Central Michigan University alum Sara Moylan knew she had created an amazing product — but she couldn't prove it. Now, thanks to research conducted at CMU's Motion Analysis Center, Moylan has the data she needs to market her masterpiece.
After struggling to find a way to comfortably exercise during pregnancy, Moylan developed a fully adjustable bra she called the Shefit Ultimate Sports Bra. The 2002 integrative public relations graduate had invested years developing her product and believed it could outperform major brand-names, but she wanted evidence.
"Shefit is a new player in this market. We believed we had the most innovative design and the best technology – we believed we had the best product. But from a marketing perspective, we not only wanted to say it, we wanted to show it," Moylan said.
Moylan, an entrepreneur based in Hudsonville, Michigan, reached out to researchers at her alma mater and the Central Michigan University Research Corp., for help.
"I hope other companies will see what is possible at CMU and reach out to them for support." — Sara Moylan, founder of Shefit
Connecting business and research
CMURC is a nonprofit SmartZone established in partnership with CMU, the community of Mount Pleasant and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. CMURC's business accelerator, located on the south side of the CMU campus, provides support programs for entrepreneurs as they develop ideas, launch new companies and build their businesses. CMURC has two additional Michigan locations in Bay City and Saginaw.
Erin Strang, president and CEO of CMURC, said it isn't enough for companies to make their own claims about how their product performs.
"Companies like Shefit need independent third-party research to validate their technology," Strang said.
The CMURC team connected Moylan with researchers at the Motion Analysis Center to develop and run a study.
The center — established as a partnership between The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions and the College of Science and Engineering — is outfitted with cutting-edge motion capture technology, virtual reality equipment and custom devices created for CMU research.
"I have loved Central Michigan University since I was a student, but I had no idea this kind of resource existed here. The technology, equipment and expertise at CMU was far superior to some of the other universities I had considered for this study," Moylan said.
Ksenia Ustinova, a physical therapy faculty member, and Joe Langenderfer, an engineering faculty member, worked with Moylan to develop a study to answer the question: Did the Shefit product reduce breast movement during exercise as well as its brand-name competitors?
Ustinova and Langenderfer recruited 30 subjects of varying ages and breast size. The subjects were measured by a professional fitting specialist and given bras from Shefit and several leading sports apparel brands.
Taylor Gibson, a physical therapy doctoral student, placed special electronic markers on each subject and coached them through a series of five exercises, including walking, jogging and jumping jacks. Each subject completed the exercises several times, each time wearing a different sports bra.
Special cameras placed around the center allowed Langenderfer and Ustinova to measure the amount of bounce each subject experienced during exercise.
Each subject was asked to complete a short survey about their level of comfort during the exercise and the performance and ease of using each bra.
Spotlight on research resource
In all of the high-impact activities, the data showed Shefit's product reduced breast movement more effectively than its brand-name competitors and was chosen by study participants as most effective and most comfortable to put on and remove.
Moylan was thrilled with the results, and was even more pleased with her experience partnering with CMU.
"This process was stellar. Knowing that I had the team at CMURC truly invested in my success, and knowing that the study would be completed by top-notch CMU researchers whose results would be credible, was critical to our success," Moylan said.
"I hope other companies will see what is possible at CMU and reach out to them for support."