Glass. Vests. Pantyhose?
Pantyhose are the latest item to go bulletproof, courtesy of Sheertex, a Y Combinator company that has no tolerance for rips and tears. Naturally Grit Daily caught up with founder and CEO Katherine Homuth — who has piled up a list of accolades including one of the “Women to Watch in Wearables,” one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” and one of Flare’s “Sixty Under 30.”
With two exits under her belt, she shares everything you’d want to know about Sheertex.
- You’ve had your own interesting entrepreneurial background. Share that.
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur and have been starting companies since high school. My first venture backed startup was ShopLocket, an ecommerce platform for hardware products, which was acquired in 2014 by global manufacturing and design company PCH International.
I went on to do some angel investing, and started an organization called Female Funders, an online education platform dedicated to increasing the number of female angel investors. I sold that company to Highline Beta in 2017. After those two experiences I was excited about the idea of building a physical product, it didn’t have to be a connected device, just a product that solved a big problem for a lot of people. That’s how I stumbled upon the idea of a pair of pantyhose that wouldn’t rip or tear, and Sheertex was born.
Bulletproof material for pantyhose. Don’t you think we’re going a bit too far?
It didn’t start with the material, it started with the problem.
I wanted to develop a pair of sheer pantyhose that wouldn’t rip or tear but creating the strongest sheer pantyhose in the world was no easy feat. All of the fibers on the market today are either strong or sheer, not both. After a year of research and development, we developed a proprietary fiber, the patent pending Sheertex knit, that’s strong, flexible and sheer—but it was almost too strong. Regular machinery couldn’t handle the fiber, so our team developed a proprietary manufacturing process built to withstand the strength of the material without compromising the wearability of the end product. To be clear though, our Sheertex sheers are not bulletproof, they are simply made with the same polymer that’s found in bulletproof vests.
Has there been interest in your product from regions from which you didn’t expect it?
Our sales have been from all over the world. About half our sales are in the US, 25% in Canada, and the rest are spread across dozens of countries around the world. It turns out pantyhose ripping and tearing is truly a global problem!
What’s behind the name (and former name)?
Sheertex is the name of our knit, the world’s first sheer knit made from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. We’ve found since developing this knit for pantyhose that the knit can be used for so much more than just pantyhose. It’s that realization that has moved us away from the Sheerly Genius brand and into Sheertex as a larger textile technology brand. The Sheerly Genius name came from the sentiment that a pair of sheers that wouldn’t rip or tear would be sheer genius! I still love this brand, it just made sense for us to streamline our efforts in all product categories under Sheertex.
How was Y Combinator?
Y Combinator was a great experience! I had applied for my first startup and didn’t get past the interview stage, so I thought I’d give it a shot again with this company. I’m very glad I did. The program really helped establish us as a technology company, not just a fashion brand. It is also a great support network, and gives companies access to a super supportive investor group. It’s also led us to some really amazing accomplishments that our whole team is very proud of, like being selected as one of TIME Magazine’s top invention of 2018.
- What do men understand least about pantyhose?
I think men get the problem of pantyhose as much, if not more, than most women! So many of our customers are men buying for their wife, girlfriend, sister or friend. They’ve experienced the annoyance of a loved one ripping their sheers. Oftentimes they were the one that had to go out and buy a back-up pair at the store!
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. He is a multi-media tech journalist on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur. He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.