Inspirefest snapshot: The entrepreneur transforming the lingerie market

19 Jun 2018

Ciara Donlon, founder and CEO of Theya Healthcare. Image: Cartier

Ciara Donlon is rewriting the rulebook for post-surgery lingerie with Theya Healthcare.

A gap in the market is one of the greatest assets for an entrepreneur and that’s exactly what Inspirefest 2018 speaker Ciara Donlon found after she set up her lingerie retail business in 2010.

Before she went out on her own, Donlon was already an experienced businessperson with a degree in management and marketing, and more than 15 years’ experience in large corporates.

When she set up shop on her own, she was surprised by a very particular gap in the market. Many women undergoing treatment for breast cancer came into her shop looking for a comfortable and feminine bra to wear post-surgery.

This struggle was something very close to Donlon’s heart, as her grandmother, Rose, had undergone a double mastectomy as a result of breast cancer, and so she was determined to help these women.

This is the catalyst that led Donlon to create Theya Healthcare, which designs bras and briefs for women post-surgery. The range is made from a unique bamboo fabric mix, which promotes healing, offers exceptional comfort and functionality, and looks beautiful.

Donlon interviewed 80 breast cancer survivors in Ireland and the UK, and got advice from healthcare professionals, in order to design the lingerie. As well as being comfortable and fashionable, the products meet the standards required of a medical device.

“We looked at everything the women said was a pain point for them and we turned it into a design feature to get rid of that pain point,” she said. “Our bras have been referred to as a hug in a bra.”

Donlon secured significant private investment as well as becoming a high-potential start-up (HPSU) client of Enterprise Ireland.

Since Theya Healthcare started trading in 2015, Donlon has won and been shortlisted for many high-profile awards. In 2017 alone, she won Laureate for Europe in the Cartier Women’s Initiative awards and was shortlisted for both the EY Entrepreneur of the Year (Emerging category) and the Matheson WMB Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

For inspiration from extraordinary thinkers, catch Ciara Donlon and more at Inspirefest in Dublin on 21 and 22 June. Get your tickets now.

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic