When Ingrid Bonnor was 19 years old she landed a modelling job with Calvin Klein.
While studying marketing at university, she split her time working for brands such as Triumph and Bendon along with the luxury American label.
She went on to appear on their catwalks and modelled for the launch of their first lingerie line in Australia.
Little did she know that her small business, developed in the living room of her Gold Coast home, would one day be taking on the global luxury brand in sales — and a favourite among the stars.
After her modelling days, Ms Bonnor, 37, launched her sleepwear brand, Homebodii in 2012.
Since then it’s had a 200 per cent growth year-on-year and late last year it topped sales in Australia on The Iconic, outselling big names like Calvin Klein in the sleepwear category.
Despite offering a range of sleepwear options — it was her very first product that has helped smash sales — a simple chiffon and lace robe.
“When I was pregnant with my daughter I couldn’t find a robe that I liked or one that suited my style,” Ms Bonnor told news.com.au
She went on to experiment, making a few robes for friends before trying her luck at her local market.
“I made about 100 and they sold out completely,” she said.
“They mainly sold out to brides and bridesmaids because at that time there wasn’t anything really like it.
“It was very niche and so I thought I’d found something with a unique offering.”
With valuable lessons learned from her modelling days, Ms Bonnor went on to develop the sleepwear business — eventually quitting her day job in PR to focus on her label.
“Because of my background in modelling I was able to call in a few favours — for other models to feature in the robes,” she said.
It didn’t take long for the brand to gain global attention.
Within the first year, her signature item was picked up by Urban Outfitters, an American retail brand and for the next six years it would be their the best-selling bridal robe.
“People are looking to wear something simple yet elegant before the wedding while they do their hair to make-up with their bridesmaids,” she said.
Online designer apparel brand, Revolve, was the next on the list followed by 34 of Australia’s own David Jones stores.
In September 2016 it had its debut runway show at New York Fashion Week.
It was a huge hit with celebrities, like Sophie Monk who was the face of a campaign in 2017, lapping it up — but mostly being a craze among brides.
Like most small businesses, the mother-of-two experienced her fair share of challenges along the way.
“For me it was managing the growth, infrastructure and logistics of running a business,” she said.
“Everything we made we reinvested back into the business. We were cautious about not over extending ourselves and growing organically.”
“It’s about having good people, because you’re only as good as the team you’re surrounded by.”
The mother-of-two had initially invested $25,000 to kickstart her business which is now a multimillion-dollar company.
“I never set out to make money — I just wanted to fill my creative void after modelling,” she said.
With a 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, Ms Bonnor said finding the balance as a working mum adds to the challenges.
“The one thing I like to do is pick them up from school. I will work til 3pm, go pick them up, do the cooking and I will start working again til night — you really just need to find a balance that works for you,” she said.
Homebodii are now launching in leading US department store Nordstrom.
“When I visited them there were about 10 executives and I thought all I can do is be myself,” she explained.
“I remember my daughter called me at the time saying she had forgot her lunch money and I told them, ‘I’m so sorry, I have to take this call’ — and they loved the story of me being a working mum.
“It’s common ground with other mums which is why I employ mothers and offer flexible hours — there is no magic recipe. You just have to take it day by day.”
In December, the brand launched its Curve range featuring leading plus size Australian model Margaret McPherson.
As a former, curvy model, Ms Bonnor said it was important to celebrates all kinds of shapes and sizes.
“It’s funny that I ended up with a business focusing on bridal, because lingerie is how it all started for me.”
“It has been an amazing platform for me personally, as a way to give back to the community.”