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Guest Name
Lisa Z Lindahl
Lisa Z. Lindahl
Guest Occupation
Inventor of the Sports Bra Memoir-Unleash the Girls!
Guest Biography

Lisa Z. Lindahl is an artist, entrepreneur, and women’s health advocate. She invented the sports bra in 1977 and patented a medical garment for breast cancer survivors in 2000. She has a BS in education from the University of Vermont, a Masters of Arts in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University in California and is a graduate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies’ Program of Advanced Initiations. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Unleash The Girls

The Unlikely Story Of How One Woman Pioneered A

Revolutionary Industry --And Helped Level The Playing

Field In Business & Sports For Millions Of Girls & Women

““The sports bra was and is more than a piece of sporting equipment, it has become a symbol and a vehicle for women and girls to propel themselves forward without inhibition towards the future that they are creating. Prior to its inception, the concept of women running, jumping, lifting, competing, basically moving dynamically, caused reticence. NOW, WE RUN AND MOVE in every athletic space and then some. To say I don’t think about my sports bra anymore is to say that I am FREE to accomplish and go after anything I want. I am EMPOWERED TO EMBRACE OPPORTUNITY!”

-- Brandi Chastain, American retired soccer player, two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold-medalist, coach, and sports broadcaster 

“The introduction of the sports bra did more than improve athletic performance. It represented a revolution in ready-to-wear clothing, and for many women athletes – past, present, and future – it actually made sports possible.”

--Smithsonian Museum of American History Archivist Cathy Keen

As an aspiring artist, part-time secretary, and part-time undergrad student at the age of 28, Lisa Z. Lindahl, a person with Epilepsy, was an unlikely candidate to create a sports garment that would reshape the athletic landscape and become a 19 billion-dollar annual industry. Her new book reveals the amazing story behind the creation of the sports bra, an entrepreneurial victory that has landed her in The National Inventors Hall of Fame (the induction ceremony is May, 2020).

Unleash the Girls:  The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How it Changed The World (and Me) takes us back to 1977 when women, whether they wanted to go to the gym, compete in sports, or jog (as Lisa did), had no protection against bouncing, chafing, sweaty breasts. After casually talking to her sister about the need for such a bra, she went to her good friend, Polly, who later became an award-winning Muppets costume designer, about the need for an athletic bra. Lisa was determined to set out to find a better way to protect her body.

Lisa’s story takes us through the many challenges, ups and downs, and successes of launching a business by women for women in an era and an industry dominated by men. She not only shares “learn from my mistakes” advice, she also provides encouragement to anyone looking to turn an idea into a business.  Lisa’s story is brutally honest and reveals how she navigated – and sometimes fell into – the many pitfalls faced by female entrepreneurs in an industry that had ignored the needs of women.

What Lisa initially thought might be a small mail-order business took off like wild fire across the country.  She was suddenly thrust into a competitive business world dominated by men.  Her only formal business education consisted of a one-year program at the Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School. She didn’t even drive a car (due to her Epilepsy).  She certainly seemed an unlikely candidate to become a successful business story and an agent of change.

Lisa is available to discuss:

  • How the first sports bra was crafted out of a men’s jock strap – and how it evolved.
  • How her invention revolutionized not only women’s athletics, but Feminism..
  • How she managed a company with millions in annual revenue, while living with Epilepsy.
  • How she lost control of the company she founded – and gained it back.
  • How women and entrepreneurs can help other women succeed in business.
  • How an idea can be worth millions --but only if you act on it.
  • How to handle the constant anxiety and stress of dealing with the unknowns of an expanding business in a changing marketplace.
  • Knowing when it’s time to sell your company.
  • How/why a bra serves as a feminist icon
  • Partnerships: the good, the bad -- and the ugly?

“Women’s stories need to be told – their true stories, not the fairy tales or fame-glam stereotypes or strident melodramas still too prevalent today,” writes Lisa.  “In these times more than ever, the real stories of real women need to be told by the women who lived them. My story about inventing the sports bra is one such story.”

The 1970s saw women coming into their own, working hard to create new roles at home and in sports, culture, politics, and business. It was also the start of the fitness revolution. At this unique intersection of feminism and athleticism, Lisa’s game-changing entrepreneurial journey began.

She invented the “Jogbra” 43 years ago, the first sports bra. It was the right product at the right time, throwing Lisa into a high-stakes world of business and power – a world for which she was not fully prepared.

Unleash the Girls is the improbable story of how she used her powers of creativity to solve a vexing problem and ended up leveling the playing field for girls and women across the globe – literally, unleashing the girls.