Molly Young / The Oregonian
When night sweats prompted Haralee Weintraub to launch a women's sleepwear line seven years ago, a business adviser cautioned her against selling the garments as a way to deal with menopause.
Good thing she didn't heed the advice, showcasing the often hush-hush topic instead. "For menopause symptoms" appears in capital red letters on the company's website, responsible for 90 percent of its revenue.
The niche retailer, also named Haralee, sells pajamas and nightgowns made from lightweight fabric meant to soak up sweat.
As more and more baby boomers head into menopause, it's tapping a growing -- and increasingly tech-savvy -- market. It registers many of its sales in the middle of the night, presumably from customers hunting for a way to get a good nightâ€™s sleep. The expanding population is also driving more conversations about menopause and other women's health concerns, a crucial way for Haralee to take advantage of word of mouth marketing, Weintraub said.
"I just bless 'The View,'" she said. "They're always talking about hot flashes."
A breast cancer survivor who spent more than two decades in pharmaceutical sales, Weintraub launched the company in 2005 after sewing the first prototype from an old pair of bike shorts.
She and husband Shelby Schefstrom coordinate the brand from their home in unincorporated Clackamas County. An office fills one room, and plastic bins stacked with sleepwear line the walls of another. Excess fabric rests in the sauna.
The Portland area, it turns out, is a fortuitous region to launch an apparel brand. A small Wilsonville manufacturer stitches the garments. A former Nike employee designs patterns on a contract basis, and an ex-Adidas worker makes samples.
"We're so lucky here in Portland," Weintraub said.
Initially, she envisioned major retailers stocking the sleepwear. Yet she soon learned that the garments, made in basic colors and cuts, didn't sell well without detailing what makes them unique. The brand still maintains a small wholesale vein that targets boutique retailers, but for the large part, she shifted her focus online.
Today, she's sold more than 25,000 of the moisture-wicking garments. "There is this group, and it is growing," Weintraub said. "I must get emails every day from women saying I never knew this existed."