URI graduate launches lingerie company that is dear to her

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KINGSTON, R.I., Jan. 3, 2013 – If you’re a woman, you’ve probably had one of those “oops” moments in your underwear.

Fret no more, ladies. Thanks to University of Rhode Island graduate Sharon Ruggieri and her colleagues, leak-resistant intimates for women are here – finally – to catch life’s little surprises.

Ruggieri, 28, and her business partner, Julie Sygiel, 25, a Brown University graduate, are the brains behind Dear Kate, a Providence-based lingerie company that is winning rave reviews in the fashion world.

Sales are soaring. The duo recently returned from a trip to New York, where they unveiled the company’s new and improved line to buyers and grateful customers. No one is more surprised by the success than Ruggieri, a mechanical engineering and Spanish major who grew up in Cranston.

“It blows my mind where we’re going,” says the budding entrepreneur. “The response has been incredible. The potential that we have yet to explore is the most exciting part.”

After graduating from URI in 2007, Ruggieri received a Fulbright in Mexico to work in banking and then got her MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, one of the most prestigious business programs in the country.

She was searching for new opportunities when she met Sygiel at a networking event in Providence for startups. The two hit it off, and the team was born.

Sygiel had created the underwear as part of a class project at Brown, where she earned her chemical engineering degree in 2009. Dear Kate is actually a rebranded version of a smaller company she launched in 2011. The new Dear Kate offers an expanded line ranging from high-rise briefs to hipster-fit styles.

The patent-pending underwear is made with a special fabric that has three layers. The lining and middle layers are created from wicking microfiber, and the outer layer is a leak-resistant nylon/Lycra blend.

The underwear is breathable, stretchy, and machine-washable. Oh, and it’s attractive and comfortable too. Pairs are priced between $28 and $38 and come in a variety of styles. The company also sells bodysuits.

Initially, the company focused on women during that “time of month.” But Ruggieri says she and her co-workers soon discovered that expectant mothers experiencing incontinence and women working out in the gym were looking for extra protection as well.

Ruggieri is thrilled by the early praise, including an anonymous e-mail from one woman who said she wore the undergarment during a speaking engagement at the White House. (For details, check out the company’s playful blog.)

“We’ve gotten e-mails from women all over the country telling us how our product changed their lives,” she says. “That’s the best thing about being on the Dear Kate team. Women write in telling us how they no longer have to use horrendous products. We want all women to feel confident and beautiful.”

How did the all-female company come up with such a clever name? “We want our name to say that we have every woman’s back,” says Ruggieri. “We are your best friend. We decided on Dear Kate because we were inspired by the idea of an advice column from Kate, a name everyone seems to love.”

For details and a peek at the product, visit dearkates.com.

Pictured above, left to right, the Dear Kate team: Lissy King, Amanda Eller, Julie Sygiel, Zoe McKinnel, and Sharon Ruggieri.

Photo courtesy of Brister Photo.