Q&A: The “reset” that spurred rapid growth for a healthcare entrepreneur

This week, we talk to Carol Brunswick, founder of Belly Bands, a company that manufactures maternity and post-surgical compression garments. Carol is also making a significant contribution to the recovery of abdominal surgery patients beyond the garments through Heal Better, an an initiative that provides a holistic approach to post-operative care for abdominal surgery via a toolkit and an app.

ISB: What inspired you to set up your business producing belly bands?

CB: In 2010, my husband died in a work accident. As a result, I needed to give up my career as a computer-networking engineer to look after my two young children, Sandie and Callum. To support my family, I needed to find a job that would allow me to work from home. After researching available opportunities, I saw a gap in the Australian market for maternity compression garments.

Initially, the maternity garments were imported from overseas. This business failed, but I persevered, redesigned the compression garments, and began manufacturing them on the Sunshine Coast. I now sell them via my online store and in stores throughout Australia.

ISB: How did you arrive at the decision to start again from scratch with your product and what was the outcome?

CB: After three years of importing the maternity compression garments, I found that there were significant inconsistencies in the sizing, quality, and design of these imported products. Unfortunately, these discrepancies led to the business failing and me personally experiencing a significant financial loss.

However, my customers were telling me there was still a great need for compression garments, not only for maternity use but also for post-surgery patients. After many months of research, I invented a three-in-one abdominal binder which then became known as The Original Belly Band, and the Belly Bands Company was founded. Importantly, I wanted this product to be made here in Australia so I could maintain the highest quality and employ local people here on the Sunshine Coast.

We have now sold well over one hundred thousand Belly Bands and our wide range of products are sold throughout Australia and Internationally. We employ six local Sunshine Coast people to manufacture the Belly Bands and are currently building a new larger purpose-built factory at Chevallum on the Sunshine Coast. 

ISB: You’ve also developed a kit and an app for post-operative care – what prompted that expansion of your offering?

CB: We pride ourselves on being a family-owned business that regularly communicates with our thousands of customers. This customer feedback is invaluable in helping us consistently improve our products. Through our customers’ experience and feedback, we become aware of the gap between hospital and home care for patients post-abdominal surgery.

We decided to investigate this further and created a full post-operative research study with results reporting 90 per cent of surgeons agree that if there was an easier educational tool for patients to use, it would prevent readmissions to hospitals. As a result of this research, we now sell a wide range of post-operative products to fill this gap through our online store, Heal Better. Additionally, with the assistance of medical experts and mobile app developers, we have created the world’s first interactive post-operative recovery app as a free resource for both patients and doctors, known as the Heal Better App.

ISB: How do you see the enterprise developing in the next couple of years?

CB: My vision is for Belly Bands to become an internationally recognised maternity brand for mothers. For the Heal Better brand, I would like to be adopted as part of the post-operative recovery plan by hospitals and health specialists for all abdominal surgery patients in Australia and Internationally.

Personally, I see myself taking an advisory and educational role for both my brands – Belly Bands and Heal Better and furthering my passion for mentoring other entrepreneurs.

ISB: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur that you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

CB: Don’t discount the importance of thorough market research, a business mentor or business support network to ensure you reach your goals all whilst making wise financial decisions.