An Ashland entrepreneur has launched an uplifting new business.
DoodleBra.com combines a girl's need for a bra with her desire for fun and self-expression, says founder Randy Segal who also owns Ashland's Segal Farms Custom Embroidery on Siskiyou Boulevard.
The Doodle Bra — complete with a white cotton bra, nontoxic erasable markers and stencils — sells online for $9.98.
The undergarment can be decorated with the markers. Once washed, it's back to a clean, blank canvas.
The product is the brainchild of Segal's 17-year-old daughter, Rachel, a junior at Ashland High School, and her friends.
On a hot, idle summer afternoon, Rachel and a group of her friends decided to decorate Rachel's only white bra with her mother's colored markers.
One bra cup was covered with a scene of the sun rising over a green rolling landscape, while the other cup bore graffiti-style images and words such as "V-Dog," a nickname for Rachel's friend, Victoria.
Rachel's mom initially was peeved about the teenagers' craft project, Rachel says.
"I was upset that she wrote on her white bra and now didn't have anything to wear with a white T-shirt," Betty Ann Segal says.
Then, Rachel, who has a habit of lounging around the house in her bra, appeared in the bra in the company of her father.
"Put some clothes on," Segal said, exasperated with her teenage antics. Then, he stopped her. "Wait a minute. Is that a swimsuit top?" he asked.
"My mom said, 'No, that's the bra she drew all over,'" Rachel recounts.
It was a light-bulb moment for Randy Segal who thought the product of his daughter's idle mischief was a brilliant idea.
"After a day when the idea had developed (into a business venture), I was OK with it," Betty Ann Segal said. "We just went and got another bra and went with the idea."
Segal began investigating possible manufacturers for the Doodle Bra and managed to find some he could work with directly instead of going through a distributor. The product is made in China and India but will be assembled and shipped in Ashland, Segal said. The absence of a middle intermediary is part of the reason for the low cost, he said.
As a product that inexpensive, fun and practical, the Segals think the Doodle Bra is timely for the staggering economy.
"It's something you can use, not something you crumple up in a corner," Rachel says.
There is something appealing about that concept when people are scrimping to get by, she says.
While not everyone is a fan of the idea, the more than 600 press releases Segal disseminated earlier this month set off a flurry of chatter.
Pictures of the Doodle Bra have been posted on blogs and employed for a dose of humor.
"How many women would write something like, 'Take the garbage out?' " a commentator known as "Martini Shark" wrote on the Dave Barry blog. "It would be sure to be read by the husband."
A post on the blog, ThinkUnthink.com, declared that the development of the Doodle Bra was "the birth of the greatest college theme party ever."
Other commentaries have suggested other uses for the Doodle Bra, including bachelorette parties and teen slumber parties.
"My friends and co-workers and I would probably do it, too, if sufficient amounts of alcohol were involved," a female commentator called "Wizzy" admitted on the Dave Barry blog.
Betty Ann Segal said while the bra may appeal to people's sense of fun and humor, it also has practical uses.
"I have colored my own bra straps black when wearing a black tank top," she said. "There are plenty of women who don't wear something because they don't have a bra to match it, and this way you could make it match."
One detractor who writes a digital marketing blog in the United Kingdom suggested the bra was "the dumbest idea ever."
"Doodle on a bra. Share the fun with friends. Rubbish," declared digital marketing blogger Leon McComish, who concluded his dispatch with a cheeky off-color joke.
"I'm not disappointed that people are finding humor in it as long as people are having fun," Segal says.
Segal plans to soon expand the Doodle Bra product line to include camisoles so that younger girls can join in the diversion.
"It's definitely getting people's attention," Segal says. "Our intentions are positive for it, and the benefits are there. We'll just have to wait and see."