WomenVenture loan client Sairey Gernes is the owner of Sairey G. Designs, the parent company of UrbanUndercover and TowelTopper.
When 18 year-old Sairey Gernes traveled from Saint Paul to Guatemala, she unknowingly began a journey rooted in the desire to make globe-trotting comfortable for women of all shapes and sizes. Born and raised in Minnesota, Sairey began traveling in high school and continued throughout college and beyond, traveling and living in both Spain and the Netherlands. Inspired by an “Idea City” sign outside an ad agency, Sairey pursued a career in advertising in Miami for years until she realized it wasn’t a perfect fit. She knew her creativity needed a new outlet and she wanted to make a change in the world.
In a stroke of serendipity, Sairey discovered how to make an impact in women’s lives. Years of travel had taught Sairey that women’s intimate apparel had yet to be comfortable enough for hours on a plane. She began researching how to make underwear for women with comfortable fabrics and realistic sizing, which led to a breakthrough.
Sairey launched Sairey G. Designs, an umbrella company for two brands: UrbanUndercover and TowelTopper. UrbanUndercover provides stylish underwear made from sustainable materials, and TowelTopper is a patent-pending band for securing a towel to one’s body. Both brands make travel easier for women, which is one of Sairey’s main goals. “Travel opens people’s minds and brings people together,” Sairey explains. “I also learned the hard way that you need to pack light.” These two principles have forged innovation and new projects. UrbanUndercover is aiming to increase its size range, and Sairey will be opening stores in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Denver airports.
As a new business owner, Sairey knew she needed additional support to open stores, invest in inventory, and reach her goals. “I felt blocked by financial stress,” Sairey says. “It was frustrating and stressful. It got in the way of thinking creatively and in smarter ways.” She knew it was time to branch out for financial support.
Through her relationships with other small business owners in the Twin Cities, Sairey found two partners in her road to funding Sairey G. Designs: WomenVenture and Northeast Bank. After months of barely staying afloat, Sairey found that the weight of financial stress had finally shifted. “I feel like I can do this business now,” says Sairey. “Money offers you a certain freedom to think creatively and move forward.” She describes the loan process as both smooth and exciting. She can now use the capital to invest in her personal mission and expand her business, feats that both seemed distant before.
Sairey also felt empowered through the loan process. “Both WomenVenture and Northeast Bank are extremely interested in and care about my business. I did not feel like just another financial transaction.”
The successful businesswoman has some advice for women interested in entrepreneurship. “Network!” she exclaims. “It’s also important to have a cheerleading team of friends and family.” She encourages entrepreneurs to not be afraid of seeking a loan. “Find a consultant. As someone who loves to be on the creative side, I have had the great fortune to work with people on the numbers side. A partnership with financial advisors is awesome.”