Meet a Fort Wayne lingerie entrepreneur, bringing sexy back to comfy clothes

In 2018, South Side High School alumna Carmen Perry was living in Indianapolis and planning to start a line of lingerie.

Perry had worked for herself before as a natural hairstylist. She earned her undergraduate degree in visual arts from North Carolina State, and she wanted to use her creativity to design lingerie that would help women feel beautiful and comfortable at the same time.

Then she got pregnant.

Perry grew up in Fort Wayne and graduated at the top of her class at South Side High School.

After giving birth to her daughter and moving back to Fort Wayne, Perry got her finances in order, and when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, she felt the desire to start her lingerie business again. A popular form-fitting romper by Carm A. Sutra comes in a variety of colors.

In August 2020, she launched her brand, Carm A. Sutra, while working full-time at her daughter’s daycare. Rather than starting with lingerie, Perry’s business began by selling comfy, form-fitting rompers on her website.

As the rompers sold, she added more products to her line, like dresses and lacy short sets, perfect for women wanting to feel cute while stuck at home during the pandemic. To Perry’s surprise, her community in Fort Wayne and beyond showed up to support her small business.

“My city has definitely looked out for me,” Perry says. “I didn’t know what type of feedback I would get on my business, especially since I had been gone for so long, but it was really nice to see the local support.”

Now, about one year after selling her first romper, Perry is launching Carm A. Sutra’s first, long-awaited line of lingerie to achieve her dreams.

Entrepreneur Carmen Perry sports one of her Cotton Comfort Pants Sets.

In every piece of clothing she creates, Perry says her goal is to put comfort first, without sacrificing style and sex-appeal. She chooses extra soft and stretchy fabrics to help women look and feel their best while lounging around. Her goal is to create attractive clothing that’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and all of her pieces can be ordered in sizes XS-2XL.

Entrepreneur Carmen Perry sports one of her Cotton Comfort Pants Sets.

While you might not know it today, Perry says she has felt a lot of insecurity with her own body over the years. Becoming a mom added a new level of body-appreciation to her life. Now she’s ready to “bring sexy back” to her own life and to the lives of her shoppers by creating pieces that bring out the sensuality within.

“I know what it’s like trying to be a mom and bring your sexy back,” Perry says, laughing.

Entrepreneur Carmen Perry sports one of her popular form-fitting rompers underneath a pair of jeans with a Carm A. Sutra bag.

She originally started selling her clothing on her website, social media, by word of mouth, and at pop-up events in Fort Wayne and nearby cities, like Indianapolis. Perry believes her connections from being a natural hair stylist in multiple markets has helped her business grow by giving her an immediate customer base. Still, she’s impressed by how quickly and strongly her Fort Wayne community has supported her young venture.

Along with designing loungewear, Perry is also a natural hairstylist.

At one of her pop-up events last fall, she learned about a nine-week basic business education course, called the Build Institute, run by SEED Fort Wayne. Perry quickly enrolled in the class in November with a desire to learn how to put together an official business plan that would help Carm A. Sutra grow and stay organized financially.

“I hadn’t been forced to sit down and make a real business plan until that point,” Perry says “That was the biggest thing I got out of the course. I hadn’t had any official business training, but after working for myself for so long, doing hair, I knew I wanted to continue working for myself, and the Build Institute gave me the tools I needed to do that.”

Entrepreneur Carmen Perry sports one of her popular form-fitting rompers underneath a pair of jeans with a Carm A. Sutra bag.

After her first year in business during the pandemic, Perry says she’s earned more than $35,000 in sales. Looking back on the experience and seeing the support she has received along the path to entrepreneurship, she only wishes she would have pursued her passions sooner rather than just dreaming about her business.

“My one piece of advice is: Just start it,” she says. “I feel like I took so long to start my business, and it has been nothing, but up. Hopefully, more people can see: You’ve just got to start somewhere.”

Learn more
For more information, visit Carm A. Sutra’s website, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram at @shopcarmasutra.

This story is part of an Entrepreneurship series made possible by funding from SEED Fort Wayne. To learn more about SEED, visit its website at fwuea.org.
 

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.