Welsh female entrepreneur is aiming to revolutionise sports bras


For Mari Thomas it was going for a run that sowed the seed of an idea which has led her to set up her own business – and she’s now aiming to pitch to billionaire mogul Sir Richard Branson for his support.

Mari, 28, came up with her idea while out running when she noticed her chest wobbling even though she was wearing a sports bra.

After coming up with an idea years ago to fix the problem Mari suddenly found herself redundant from her job last year.

But it gave her a chance to launch her invention to the public – and the chance to win £1m from Virgin Group founder Sir Richard.

Mari launched her own sports bra company MAAREE in March and so far has raised nearly £1,000 in crowdfunding.

Mari had always been a sporty child and she studied sports engineering at Loughborough University where she was only one of a handful of females on the course.

But it spurred her on even more.

“I was running before I could walk,” she said. “I played netball and hockey at school and, at comprehensive school, I was fortunate enough to play for the county team and for south Wales in hockey.

“I’ve always known I wanted to do something with sports technology. I wanted to work in the science behind sport. That’s the path I wanted to take.

“I went to Loughborough University because that’s the university that’s known for sport. On my course there were only about 30 of us. It was very much male-dominated and it’s still like that.

“You have to learn quickly to speak up and make your voice heard. Sport is such a big part of that.

“I started off out of uni in a job testing sports bras. I thought ‘I would like to know more about this’ as I’d recently taken up running a lot more.

“I tested a lot of bras and talked to a lot of women. I got the impression they weren’t happy.

“I had an idea one day. I was running and I could see a lot of motion going on. So I came up with the idea to put something over the top. I thought one of the big companies would do it.

“Recently I was made redundant from another job I was working at TomTom as a lead engineer in the sportswear department. I was head of testing and I started thinking about my business while I was still there.

“I was made redundant at the end of last year and I thought ‘Now it’s great timing’.”

Now Mari runs her own business selling sports bras and has two different products so far – the Empower and the Solidarity – which should be with customers in October this year.

Her design uses a curved panel over the top of the bra to provide extra support and reduce upward motion.

While also trying to crowdfund to get her business off the ground Mari is also competing in different categories to be in with a chance of winning £1m in prizes as part of the Virgin Media Business Voom 2018 – where businesses pitch to become ranked number one in different categories online.

“I launched earlier than expected,” Mari said. “My plan was always to crowdfund and Richard Branson was doing a competition where you could vote for your company as well as crowdfund.

“I launched on March 7 and it’s been going okay. The product really seems to be resonating with women.

“There’s not really a brand out there who were doing sports bras well.

“Trying to explain it to men they seem to hear from other people and they are sympathetic towards it but they admit they don’t understand fully.