Unlike other women’s fashion designers and entrepreneurs, Rhonda Shear has appeared in front of television and movie cameras and stomped runways with her own fierceness. She was the hostess for the popular Friday night movie series, “USA: Up All Night.”
Her years on the beauty pageant circuit that garnered her winning titles in 40 major pageants, including “Miss Louisiana,” gave her insights into what women really want and need under their slinkiest gowns or their crispest business suits. Her line of women’s lingerie, sleepwear, and shapewear, including the now famous Ahh Bra, became a hit on shopping networks in the US, Canada, and the UK. The designs from her company, Shear Enterprises, LLC, which she started with her husband Van Fagan, in St. Petersburg, Florida, have been featured in BODY Magazine and in major fashion shows including Fashion Week Tampa Bay.
A discerning businesswoman, Rhonda Shear visited with Courageous Woman Magazine recently to give us a glimpse into her drive, the courageous start of a new company, and a love story at the heart of it all.
“My husband and I reunited ten years ago. We were junior high school sweethearts,” Rhonda Shear recalls. “We hadn’t seen each other in 26 years. I had never married. I was living in LA, acting, and loving my life…I just thought it was better to be single and living that lifestyle than being married. It wasn’t a priority at the time.”
Her future husband had recently been divorced. “He came looking for me again on classmates.com. He was the only boy who broke my heart as a kid. He broke up with me,” she remembers. “I thought—what a hoot! What would it be like to go out with your first boyfriend? I never intended anything serious coming out of this at all. We met up in New Orleans when I went to visit my mother ten years ago for Christmas. Fifteen days later we eloped. He just won my heart again.”
They lived thousands of miles apart but had no clue how they were going to make it work. But it was Rhonda’s business idea that provided the solution. “I had this idea and my husband was so entrepreneurial about doing a website that had to do with lingerie and shapewear. He put it together for me, and I reached out to Home Shopping Network because I had gotten a tip that they were looking for someone with a celebrity background to fill a spot in the shapewear business,” she says. “It wasn’t what it was now. It was a much smaller part of their business, but they wanted to fill that void….We went on the air, and we sold out on our first show…It was a whirlwind. As fast as we could get product in, they would book us on the air. So we were flying back and forth so much across the country I just said, ‘Maybe we should just rent an apartment and see how it goes there for a little while.’…People often don’t take a chance, but we did. We gave up both of our lives, friends, everything and moved to Florida, and our business exploded in the first year like 4,000 times literally. It’s been almost a decade now. It exploded there, and we’re in retail in stores and boutiques. We’re sold in Canada on the Shopping Network, and we’re going to the UK for QVC. We’re worldwide.”
But some of that business success goes back to their flagship product, the Ahh Bra, and Rhonda’s husband’s next marketing idea. “It was my husband’s idea to do the infomercial. I’ve been doing that bra for about eight years on HSN. It would always sell so well….We weren’t infomercial producers at the time. But down here, there are so many people in the infomercial business.”
When her husband said to go for it, she ran with the idea. “We partnered with an infomercial company out of Canada, one of the true honest people in the business….It took off worldwide in the last two years. Now we’re in 30 countries. It’s the number one bra worldwide, selling close to 8 million of them at this point and the number is climbing. We will be in Walmart with it soon.”
Her complete line, the Rhonda Shear Brand, is still going to be sold in exclusive boutiques. But it won’t have expensive price tags. “Actually, our prices are really good. Because of the buying power of the infomercial and HSN and the kind of companies that we deal with, we’re able to price our products really fairly and not have to do boutique prices,” she says.
Rhonda Shear is the first to admit that it is the partnership she has with her husband that has helped her succeed. “It’s cool to be in business with someone you love and trust,” she says. “We feel like we’re making up for lost time by working together….It’s a mom and pop business that’s grown into a large size.”
But Rhonda has also had the example of strong courageous women in her family who have given her a legacy of hard work. Her grandmother had to run her husband’s auto parts business after he died so that she could raise her five children. “Think about it back then, a single mother of five running a very masculine business! That was my grandmother. So it’s definitely in my genes,” she admits. Even her mother, who had been a stay-at-home mom, worked by her husband’s side when he started his business in his 50s. “My mother was courageous,” she adds.
But mostly, Rhonda admits that being a courageous woman is simple. “It’s just taking a chance. Just going for it,” she says. “It’s interesting when you do find the right mate…We had this opportunity, and we said, ‘Let’s just go for it. We have nothing to lose, and every thing to lose if we don’t go for it.’ A lot of people won’t step out of their comfort zone. They won’t step out of the city where they have friends….You have to be a little courageous to do that….We don’t get to come back into this world ever again so you just have to go for it. I don’t have any regrets for anything I ever did. I’ve always gone for it.”
Wise words from a very dedicated entrepreneur and a courageous woman.
About The Author
Janie Franz comes from a long line of liars and storytellers with roots deep in east Tennessee. Honed by the frigid Northern Plains and a degree in anthropology, she has written thousands of feature and cover articles over a vast range of topics for more than a hundred regional, national, and international publications.
She has five novels published with two different publishers, co-wrote two wedding how-two books with Texas wedding DJ Bill Cox, and self-published a writing manual, Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid! She runs her own online music publication, Refrain Magazine (www.refrainmagazine.com), is a book and music reviewer, and was a radio announcer, a booking agent/publicist for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor.
Her latest book, Sugar Magnolia, is a contemporary romance about the music industry and can be found at Muse It Up Publishing.
Rhonda Shears Website