How This CEO Built Her Lifestyle Brand Around Her Brain Disorder

Zakia Blain lived a life of being exceptional at almost everything she did, until one day she received news that would change the way she lives her life forever.

Embed from Getty Images

Blain is the founder and CEO of shapewear and lifestyle brand FBF Body, but before becoming she dove into the world of entrepreneurship she was working as an educator in Corporate America. When she was 30-years-old, however, she received a diagnosis for Chiari Malformation which changed everything. 

Medical sources define Chiari Malformation as a brain problem that causes the part of the brain located at the back of our skulls to bulge through the opening in the skull that connects it to our spinal canals. This bulging can put immense pressure on the spinal cord and parts of the brain which can cause mild to severe symptoms; like most diseases it impacts everyone differently. 

For Blain, finding out she had this illness meant she could no longer work out as intensely as she was pre-diagnosis, which led to her experiencing some weight gain and wanting to create a new journey for her life that wouldn’t let this disease control her. One day Blain was on a walk with one of her friends and venting about gaining weight when her friend said the phrase “f**k being fat,” which then inspired Blain to create some T-shirts with the same phrase. After selling a few and finding a new wave of confidence, Blain lost over 60 pounds and began helping others accomplish their goals with the “FCKBeingFat” online challenge that thousands participated in.

“I wanted to help people be proactive in their health. My brain disorder had nothing to do with my weight, but me being able to get off of medication had everything to do with my diet and exercise.”

Shortly after launching the FBF t-shirt line and beginning the online challenge, Blain began gaining a major following online. Suddenly she had hundreds of individuals in her comments and direct messages telling their stories with weight gain and self-confidence and soon she knew she wanted to turn this little t-shirt business into a major lifestyle brand that could help anyone. 

So, she did just that, and without any formal business background, Blain was able to create a model for her business which centered around her brain disorder. This meant that she would have to create a strategy for FBF Body that allowed her as an individual to prioritize her health while also running a successful business. In 2012, she officially launched her brand with multiple product drops which were planned strategically. 

A “drop” in the entrepreneur community refers to when “you have a product and you build up the anticipation of it releasing because it’s only available for a limited amount of time in limited quantities.” Blain implemented this “drop” strategy into the early stages of her business which helped her better manage her time spent on the business, and her own personal well being.

Embed from Getty Images

“I would literally be in bed for days and experience migraines for 11 to 13 days straight. So, I had to make sure that by limiting my orders I wasn’t becoming overwhelmed.”

Embed from Getty Images

Blain knew that in the beginning she wasn’t making as much money as she could’ve due to her limited schedule, however, she didn’t care as long as she was able to still help people while keeping her health as a priority. To build the brand even further Blain began doing weekly social media days that limited customers to getting certain products on certain days of the week to create a sense of urgency and excitement.

Shapewear as a product has grown immensely in popularity within the past few years alone. It wasn’t until 2016 that Blain would realize how successful she could be with her own shapewear in the FBF brand. After receiving over 800 replies from a snap story of Blain wearing a Miraclesuit shapewear, she realized that as a businesswoman she had a powerful influence and intended on using it fully. 

“I’ve worn shapewear most of my adult life and there was always an issue, whether it was rolling or digging. I contacted manufacturers to let them know that I had an audience, I loved the product, and I wanted to sell it. They said, ‘Okay’. That’s how I started to sell shapewear.”

In 2017 FBF Body Shapewear was made available online in sizes up to 5x making it one of the most inclusive brands at the time. Now, three years later and the shapewear industry is valued at an estimated $83 billion. Blain claims tha mission behind FBF is what really matters most to her. She can be found almost every day engaging with followers on the FBF Body Instagram; which has accumulated over 156,000 followers. 

She claims that by creating a business and running it on the foundation of self-love and authenticity made her so likable among her customers, and when it comes to inspiring others who may have a disability or anything else in their life that they think is holding them back, Blain thinks that “you have to make the best out of your circumstances. There are people who are paralyzed, or people who have depression, and those who have mental disorders. That just means that you have to take care of yourself. Learn how to manage whatever that disability is and make the best out of it – so that you don’t live a life of ‘should have, could have, would have.’”