This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That. We've asked readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories. Their answers are edited.
Introducing Joanna Griffiths, founder and CEO of Knix Wear, a Toronto-based lingerie company specializing in women's underwear. Their products will be sold in Hudson Bay's stores across Canada beginning this week.
1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?
Knix Wear is a high-tech women's underwear brand, based in Toronto, that is designed by women, for women, and with women's needs in mind. We were founded in August, 2012, and launched to the public in May, 2013, via a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Our Knix Wear knickers, which combine fashion, function (thanks to our Fresh Fix Technology) and fit, are available for purchase online at www.knixwear.com, in select lingerie boutiques across North America, and, later this month, in Hudson's Bay locations Canada-wide.
2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?
I first came up with the idea to start Knix Wear 4 years ago, after having a conversation about the physical realities of being a woman and discovering that an estimated 1 in 3 women experience the occasional light leak. I started speaking with hundreds of women, and realized that we could all do with an underwear upgrade. Underwear that not only looked great, but was comfortable and kept you ready for anything – no matter what. I did my MBA in 2011 at the global business school INSEAD, where I worked tirelessly on the idea, eventually winning the business venture competition and $20,000 to start the business.
Knix Wear's goal is to make women's every day just that little bit easier, and the positive reinforcement that I received from women of all ages made it easy to stay motivated and to take the entrepreneurial leap of faith.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
It's interesting as we really are seeing a wide variety of women buy our knickers. We are popular with new and recent moms, and busy professionals who want to feel fresh. The boomers seem to really like our Knix seamless brand and fitness enthusiasts have taken to our FitKnix athletic line. Our customer base has turned out to be much wider than I had initially expected.
Most customers are finding us via social media and traditional media coverage (we've been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Women's Wear Daily etc) – although the real driver for us has been word of mouth.
4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?
While I'm the sole founder of Knix Wear, there is a fantastic team of women that pour their hearts into the company every day. We are four women, each from different decades and life stages, and that has really allowed us to create a product that appeals to such a wide demographic.
5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
First of all, thank you! We are so flattered. When it comes to Knix Wear's success, it's really hard to pick just one thing, because I firmly believe that there are three things have been critical.
1. We listen to our customers and what they want from their underwear. In our crowdfunding campaign we were able to use customer feedback to add our high-rise brief style (now our top seller) as well as plus sizes. When you listen to your customers you can't go wrong.
2. We spent time developing a brand that we hope women will love, and continuously work to delight our customers. Our packaging is multi-purpose and beautiful, and we ship our orders in lingerie wash bags that customers can use to keep all their favourite intimate items. We value our customers and we want them to feel special.
3. Finally, we're starting a conversation about things that aren't often talked about, and we're doing it in a confident, yet feminine way. Our customers appreciate that, allowing us to build a real community around the brand.