Serena Benedetti Roy

Serena Benedetti Roy grew up in Monaco but created her first company, Kosmob, in China back in 2006. Only 22 at the time, she would spend the next four years developing and manufacturing her moped brand to sell in France.

“I did a student exchange in China when I was 13 and, even though I was young, I could tell the country had an exciting potential for development and it became my dream to work there,” recalls Serena. With a degree in industrial management at the French business school, Grenoble Ecole de Management, the entrepreneur had always been interested in both the technical and operational side of business. “Still today, my favourite professional activity is visiting factories to see how machines work.”

By 2011, the electric vehicle market in France was slowing and the French-Italian and Serena decided to enter the corporate world. She returned to Monaco and worked for ten years at Single Buoy Moorings (SBM) Offshore in Quality Assurance and Project Supply Chain.

It was four years ago at SBM Offshore that the idea for her latest startup, Akimba, came to light out of “personal necessity”. As she puts it, “I realised that I had a lot of nice clothes in my closet but I was reluctant to wear them at the office for two reasons – the embarrassment of perspiration stains and the dry-cleaning costs to get them out.”

Serena searched online for a solution to protect her clothes from sweat stains. “I found no-sweat T-shirts, mostly for men. So, I decided to do something about it.” She came up with The Fresh Bra™, a patent-pending bralette.

At the end of 2020, and expecting her first child, Serena opted for voluntary redundancy during SBM Offshore’s last round of downsizing. “I had a deep feeling this side project could turn into a real business. This product I was creating could improve the quality of life for many women, making them feel more confident in their clothes and allowing them to wear colours they would never dare to before. So, I took a leap of faith.” Akimba was founded in November 2021.

The soon to be 39-year-old (her birthday is August 28th) explains Akimba is inspired from the word akimbo, a standing position with your hands on your hips and your elbows pointing outward to create strength and courage. (Serena demonstrates in above photo.) “Posing like this makes you feel that anything is possible. And that’s the feeling I want to give to women who wear my products.”

But what exactly is “empowering lingerie”? Serena clarifies, “The Fresh Bra™ has been designed for maximum discretion, comfort and femininity. It is the first undergarment of its kind that not only supports the breast but also conceals sweat to keep your outfits looking perfect. All materials are plant-based and include anti-bacterial and fast-drying properties.”

Serena’s research unveiled a global market for active women with sweat issues – this includes everything from undergarments to professional treatments like botox and surgery – estimated at €3.5 billion. “I’m already working on different versions of The Fresh Bra™ and also some shorties to prevent thigh chafing.”

The serialpreneur launched The Fresh Bra™ last month on July 4th and hopes it will become a wardrobe game changer for 20,000 women in France and Europe within three years. “My 10-year vision is to be the first brand that pops into mind when you think of undergarments that are premium products and for empowering women – helping them feel more comfortable in their clothes and more confident in all aspects of their lives.”

Serena is counting on MonacoTech’s startup program to help Akimba reach these goals. “Entrepreneurship is quite lonely. I wanted to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs and decided to apply. MonacoTech has helped me to better structure my vision and the actions to achieve it. They have provided me with a sounding board for major decisions and given me good visibility in the local press.”

Akimba has no hires as of yet as Serena has been working with a freelance fashion designer, a pattern maker and a R&D company to develop the product. The polyglot (she speaks English, French, Italian and Chinese) reveals she took pattern making classes to have better control over product development. “My biggest learning curve has been to understand the ins and outs of the undergarment industry and the technical side of producing a piece of clothing.”

At the moment, the innovative bra is available online only but Serena is looking for retailers in Monaco and France to start selling Akimba products in the fall. She admits, though, that the supply chain is a major risk. “Recently prices of eco-friendly fabrics have surged. There are also not many manufacturers who can deliver high-quality standards for premium products like The Fresh Bra™.”

The Monaco Economic Board member believes that success is not only measured by your business’ bottom line but also by your happiness level. Her ultimate role model is Spanx founder Sara Blakely. “She’s not only a very smart entrepreneur but also a mom of four who has a lot of humour and empowers women in most of her activities.” Locally, Serena follows Marcela Kern @onboardwithmarcela. “I enjoy her energy, and her mix of professional and fun content. Plus, I get to learn a few things about the yachting industry.”

Tech-savvy Serena is also a big podcast enthusiast. So much so that in 2020, she started her own podcasts – Super Women of Monaco – to showcase the remarkable women in the Principality. “I also host the Akimba podcast to share the entrepreneurial journey of women who create brands and companies with the aim of helping other women.”

Article first published August 7, 2023.