Making Something From Nothing: Bridget Thorpe Of SOL VAE On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
Published in
12 min readApr 7, 2022


You have permission to do things your way. When you put your idea out in the world, you are going to be flooded with feedback. Some of it is deeply valuable. And some of it will pull you away from your core. Trust your gut and ask questions when someone tells you something isn’t possible — even if they are the expert and you are not. You’ll be surprised on what you can uncover.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bridget Thorpe.

Bridget Thorpe is the Founder and CEO of SOL VAE, a lifestyle brand known for its innovative hybrid bra that supports athletic women on land and water.

Prior to launching SOL VAE, Bridget advised 40+ global Fortune 500 corporations across 4 continents to strategize and communicate their sustainability initiatives. She collaborated with design experts for 6 years, who’ve worked with the world’s most influential activewear and luxury apparel brands, to consciously redefine an athletic, everyday staple.

Raised in Hawaii, Bridget was originally going to be named Solveig (pronounced SOL-vae), a family name that powerfully translates as “sunshine way” and “woman of the house”.

She received her BS and her MBA with honors. Bridget currently lives in Kauai with her husband Elliott and their dog Panda.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was raised on the North Shore of Kauai. It was a unique small town to grow-up in — I was one of ten students in my graduating high school class. The nearest movie theater or other typical amenities were over a 45-minute drive away. So our time was spent outdoors and immersed in nature. We’d search for new trails, or waterfalls, or new rock we could dive from into the ocean.

My dad was a physician and still has an extremely dedicated health and fitness habit. My mom taught fitness in her early thirties, and when I was growing up she was a LEED-certified interior designer. So I’ve always had a strong health and fitness influence in my life, and I deeply gravitated toward the work my mom was doing in sustainability.

As I grew older, I noticed this heartbeat of sustainability became a clear trend in my work. Beyond my family influence, I know that stems from a childhood on Kauai — where you gain a deep respect and responsibility for nature.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Fortune favors the bold”. I have this small green and white card with this quote printed on it. It’s been on my fridge, or my nightstand, or bathroom mirror — anywhere visible — for more than a decade now.

My parents immigrated from Canada with only $40 and turned that into a beautiful life. I’ve always understood that that life was possible because they took a risk.

So whether it’s in business or relationships or anything, it makes sense to me that there are times you need to take a step forward without really knowing what’s on the other side.

That’s a lot easier said than done. I’m feeling it more than ever now launching SOL VAE. When I feel hesitant and afraid, I look to this quote and try to recenter myself that uncovering the greatness within yourself involves venturing into new territories.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There’s a story in the book The Alchemist. It talks about a boy who visits a king, and the king invites him to take a tour of his palace. However, on this tour, the boy must hold a spoon full of oil and not spill a drop.

So, the boy does his tour and comes back feeling accomplished — his spoon is still full. And the king asks the boy, “what did you see?”. The boy replies he saw nothing. He was looking at his spoon the whole time.

The king invites him to take a tour once more. But this time, come back and share all of the wonders he sees.

So the boy goes out once more. He soaks in the most magnificent sites. It’s beyond his imagination! He gets back and bubbles with joy sharing all he saw with the king. But the king looks at him and says, “but there is no oil in your spoon”.

The morale of the story is a secret to a good life is to keep the oil in your spoon (or the details of your life organized and fulfilled), but simultaneously not forget to look up. To see the beauty the world has to offer, to experience things deeply, and appreciate a bigger picture.

This story resonates with me in business. It is so easy to get lost in the spreadsheets and the words and the emails. But, if you don’t lift your gaze to either A) enjoy the ride or B) ensure that your work is advancing something bigger and more beautiful, we’ll miss the point.

For this reason, we spent six-years developing a strong value-based backbone into SOL VAE. It’s an ongoing effort, but we hope our customers feel it and enjoy it as much as we do.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

In my experience, you don’t need hard skills to follow through on a great idea. I had no idea how to sew or any clue what went into apparel development. You can find people that will help you, and you can climb a learning curve.

What you do need is passion. It is inevitable that you will face challenges when you bring a new idea to life. But passion, support from loved ones, and a strong sense of conviction in your idea is what will bring it to life.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Someone else probably has thought of it before. But that’s OK. I always think to the law of conservation: energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only change form.

Your life and your perspective are unique. There is no one in the entire world who has seen or experienced all of the exact same things as you. That’s important to appreciate. And I mean deeply appreciated.

The way you go about your idea will inherently be unique if you have the bravery to approach it in a way that is fully you. I don’t think the question is how do you research what others have done. Some basic time on Google can get you there. The bigger question is, do you have the guts to do it your way? And to stand your ground in your vision? A lot of people are going to give you their opinions or tell you how things can or cannot be accomplished. You need to trust yourself.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

Every product or service is going to be unique. What is helpful is to develop a repeatable, scientific process. One that you can consistently return to and iterate as needed.

For instance, SOL VAE focuses on hybrid bra manufacturing. There is a repeatable method in there. You begin with your sketches, then develop your patterns, source your materials, and finally develop solid manufacturing relationships to carry the product across the finish line.

In my journey, finding a good manufacturer was the most challenging part. I was resolute that our products would be manufactured in the USA. It turns out, up to 95% of apparel manufacturing is now overseas. Finding the talent was difficult.

I toured factories across 4 states, took 6-months to learn how to operate the industrial machines myself, and worked with a variety of folks to climb the learning curve. I eventually earned my stripes to work with an incredible factory. Our production needs and their business needs were finally a good match.

So when sourcing manufacturers — or any business partners — take your time. Know your product in-and-out. Your operations will run much smoother if you can put yourselves in the shoes of those who are making it. It’s going to save you time, money, and the teams you work with will appreciate and notice it.

Everything comes down to relationships. So take time to find people who align with your vision, and vis-a-versa.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. You have permission to do things your way. When you put your idea out in the world, you are going to be flooded with feedback. Some of it is deeply valuable. And some of it will pull you away from your core. Trust your gut and ask questions when someone tells you something isn’t possible — even if they are the expert and you are not. You’ll be surprised on what you can uncover.
  2. Seek counsel on taxes and legal matters very early. These items can be overwhelming and they’re always evolving. Time and money spent to keep these matters buttoned-up upfront is rarely wasted. And you’ll sleep better at night.
  3. You’re not going to make everyone happy. Some people won’t understand your idea, some employees won’t like your feedback, and the list goes on. That’s OK. The focus isn’t to make others happy. But rather, to build healthy, long-term relationships. Kindness always prevails.
  4. Do the frameworks. There are a lot of frameworks out there to help you do a competitive analysis, find a value proposition, define your market, etc. It’s tempting to rebel against these and “wing it”. But you will save significant time and money by sitting down with a pen and paper and thinking deeply about the elements of your business. Even if you can’t nail down something specific, you’ll learn a lot that will accelerate your growth trajectory.
  5. You can’t always sprint. Especially when your venture is small, there can be an intensity to it all as you get things off the ground. But, you’re going to go in circles if you don’t take a day off every now and then. Think of it this way. An Olympic runner doesn’t sprint every, single day. They have recovery days and days when they cross-train. You also need recovery days and opportunities to cross-train so you can move forward efficiently — and with joy.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Start talking to people! The world is full of kindness. I made a lot of phone calls and emails to CEOs asking if they wouldn’t mind sparing 30 minutes for business advice. Most of the time, they were happy to hop on the phone.

There are many people who have gone before you that are excited to pass along wisdom. And ideally help you avoid some of the hassle they had to experience. So get on the phone and start making calls. At the end of the conversation, ask them if there is anyone else they would recommend you speak to. Before you know it, one call leads to three more, which leads to three more, and so on. You’ll build your network, gain friends in a new industry, and absorb the intel and confidence you need to carry your vision forward.

And always send a thank you email or note.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

It all depends on what you are inventing, as well as your budget. If you are limited on funds, start with local resources. The Small Business Development Center truly has a wealth of helpful experts. I have gotten hours worth of free advice from full-time lawyers, accountants, marketers, and more. It’s what they are there for.

Your local SBDC is also likely deeply connected to other organizations designed to help. They connected SOL VAE to Manufacturer’s Edge, as well as a variety of other governmental and non-governmental organizations that got us where we needed to go.

Another route is to consider bringing a partner into your business. For instance, if you are business savvy but require engineering skill, put the word out if any engineers may be on board with your vision. You never know what will come from it.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I would recommend every venture start with a little bit of bootstrapping. It’s a good time for you to get more involved in your organization, learn the industry, and quite honestly decided if it’s something you want to stick with.

From there, I think it’s up to the individual/team — and the idea itself — on whether bootstrapping or VC makes sense.

Venture capitalists will be looking for a business model that’s proven to be both repeatable and scalable. Their role is typically to “pour gas” on an already existing flame to help it grow bigger and gather market share faster. VCs will be looking for a fair share of equity. They know their equity will dilute with future rounds of funding, yet eventually (and hopefully) lead to liquidity exit event. If your idea aligns, it’s an exciting world. And one that needs more female founders.

However, there are many ways to fund your business beyond VC funding. From crowd-sourcing, to angel investors, to government grants. There is a lot of money out there. SOL VAE is 100% bootstrapped, but we found great direction on the world of investing with our local entrepreneurial accelerators. An accelerator is another fantastic option if you have some momentum and are looking to be propelled further with a community of others.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I think about that question all of the time. I built SOL VAE to make the world a better place in our day-to-day business via our materials, our fair labor production, and continual efforts to manage our carbon footprint. We intend for SOL VAE to help advance needed change in the fashion industry.

As we gain further success, the goal is two-fold. First, I’d love to educate our customer base on ways to credibly incorporate sustainability into their everyday lives (or be a resource for other businesses to operate more sustainably).

Second, I’d love to support other women with their own businesses. SOL VAE comes from the name Solveig — what my parent’s had originally planned to name me. It turns out, it can be translated powerfully to “woman of the house”. I’ve had many women support me along the way, and I appreciate the personal growth it takes. I’ll take any chance to help lift another woman’s dreams up.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Embrace less is more. I grew-up on a small island where many material things were difficult to access. Later in life, when I was in a big city and everything was at my fingertips, I realized I wasn’t missing out on material things. Honestly, I got very overwhelmed by “stuff” and how it actually fits into my life.

SOL VAE develops a core set of responsibly-made hybrid bra styles, designed to last and adapt to your versatile life experiences. Our movement is to pursue less is more. Choose quality and bring things into your life with joy and purpose. In doing so, you tend to use the world’s resources at a more sustainable and respectful pace.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would fly anywhere to have a breakfast or lunch with Sara Blakely. She truly created something from nothing — and in the industry I’m in. What I respect about her most is that she held her ground on her vision. I know that came with immense challenge. And she’s given back to the world tenfold in return. She stayed true to herself throughout. That’s a big deal.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market