’s when you’re alone and during private times like going to the bathroom to take a break from a busy day at work when you need that little reminder the most.”
Adopting a lean business model, Kylie has been focused on getting their minimum viable product out and the customer experience right – an endeavour which seems to be working. “Most of our customers are coming from word of mouth,” she says of the fledgeling business. “And, about 80% of our customers become repeat customers, either signing up for a subscription, or they’ll buy one pair and come back a week or two later and buy multiple packs.”
Beyond creating underwear designed to make women feel good in multiple ways, Kylie is determined to create a brand that will create a lasting impact on women’s lives in the places that need it the most. By partnering with an NGO in Papua New Guinea where violence rates against women are among some of the highest in the world, Bham donates AUD 1 to the Papua New Guinea Tribal Foundation for every pair sold, focusing on supporting projects involved in the empowerment, health and safety of women in the region. Kylie is also continuing to build her community by starting a blog called The Sistahood Project that details the survival stories of different women. “We’ve just launched our little blog that sits with the website. We spend quite a bit of time coming up with our affirmation cards and it’s an important part of our customer experience. It’s not just about receiving an affirmation that says ‘I’m strong’ on your underwear. We really immerse ourselves in these affirmations,” she says. And, for women currently suffering from low self-esteem or worse, Kylie has the following advice. “Women need to be really conscious of the way they speak to themselves and they deserve to feel love, feel worthy and feel happy.”