Brobe creator Allison Schickel speaks about her unwavering perseverance and thriving business.
By Alessandra Rey, Photos by Katie Jameson Photography
For most women, the 20s is a time to be carefree, adventurous and daring, a time to travel and to experience life before adulthood responsibilities come knocking at the door. For Allison Schickel, those years were spent as a new mom, caring for her terminally ill husband and working in a career she had little interest in.
Growing up, Schickel was hopeful and wide-eyed, yet unsure of what she wanted to do with her life.
“I was a terrible student,” Schickel says. “I actually got kicked out of school because I just couldn’t get the material. But the street smarts, the people skills, those were my strengths.”
At 19 years old, Schickel drove to California to become an actress. Then she moved to Austin, where she completed her collegiate studies. But it wasn’t long before, yet again, she yearned for a change of scenery. After moving to Colorado to begin a job at a resort, she met her first husband, Ricky.
“Very quickly after, I got pregnant,” Schickel recalls. “And a few months after getting married, I found out that Ricky was terminally ill with kidney failure. I kept thinking, ‘How is this happening?’ and I had to grow up a lot.”
At 23, Schickel was a secretary by day and a waitress by night, all the while working at her daughter’s school and taking her husband for his dialysis treatments.
“That was my routine, and it was brutal,” Schickel says. “My mom always told me, ‘There’s a reason for this. You just have to keep trying.’ ”
And that’s just what Schickel did.
One morning, she got in her car just as she had when she moved to California, Austin and Colorado. Only this time, she ended up at the mall.
“I put on a cheap suit and I drove to Nordstrom,” Schickel says. “ I don’t even know why, but I did.”
She landed a position as a counter manager for a skin-care line. She felt a sense of relief, as she was able to quit her part-time jobs and focus on her new career. But it wasn’t cosmetics that inspired her, in the end.
“Right across from the cosmetics counter was the hosiery department,” Schickel says. “I started working there around the same time Oprah recruited Spanx Founder Sara Blakely.”
A video about that partnership played on a loop on the TV across from Schickel’s cosmetics counter. Her mind slowly began to wander, but back home, her life was moving at full speed.
“My morning life was practically a sprint,” Schickel remembers. “I would sweat getting into the shower, I would sweat getting out of the shower. I’d get ready in my robe every morning and I’d need to throw on a bra because, well, I hate sweating there.”
She then spent the next five years looking for a robe with a built-in bra, something that would reduce the stress of her hectic mornings. Inspiration struck one day while she was having lunch with a friend.
“She told me she had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery,” Schickel says. “When she brought me the garment they gave her at the hospital, I was appalled. It was almost degrading.”
From there, she realized her desire for a more comfortable and supportive robe could have additional and even more serious benefits. Schickel was determined to make her idea a reality.
“My now husband, Matt, encouraged me to build my first prototype,” Schickel says.
She spent three months and every dime she had in her savings before she found herself at Susan G. Komen. After Schickel presented her product, a breast-cancer survivor was brought in to test the bra-robe combination, and immediately broke down in tears.
“It sparked a fire,” Schickel says. “Something inside told me that day that I had to do this. Today, we’re in our sixth year of business.”
In the last year alone, Schickel has teamed up with Kendra Scott and the Tory Burch Foundation to continue to share her products and raise awareness. In addition to her recovery robe, Schickel also sells accessories, like cooling neck wraps, post-surgical drain belts and gel ice packs. And she designed a robe for mothers-to-be that includes a detachable nursing bra.
Looking back, Schickel wouldn’t change a thing.
“If I had had it easy through school and married someone with a lot of money, I don’t know if I would have had all of that tenacity and grit,” Schickel says.
It is with this same grit Schickel helps thousands of women regain their confidence and feel like themselves again.
“I want our customers to know that there is a real person behind this company and that our products were created with them in mind,” she says.
For more information, visit thebrobe.com.