Havre Daily News
Nobody working at Enell Inc. had time to see the Havre-based company's sports bra featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Thursday, but they knew it had aired.
"We didn't realize it was going to start as early as it did," said company owner Renelle Braaten, as four different phone lines chimed to emphasize her point. It was 2:45 p.m. and the show had not yet aired on the West Coast.
The bra appeared on "Boot Camp Follow-Ups," an episode that checked in on people following a 12-week diet and workout plan Oprah advocates. The show included tips, such as a good sports bra for large-breasted women - the Enell. Quickly, the media mogul's selling power was felt by Braaten in Havre.
One Chicago television station airs the show when it's filmed, at 9 a.m. CST. That's when the calls started coming in, Braaten said. Her eight employees were hard at work Thursday afternoon and expected it to continue for several days.
Braaten took a call from Westport, Conn., while a call from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and another from Miami rang into the front room of her Second Street office.
"Holy cow!" employee Mardi Haas called from the front room, where she saw that 309 Web orders had been placed since the last time she had checked the site several hours earlier.
"We're going to run out of bras," Braaten said as she walked into the front room where four employees were taking orders over the phone. It was 3 p.m.
A mudslide had interrupted the broadcast of the show in New York City as the local station gave the slide live coverage, Braaten learned, but that had not slowed sales.
As the phones continued to ring, Braaten's employees were asked questions ranging from the measuring of bustlines to the weather.
"It's been raining and it's probably only about 50 degrees here in Montana," Stephanie Hentschel told one Florida caller.
"We're sort of going to stay on the phone until they quit ringing for the next few days," Judy Raminger told a caller who wanted to take her measurements before calling back to place an order.
Enell bras are sold by retailers around the country, online and through Braaten's Havre office. Enell bras are sized 00 to 8, rather than using normal bra measurements. As her employees explained throughout the day, every bra fits differently, so the best fit comes from using two measurements, one around the bust line and one around the rib cage below the bust line.
Braaten came up with the prototype, which her mother helped her make, 13 years ago. At first, Braaten said, she didn't plan to start a business, but then she realized others had to be looking for the same product. She began manufacturing and selling the bra, and her company has been growing slowly ever since, moving the manufacturing to Puerto Rico from Havre six years ago.
The bra has been featured in several sports bra reviews in fitness magazines. Three years ago, a Hollywood actress recommended the bra to a colleague. Braaten sent some bras to the publicist of one of the actresses, Jean Tripplehorn, along with a hint. Braaten wrote to her "You never know when somebody's going to know Oprah," she said. The publicist didn't know her, but she knew the creative director of O, the Oprah Magazine.
Since 2002, the bra has appeared in that magazine three times, paving the way for its Thursday appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Braaten is excited about the exposure that she worked for years to get, but she knows she never wants to leave Havre, and especially not Montana, she said.