How I Started My Business with Knix Wear’s Joanna Griffiths

May 27, 2013 2:39 PM

As our friends started to have babies and dish about the joys and the horrors of it all, we finally understood why our moms used to joke about the dangers of sneezing. Incontinence affects millions of women in North America alone – it’s inconvenient, embarrassing and very commonplace. Momager Kris Jenner has publicly addressed her own problem on her reality show by saying, “I feel like I’m being betrayed by my own body.”

When entrepreneur Joanna Griffiths decided to create a solution that would relieve the stress of incontinence for women, she was out to ditch the diaper model. Instead, she’s created a fashionable and sexy product called Knix Wear High-Tech Knickers that was, in truth, long overdue given the market for it.

She’s also taken it a step further to make Knix Wear a product for every woman: the “frest fit” technology combats sweat, odour and leakage, so it eliminates the not-so-fresh feeling that would normally prevent you from letting your boyfriend go near you after a run even though you know you look good in your workout tights.

Check out the video, also featured in the Knix Wear Indiegogo campaign, for more on Joanna’s patented technology and cute Knix Wear styles:

Knix Wear is getting a lot of positive attention in the media, so we asked Joanna to share what she’s learned about starting up her first business…

1. Where did the inspiration for Knix Wear come from?

The inspiration for Knix Wear came from a conversation that I had with my mom four years ago about the realities of motherhood and some of the implications it can have on a woman’s body. It made me think about women’s underwear in general and realize that with the speed of technology it seemed like everything had evolved – everything but our underwear. I knew there had to be a better solution – and the opportunity to create underwear that does more. So that’s what we’ve created – really great looking, comfortable underwear that wicks away moisture and absorbs odour so women can feel sexy, fresh and confident from morning ‘til night.

2. You’re so young, why were you passionate about this product?

Some might even call it an obsession. My passion really comes down to two things:

1)  I’ve listened to women and have heard an overwhelming response that they want and need this product. Issues down there – whether it is leaks, perspiration, odour etc can be embarrassing and have an impact on a woman’s self esteem and confidence. At Knix Wear we have the opportunity to help make women feel beautiful, confident and prepared for anything. To talk to potential customers and have them say “I cannot wait for your product” and “thank you” makes it easy to stay motivated every day.

2)  Since getting into the underwear industry I have realized that I hate my existing underwear. In the best of cases, it’s comfortable and looks good and that simply isn’t good enough. With the speed of technology it seems like everything has evolved – everything but our underwear. I personally want underwear that does more. That multi-tasks and keeps up with my busy lifestyle. So selfishly, I’m excited to have an underwear upgrade.

3.   When you’re starting a business like yours, what’s the first step?

For me, it was really understanding the industry – What other products are on the market? How are competitors positioning their offering? Who do they sell to? At what price? What do their customers like or not like about them? And a million other questions. I believe that first and foremost you have to have an understanding of the industry you want to operate in and then you can decide what is going to make your business different and set you apart from the rest.

4.  How were you able to leave your day job and work on this business full-time?

It was definitely a tough decision but I was lucky on a number of fronts. I did my MBA last year at a business school called INSEAD and won their annual business venture competition which gave me some startup capital ($20,000) to put into the business. That definitely gave me a head start. When you first set up a business there are a number of things that can be done before you have to leave your job – aka on evenings and weekends. For me this included incorporating, filing my trademarks, hiring a designer to work on the designs, finalizing my branding and packaging etc – all of which I did while still working (and investing every dollar I made into the business). I continued working up until the point where I felt like I was the one holding the business back from moving forward and knew it was time to leave my job. I’m not going to say it has been easy or glamorous but my fiancé has helped tremendously in supporting us.

5. What advice can you share about finding investors and partners?

I am a big advocate for finding the right investors and partners. I think that it helps minimize the risk and if they are in line with your mission they can help move your idea forward, much faster than you could on your own.

Leverage and extend your network: When I moved back to Toronto I joined a number of groups– including a female entrepreneurship group called Amazing Women Inspiring Action, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation and found a great network in my shared office space at Work Place One. Other entrepreneurs are an incredible source for referrals and advice.

Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice and help: I think that at this point I have asked just about every single person I know for help in some way or another. If you feel awkward asking someone for help, then position it as though you are looking for advice. Always end the  conversation by offering to return the favor in some way.

Make it easy for people to help you: Draft emails that can be easily forwarded and be specific about what it is you are looking for. When I was looking for manufacturing partners and having problems finding ones, I asked my suppliers if they could recommend any good potential partners – and they did.

6. What’s been the most challenging thing about this journey?

For me it’s been patience. Absolutely everything takes longer than you expect it to and when things fall behind schedule it’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged.

7. What are you the most proud of?

Hands down, I am most proud of the most recent and final set of samples that we had made (the ones that are modeled in our photo shoot). I must have cried five times that day out of sheer happiness. To see something that started as just an idea and then, after years of hard work, come together into a physical product is a really amazing experience. To be honest, we ended up making a product that exceeded even my wildest expectations and I couldn’t be happier be the outcome.

8. Give us one good “do” and one good “don’t” for new entrepreneurs, based on your experience thus far?

Do: Ask lots and lots of questions from the people around you that know more than you do. You won’t learn without asking questions – and to succeed you need to know more about your customers and business than any one else.

Don’t: Launch your product or service without testing it many, many times first. Get feedback from your customers and continuously modify your business…BEFORE you launch. It will help you avoid costly mistakes in the long run.

You can contribute to the Knix Wear Indigogo Campaign to get first dibs on product or check out the Knix Wear website.

 

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