"Nobody puts curvy in the corner," says Hear Us Roar founder and CEO Blaise McCann, whose plus-size fashion marketplace has hit $10,000 in sales in just three months without any advertising spend.
Blaise, a UTS Bachelor of Communications graduate, set up Hear Us Roar this year after having worked as a plus-size model for the past 10 years. She was frustrated with fashion choices that were "boring, expensive and aimed at older women."
Now her goal is to hit $500,000 in revenue in the next year and diversify into streams such as styling and distribution.
Blaise has already appeared on Sunrise and in The Daily Telegraph and been approached to appear on Shark Tank.
To give her impetus for the next achievement she was awarded the $5,000 top prize at the UTS Hatchery Accelerate Demo Day last week.
Hear Us Roar was one of 10 UTS-founded startups to pitch in front of a panel of judges: Samantha Wong, Partner, Blackbird Ventures; Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, CEO, BlueChilli, and Margaret Maile Petty, Executive Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UTS.
Blaise says the best part of the Hatchery Accelerate program has been access to the "phenomenal" mentors and support from fellow founders in the cohort.
"Being around people who are thinking the same way and are all driving their businesses forward has been so valuable, especially as a solo founder. It can be hard to stay motivated but everyone is pumped about their business so we all feed off each other."
Blaise, who has been juggling running Hear Us Roar with working full-time at a virtual reality startup, plans to put the prize money towards advertising to capitalise on the pre-Christmas sales period. Her long-term goal though, is to establish her own fashion line and for Hear Us Roar to become the go-to global curvy fashion marketplace.
Her advice to other emerging startup founders? "You have to have a vision, because you'll get different advice from lots of people, so you have to be driven forward by your own strategy.
"People should also take opportunities like Hatchery Accelerate, even if the timing might not seem right. They should be prepared to sacrifice a lot, because starting a business isn't just a fun little thing you do on the side - you have to put everything into it."
Demo Day judge Samantha Wong says Hear Us Roar stood out because Blaise had identified a deeply painful problem for a substantial cohort of the population that was neglected by mainstream retail. "This is really a juicy market hidden in plain sight," she says.
"It's clear she really understands her customer. My advice to her, though, is to think about how she can grow bigger, faster and build long-term defensibility around her offering – Amazon and others are never far behind. I'm looking forward to seeing how far she can go."
Additional Demo Day prizes were awarded to:
●theSmart - take control of design reviews and make engineering fun again. Co-founder Mark Cameron - UTS Civil Engineering. 2nd place, $3,000.
●Make My Piece - create custom furniture online. Co-founder Abishek Bhandari - UTS Business. 3rd place, $1,000.
●Mashay - connecting groups of users with unique real world experiences. Co-founder Rob Price - UTS Business. People's Choice $1,000.
UTS's Margaret Maile Petty says, "At UTS we see entrepreneurship as critical in building mindsets that empower students, alumni and staff to draw on their passions, develop their skills and create the jobs of the future for themselves and others. It's what we as a university believe is critical in addressing the future of work, and ultimately what will make Australia a leading innovation economy globally."
Hatchery Accelerate (formerly Hatchery+) empowers early stage founders to take their startup to the next level. Through an intense three-month program, founders are guided through their startup journey with the help of mentors, workshops and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, plus an equity-free $2,000 grant, access to legal support, web hosting and dedicated co-working space.
Applications are now open for the next cohort of Hatchery Accelerate startups. The deadline is January 21, 2018. Apply here.