Cass and Company

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Company: Cass and Company, Kennett Square, PA
Entry Submitted By: Melissa Sones Consulting
Company Description: Cass and Company is the most innovative company in the shapewear industry. Founded nine years ago by President Susan Ledyard, Cass and Company - $50 million later – is still the industry leader in luxury shapewear and in innovations that both help women health-wise and style-wise – in fabric, in design and in serious attention to fabric content.
Nomination Category: Individual Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Female Entrepreneur of the Year – Consumer Products –10 or Less Employees

Nomination Title: Susan Ledyard, Founder/President

Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated entrepreneur since the beginning of July last year (up to 525 words):

At $812 billion, the shapewear business is a monster - and it’s largely a male one. It’s also an industry with a big secret: while the numbers are “mega”, the quality isn’t. Churn out a shaper that is so tight a woman gasps for air - and who’s to care?

The answer is simple: Susan Ledyard, Founder/President of Cass and Company. Nine years ago, after giving birth to two children, Ledyard found herself unable to find quality shapewear so she chose to create it herself. $50 million later, Ledyard remains the industry‘s innovation leader – in shaping tops, bottoms, dresses, hosiery and accessories.

July 2012 through September 2013 was a banner year. Ledyard won major attention – the New York Times included – for her groundbreaking choice to infuse shapewear with copper, something Ledyard alone had heralded against all odds (literally; and especially from “the big boys”). Lo and behold FDA approval is on the way, showing that Ledyard hit it on the hose – her shapewear does indeed enhance skin tone, texture, reduce wrinkles and provide anti-bacterial protection as well. And how groundbreaking is that?

The year also witnessed Ledyard’s first less expensive collection. “I didn’t want to sacrifice performance so it was challenging,” says Ledyard, “so I chose to take a big hit on the margin so we could give women the thinnest fabric on the market.” The result? “Luster,” the first-ever shapewear with literally “zero gasp factor.” And then there’s “Lucky Back,” the first shapewear to actually prevent slouching and rounded shoulders. And the first-ever hosiery infused with copper; and the first-ever shaping top for larger women that doesn’t dig into healthy tissue. Ledyard celebrated seven years with Bloomingdale’s – virtually unheard of for a relatively small, high-quality company; “naturally,” Madonna wore Cass on her most recent tour – how else to move and get health benefits at the same time?

Productivity increased by a factor of three; gross margins soared 15% - considered miraculous in an industry where business has been flat since 2007. Why the rare success? Ledyard never leaves a yarn, a dye, a finish, a stitch, a machine, “unturned”. “I live, breathe and sleep this,” she says. “Those who understand the intricacies are few and far between.” And the major media went “Cass Crazy” with coverage in InStyle; Cosmos (on the way); the Oprah magazine (ditto); the Huffington Post; Women’s Wear Daily; the industry “bible,” Intima – in addition to The New York Times.

Ever the innovator, there’s another way Ledyard broke ground. In a business where a New York showroom is a requirement, Ledyard chose instead to be with her family and to build a business compound on farmland in the wilds of Pennsylvania. “I worried that the change would affect my business relationships and stores would no longer work with me,” says Ledyard. “Results are just the opposite. Productivity has tripled because the work environment is more relaxed.”

As Ledyard frequently says (it could be her motto): “I always do things that are different and better. I don’t want to do what’s been done.”

Indeed.

Provide a brief biography of the nominated entrepreneur (up to 125 words):

Susan Ledyard, Founder/President of Cass and Company, is the innovation leader in the $812 billion shapewear business. Founded nine years ago when Ledyard – having just given birth to two children – was unable to find shapewear that wasn’t so tight she had to “gasp for air.” $50 million later, Ledyard’s entrepreneurial “baby’ is the industry’s luxury leader and its innovation leader – in shaping tops, bottoms, dresses, hosiery and accessories. A media favorite, Ledyard this year was the attention-getter for adding copper to shapewear – something that has long brought snickers from the mainstream industry – and that is now getting a heads up from the FDA! Just another groundbreaker from a much-needed leader in an industry more than happy to play it safe.