The 2021 Happy Bulge Plan
The 2021 Happy Bulge Plan
- Design, produce and introduce a summer and winter collection of cheeky swimwear and underwear, including soliciting designs from the LGBT community
- Continue supporting Pride events (if they occur) throughout North America with a presence at festival markets, as in 2019
- Develop additional products such as the 2021 Happy Bulge calendar featuring models of different backgrounds to celebrate body positivity
- Recoup the money spent on supporting 2020 Pride events when airlines canceled flights and refused to provide refunds
- Launch a Kickstarter campaign to fundraise for the above goals
A ROCKY 2020
Like many small businesses, we were deeply affected by the coronavirus outbreak. It led to shutdowns of every Pride event we were scheduled to attend. After a successful 2019 that saw us at five different Pride events around North America, we went back to the drawing board with hopes of expansion in 2020. So, we reinvested the profits for an ambitious year ahead.
As 2020 began, we quickly secured Pride booths in at least 10 cities. We grew our product line and intended to be on the road most of the year, popping up at festivals every few weeks. The plan was never to be an online store, but in mid 2020, we decided to pivot and focus on e-commerce. With no events happening, boxes of pre-ordered product showing up every other week, we wondered how we'd make money selling swimwear that, quite frankly, nobody needed since pools and beaches were closed, and vacations were canceled.
At Pride events, we relished in the opportunity to mingle with people and make the Happy Bulge booth a social experience. We formed relationships with people -- and even re-met them when they came to Pride in another city and remembered us! We found meaningful and personal interactions with people (whether they bought from us or not) was the better experience to have than a one-and-done transaction. Unfortunately, that became impossible in 2020.
Some Pride festivals provided an online platform for the community and vendors. We sponsored Denver's digital Pride (seen HERE) but it led to no traffic or sales and the decision was made not to pay to participate in online marketplaces so as not to negatively affect our bottom line. At the time, we were still fighting with airlines for thousands of dollars in airfare refunds. (Most of which still hasn't been recouped and we're out of pocket about $4,000 on canceled flights.) Thankfully, Pride organizations refunded booth fees but it felt wrong getting money back from non-profits. We'd have loved to keep the funds in the community but we needed them to stay afloat.
This past August, the decision was made to shift focus to our social media platforms. We still had the ability to reach our audience, though it seemed impersonal. To breakdown the digital barrier, we pushed hard to create fun, playful and memorable interactions with everybody who followed, commented or messaged. If you're one of the people on our platforms, you can attest to our stellar customer service and upbeat interactions on a daily basis (even in the middle of the night!)
When fall approached and we were left with boxes of unsold swimwear, we expanded our underwear collection and even introduced lines of face masks and socks to generate sales. The hope was to offer more relevant products and shift the focus away from the types of products people weren't buying since they had no use for them.
Because we're open in our communication with our audiences, we'll be upfront about the status of the company: We're not broke and we're not going out of business. Our first year was profitable. We used the profits to reinvest in the project, and where we exceeded sales targets, gave back to the LGBT community in the respective city. Yes, rather than roll on the floor in a pile of money, we paid it forward. Our second year, as most companies across many industries experienced, was difficult.
Perhaps this is too long of a story, but it's our pitch to maintain your continued support. There's a detailed plan for 2021 and a little push is needed to get things started. We understand that many people are also struggling in the wake of shutdowns and layoffs, and we hope you can contribute to the continuation of our cheeky little project. If you have been following us and enjoyed the content, please realize that it comes at a cost for us. We're happy to keep entertaining as long as it's feasible to do so. If you're not in a position to support at this time, please help spread the word and draw attention to the fundraiser.
OUR STORYIt was two years ago that a small group of us had the idea of setting up booths at Pride festivals.
And we've been doing that since first launching at Phoenix Pride in April 2019.
So far we've been to Phoenix, Winnipeg, San Francisco, Calgary and Palm Springs. In each of these cities we encountered all different types of people who got in on the fun of Happy Bulge. Initially, we thought our main audience would be gay men. For the most part, it is. But in each of the cities we met just as many straight guys -- usually with their girlfriends or wives -- who played along and stripped down to pose for pictures right at the booth. Yes, they bought the stuff.
Many, many times guys gave us the line, "I don't have the body to pull that off." That was actually sad to hear. In each city, it happened. What was our response? "If it feels good, rock it. Have the confidence to make yourself feel good, not others." That was usually met with some thought and the guy considering the product that intrigued him. Yes, oftentimes he went home with it, too. The coolest thing has been receiving emails and messages from those hesitant customers that we "converted" at Pride.
There is so much body-shaming and trash-talking in this world that after Phoenix we realized that not only did we want to make money selling these products (duh, right?) but we wanted to celebrate the ability to be carefree and say, "I don't care what people will say, I'll wear it and feel damn good doing it!" At the end of the day, you should be happy. We're trying to help you achieve that.
Taking it one step further, we even hired local models for photoshoots in the respective cities. A single dad in San Francisco said he needed extra cash, so we hired him for a photoshoot the next day. A struggling actor in Palm Springs saw our booth and later emailed asking for the opportunity to model to help fund his theatrical dream. In Winnipeg, a student needing some money to buy a laptop for school joined us for a photoshoot.
Thank you for helping make this project a five-time success at Pride in 2019. Here's to many more across Canada and the U.S. We're not out to change the world but we are committed to encouraging you to be comfortable to wear what makes you feel good.
Thank you. Keep bulging!