Fempro Armour: Empowering women in sports with protective gear

Date: 8-Mar-2024
It’s hard to imagine a more remote place for someone to envision a brave sportstech concept, but the sandy dunes of the Simpson Desert proved to be fertile ground for Fempro Armour, the brainchild of founder Stephanie Bofinger.
Fempro Armour: Empowering women in sports with protective gear

Bofinger is a passionate and daring off-road motorcyclist and was previously a professional athlete, swimming internationally for Germany. She came up with the idea for Fempro Armour in end of 2019 when she was part of the first all women Simpson Desert dirt bike ride, consisting of 13 girls riding to raise funds and awareness for Dolly’s Dream, an anti-bullying charity. During this ride, Bofinger discovered that her personal problem with protective gear was being shared amongst the other girls.

From there, Fempro Armour was born. An Australian-owned and operated brand that prides itself on producing high-quality chest and body protection armour and apparel for action sport, high-risk frontline personnel, and healthcare. Bespoke for the female form, it limits the consequences of a collision with a stationary item or another person.

Fempro Armour has grown exponentially in less than four years and is now stocked in Australia, New Zealand and USA/Canada, with hundreds of happy direct consumers.

The problem: Women wearing gear designed for men

Females are obviously different shapes i.e. some have upper curves, lower curves, mid curves, front to the back and therefore a one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. This often meant that for high impact sports, there was a risk of injury for women, which can result in potential breast tissue damage.

Before the advent of Fempro Armour, female athletes faced a dilemma: either adopt protective gear designed for men or forgo protection altogether. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness that female specific equipment is required – leading to an increasing number of companies responding to this demand. Fempro Armour stands apart due to its unique design and features tailored specifically for the female anatomy. Its innovative construction and advanced materials set it apart from other offerings on the market.

Fempro Armour caters for all sports but with a focus on extreme sports – utilising lightweight, mouldable materials that react to body heat, and impact energy. Fempro Armour offers a broad range of protective gear for the whole body.

“With 52% of the population being female, there is a huge market that doesn't have the same body shape as males, regardless of breast size. I first set out to supply motocross gear specifically but through research, discovered that the same issue was present in a range of other use case scenarios,” said Stephanie Bofinger, Founder and CEO of Fempro Armour.

Fempro Armour now protects participants of various impact sports such as motorcycling, martial arts, horse riding, AFL, rugby union and rugby league. It is also used in the healthcare sectors (hospital and aged care) and in the defence force.

Building the solution: a tale of perseverance

Bofinger approached 15 manufacturers who told her she wouldn’t be able to develop what she hoped to. Bofinger’s experience in competitive sport taught her never to give up and that, while there will always be challenges, they can be overcome.

“During a designing course, they all laughed at me when I asked, what a dart (a sewing term) is and there were many times when I felt like a fish out of water. But telling me that I can't do something makes me even more determined, just to prove a point,” said Bofinger.

In 2022 Bofinger participated in a health accelerator, the Lumina X program on the Gold Coast, where she was the only hardware business in the program.

“All the businesses in my cohort were working in AI, cloud and software areas, so I felt out of place. But I had the opportunity to speak at Bond University and was able to share our product, vision and what I want to accomplish,” said Bofinger.

During this time, Gold Coast based Southport Sharks, an Australian Football club, and Bond University with its female Rugby team had approached Bofinger to design a specific protector for their sport. Fempro Armour was able to test and trial the newly designed protector with the help of their female teams.

The mission and the product: Inspiring women in their active pursuits

Fempro Armour’s mission is to make a world where people are safe when they fall or have a collision with another athlete. To inspire women to feel safe when participating in their chosen sport or profession by developing and delivering purpose-built quality protection armour and apparel products.

The body protector is functioning in three keyways: hardening upon impact to reduce energy transfer, distributing impact energy across the entire plate to prevent concentrated force, and absorbing remaining energy before redirecting it away from the body, akin to a car's airbag, thus minimising injury risk. Leveraging a memory effect, the foam protector retains its shape after deformation, ensuring continual functionality.

“You can find a lot of armour on the market, so it can be difficult to choose the right one for your needs or to know which is the best. There is a tendency for people to believe that hard plastic will provide better protection, but the impact absorption ability of the protector is one of the most important aspects to consider. Whilst a hard protector with European CE rating will slow down the energy, but the question remains “where does the energy go once applied to the protector”? You’ll notice most hard plastic protection armour will only give 12 months warranty, compared to Fempro Armour 10-year warranty,” said Bofinger.

Fempro Armour’s application in Aged Care and Health

Bofinger hasn’t really thought about Fempro Armour for the elderly but – like motorcycle riding – falls are a fact of life when you get older.

“It doesn’t matter if you fall from a motorbike, a horse or a chair, the impact is the same. But for the elderly, it can lead to a loss of mobility or independence, or even death. My grandmother died during surgery for a broken hip,” said Bofinger.

“Wearing our armour means older people are considerably safer when they fall, and repercussions are less severe. It may not fully prevent a fracture, but it will greatly reduce how acute it is,” said Bofinger.” Added Bofinger.

Working closely with ASTN to take Fempro to new heights

In late 2022 Bofinger joined the Australian Sports Technologies Network as a member and attended the 2022 Pre-Accelerator program. This helped Fempro Armour connect with the right people to propel to new heights, but more so connect with likeminded people to exchange learning and to support each other in the entrepreneurial journey of the business.

Bofinger is also a participant in ASTN’s 2023/24 Accelerating Female Founders (AFF) Program, an initiative funded by AdvanceQLD, specifically targeting QLD-based female founders to help support female-led sports technology and innovation (sportstech) businesses in Queensland.

Bofinger said being around an army of like-minded people and building connections with others on the same journey gave her the confidence and know-how to keep pushing the boundaries.

“It’s very special to be part of the ASTN community. The expertise of the mentors and facilitators, as well as the information shared at events, has been instrumental in ensuring good business decision making. There is also an amazing sense of camaraderie amongst the members. I would highly recommend ASTN to other sportstech entrepreneurs who are wanting to take their business to the next level,” said Bofinger.

“I’ve found the masterclass incredibly beneficial, hearing and learning from other female-led businesses that are going through similar challenges in their start-up journey,” added Bofinger. Knowing that you are not the only one struggling in business with so many aspects of business practises is reassuring we are on the right track,” added Bofinger.

Nothing but the best for women who want to keep active

Fempro is building a reputation for a superior product that is customisable, safe and affordable. Fempro is quickly making waves across the globe with reviews from customers that highlight the adaptability and safety of this premium product. Thanks to Fempro Armour, women can now be assured that they have the very best gear to protect them in their chosen sport.

To learn more about Fempro Armour visit femproarmour.com. Listen to Stephanie Bofinger’s interview on ASTN’s ‘Sports Cutting Edge’ podcast.

Girls on mountain bike wearing protective gear

Stephanie Bofinger