A startup CEO describes how she found three entrepreneurs from three different generations to work with, as well as the challenges and benefits of this unusual arrangement. By Joanna Griffiths (Founder & CEO, Knix Wear)
When I tell people about my high-tech women’s underwear startup, Knix Wear, they often are interested in two things: 1) How on earth did you come up with this idea? and 2) Who is on your team that is making it a reality?
For question 1: You can see our story on our indigiegogo campaign site. For question 2: Read on!
It may come as no surprise that the Knix Wear team is comprised of four women. What may come as a shock is that each of us is from a different generation and each is an entrepreneur in her own right. To be honest, it was the product itself that drew everyone in. I’ve found that no matter what stage you're at in your life, the idea behind Knix Wear strikes a chord for one reason or another -- it is an idea that women of all ages can get behind.
Rounding Up the Team
When I began Knix Wear, I realized very quickly that I was going to need help – and lots of it. This is my first startup and so I’m new to the whole entrepreneurship thing - let alone the apparel industry. I wanted to build a team that understood what it took to get a new company off the ground and that had a solid understanding of the fashion and apparel world.
I found Joanne (operations and finance) first. I worked for Joanne’s swimsuit company as a summer intern eleven years ago. Joanne has been an incredible mentor to me and when I needed someone to help, she agreed right away. Joanne has a great network in the apparel world and brought on board Caroline (sales). A former boutique owner, Caroline has experience on both the buying and selling side. The latest and youngest addition was Amy (marketing) who is a family friend. Amy started an online consignment business for luxury goods and I was immediately taken by her passion for the project.
I’ve read many books and articles on entrepreneurship and they often say that your first hires should be generalists with broad skills (with the exception of tech talent, of course) and people who can add value in ways you cannot. I could not agree more. There is something about entrepreneurs that I just love. They have a can-do attitude, are excellent multi-taskers, have a broad skill set, and often won’t take no for answer. With such a small team, and so much work to be done, this has been a Godsend.
A 24/7 Focus Group
With that said, entrepreneurs also love to be in control. I’m not going to lie; at times our meetings can be on the intense side. And this is only amplified by the generational differences that stand between us.
Women’s underwear tastes are as unique as women themselves, and part of the challenge has been to create a product that speaks to women of all ages. The nearly 30-year age difference between us has definitely helped. It’s like having a 24/7 focus group and is the ultimate test. For major decisions that pertain to design, packaging and communication, all four of us bring a different point-of-view and we try not to settle until we’ve come to a decision that everyone is happy with.
Having an all-female, multi-generational, former-entrepreneur team has definitely had its benefits and presented its challenges. As CEO, it’s my job to balance everyone’s opinions and ultimately come up with the best course of action. It hasn’t been easy, but slowly I have found my voice and navigated my own role within the team. In the end, I think our differences are what will help us stand out.
About the guest blogger: Joanna Griffiths is founder and CEO of Knix Wear, a women’s underwear company that pairs high performance fabrics with stylish designs. Always consumer focused, Joanna has extensive marketing and PR experience working with a long list of hig- profile clients, including celebrities, brands and causes. Joanna holds an MBA with distinction from INSEAD where she won the Women’s Award for Entrepreneurship. Follow her on Twitter @jogriffiths.