This month on PMM, we are celebrating ordinary women who are accomplishing extraordinary things.
Joanna Griffiths is one of those women. She is revolutionizing the way we wear and feel about our underwear. She is the Chief “Knixpert” – aka founder & CEO – of Toronto-based Knix Wear.
Joanna holds an MBA with distinction from INSEAD, where she won the Women’s Award for Entrepreneurship and the Business Venture Competition for Knix Wear, securing $20,000 to begin the business. Joanna launched Knix Wear via a crowdfunding campaign in May 2013 on Indiegogo where she sold over $60,000 in high tech knickers (underwear), becoming the most-funded Canadian fashion project of all time.
Joanna is on the advisory board for Mastercard’s YES program (Youth Entrepreneurship Success) and does regular speaking engagements on behalf of MARS Discovery District, Indiegogo, Futurepreneur Canada (formerly the Canadian Youth Business Foundation), Queen’s University and INSEAD.
I got the opportunity to speak to this amazing woman – here’s my Q&A with the visionary founder of Knix Wear!
Natasha: What is the story behind the creation of Knix Wear?
Joanna: The concept of our original underwear started from a candid conversation I was having with my mom who is a doctor. After having children, your body changes and I was shocked that there wasn’t evolved underwear on the market that was actually comfortable and dealt with things like odors and leaks. 1 in 3 women experience the occasional light leak post-pregnancy when they laugh, sneeze, cough or exercise. We launched with our underwear in 2013 with an Indiegogo campaign. After getting tremendous customer feedback, we made additions and changes to our products to further support what women wanted. We proceeded to make athletic underwear that included the fundamental properties of our base layer products. Five weeks ago, we launched our first bra through our Kickstarter campaign which recently ended with over $1.1 million presale orders. Our Evolution Bra is the most funded female oriented project in Kickstarter history!
Natasha: When speaking with different women about their experience with underwear, what was the most surprising thing you learned?
Joanna: When we first launched the company we were targeting new moms. However, we were surprised to see how dissatisfied all women were with their underwear products. Whether it’s leaks, odors, sweating or lack of comfortability, underwear is the first thing you put on and people seem to be super-sensitive to it. So it is even more important that we are comfortable in our underwear.
Natasha: What are some of the common problems women face with their traditional undergarments?
Joanna: Not fitting well, digging in, not comfortable on the skin or riding up. Women who want to wear underwear without having it show through their clothes think that their only option is to turn to thongs. But, that is not true! Our seamless underwear eliminates panty lines without having to wear thongs and we offer a good assortment of sizing. Plus, a lot of existing active underwear typically comes in one size only. But, this is not practical. People do not come in a one size only!
Natasha: Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter project? What was that experience like?
Joanna: Our driving force was funding. We are still a relatively new brand. To create our Evolution Bra, we wanted to gain additional funding without detracting funding from our other product lines. We also wanted to determine what the actual demand was from the general public. Our campaign showed the overwhelming demand there was for this product as well as additional changes we could make to support what our customers want.
Natasha: How did you go about designing your pieces keeping body diversity in mind?
Joanna: We met with 120 women who had different body types and shapes who tried on and wore our samples before we took our final product to market. With body diversity, it is important to have as many different people try on the product so you know what adjustments are needed. Plus, we built our bra for lift and support without underwire, using performance fabric technology, and patented bonded construction that molds to a woman’s unique shape.
Natasha: What are some obstacles you ran into while making the Evolution Bra?
Joanna: We pushed boundaries in the production of the bra, by making the bra have flexibility in wear, enhanced technology and comfortability. With the Kickstarter campaign, we wanted to make sure customers had as much information they needed to understand the product to determine if they wanted to support the campaign.
Natasha: Tell me a little bit about your campaign “Every Body Has a Story”.
Joanna: In our first campaign in 2013, we used real women in our photo shoots. We wanted to do a follow up campaign involving real women (non-models). As a solution-based company, we are talking about real issues like odors, leaks and the reality of what happens with bras and underwear. We get inspired all the time by the stories that our customers share with us about our bodies and we wanted to create a campaign that highlighted the journey that women have with their bodies. It is a relationship and it is ongoing. Your body can be your best friend one day, and your enemy the next. I think what is really interested is that every single one of us has stories about our bodies. I was so overwhelmed that the women in the campaign were so honest and open about their personal stories about their bodies and self-image.
Joanna: We want people to knix their insecurities, excuses and convention all together! Every Body Has a Story campaign included real women talking about knixing their insecurities. We knixed convention by including women of different body shapes in the campaign and by featuring a diverse group of stories – from ostomy bags to MS warriors. And, the women involved knixed any excuses they had so they could take part in the campaign.
Natasha: Do you plan to have extended sizing for your product lines?
Joanna: We currently offer underwear that goes up to size 2X and we plan to go up to size 3X and 4X in 2016.
Natasha: Lastly, tell me about your Knixpert program?
Joanna: When we started the company, we launched our ambassador program for women who encompass what the company stands for. We wanted women who knix insecurities, excuses and convention in their daily lives who want to spread the word about Knix Wear. Inspiration can come from anyone and everyone. Knixperts are women who can be a part of that inspiration on a daily basis!
Thank you to Joanna Griffiths for sharing her story and stay tuned to the blog for more amazing stories about extraordinary women that we are celebrating this month!