Sairey Gernes’ Whyography is one of more than 30 stories featured in the “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose” book. 100 percent of proceeds from book sales benefit the Fueled by Purpose micro grant fund for womxn-owned businesses. To purchase the book, visit the Marketplace page.
Sairey Gernes rearranged the contents of her suitcase over and over again, trying to make everything fit. She sat on top of it and tugged at the zipper, but it wouldn’t budge. There wasn’t enough room for all the gear she wanted to bring along on her trip. She knew what had to go: the bulky towel wrap. Of course, the resort would have towels. But Sairey was bunking up with a large group of women on this trip. She really wanted her towel wrap, with its built-in elastic band. With it she could walk around freely without the possibility of exposing herself to her travel companions. In that moment, Sairey felt a product idea coming on.
The only difference between her towel wrap and a regular towel was the elastic that held the wrap in place. That led Sairey to create a simple solution to a common problem—the Towel Topper. It’s an elastic band designed to be used with a standard bath towel. It keeps your towel in place and your hands free. Plus, it takes almost no room in a suitcase. But it’s not just for travelers. It’s perfect for the gym, beach, dorm or home.
The Towel Topper wasn’t the first product Sairey developed based on need. Sairey launched her first business, Urban Undercover, in 2009. As a women’s size 12 or 14, she couldn’t find underwear that was made well, fit well, and was also pretty. Her friends laughed when she announced her business idea, reminding Sairey that she didn’t wear underwear. But that was the point. She’d given up trying to find something foundational to every wardrobe because what she needed didn’t exist. So she decided to introduce a line of beautiful everyday underclothes designed with traveling in mind. The underwear can be rolled into a pocket in the back of the waistband—perfect for tucking into a purse, overnight bag or suitcase.
Her product line expanded to include more fashionable yet functional travel-inspired apparel and accessories—from multipurpose leggings that hold their shape during all kinds of adventures to comfy signature wraps that function as both a sweater and a blanket. As a purpose-driven brand inspired by her own travels around the globe, Sairey believes Urban Undercover has a responsibility to develop, design and make all of its products ethically. That means using smarter sustainable fabrics and demanding high standards in manufacturing.
Sairey believes traveling connects us—to each other, to the earth, to our history—and makes us better people. She also believes people are better together. She’s teamed up with other women business owners who share a commitment to leading with purpose through a Minnesota-based retail collaborative, Six for Good. The boutique has two locations in the Twin Cities and features products exclusively from female founders dedicated to using their businesses to make a difference in the lives of others and the world. All of the businesses support or donate a portion of their profits to causes close to their hearts.
Photo: Urban Undercover