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Joanna Griffiths, CEO, Knix.
Looking ahead to the new year, CEO Joanna Griffiths has a clear idea of where her company, Knix, is heading.
By January 2022, the online-based company, known for its innovative intimate apparel and inclusive marketing campaigns, will have rolled out retail stores in six markets across North America – Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Santa Monica, San Francisco and San Diego.
The introduction of brick-and-mortar shops is a big deal for Knix, though it’s not the first time the company’s products have been available in store. Griffiths started the company in 2013 with an online crowdfunding campaign to sell her first product, leak-proof underwear for women. The campaign was so successful, it resulted in a wholesale deal with one of Canada’s top department stores.
“It was a wild and outrageous idea,” Griffiths said about creating a leak-proof underwear. “I wanted to make a product that a large group of people needed, that affected an intimate part of their lives. It affected their self-esteem and how they thought of themselves. In many cases these women wouldn’t want to leave their house or be intimate with their partner. I knew something had to change.”
Griffiths said she didn’t see that important message of self-acceptance come through when she was selling her products through other retailers and so, never one to ignore her gut feeling, Griffiths decided to pull out of the wholesale business completely in 2016 and focus solely on building the company online and developing a brand that would become synonymous with women’s empowerment, inclusivity, innovation and self-love.
Today Knix has sales in excess of $100 million with 1.6 million active customers. The company’s blog boasts more than 200,000 unique visitors a month and its social media accounts have more than 500,000 followers.
“Over three years, we grew 3,800 per cent,” she explained. “Running a company is really hard when things are going badly but it’s just as challenging when things are going well and you have to navigate all the success.”
The first thing she did was invest in partners that would help her build and scale the business. “I found an amazing fulfillment center and partnered with a (website provider) so that I wouldn’t have to become a tech company,” she said.
At the same time, she implemented PayPal to process the payments, a move she said helped develop trust in the Knix brand as their customers were familiar with PayPal’s ability to provide secure transactions.
“We partner with the best so that we can focus on what we do best,” she said.
In fact, Griffiths said she has helped a lot of other founders on her own time get started with PayPal.
One tip she always passes along is the importance of having a checkout process that is “as seamless as possible” as it is an instrumental part of the online sales funnel.
“E-commerce is all about removing frictions to purchase, so streamlining that final step is extremely important,” she said. “It’s a smart business decision.”
Furthermore, PayPal played a key role as her business exploded, not only in Canada but in the U.S.
“It was a really important step for us in the beginning when we started selling in multiple countries, we worked with PayPal in the background to make that happen,” she said. “It may seem like a small thing but when the sale is done in U.S. dollars, and you are paid in U.S. dollars, and it’s put in our account as U.S. dollars, those small gains really do add up over time.’
Now that the company is focusing on expanding its presence with physical stores, Griffiths said the goal is to create a unified experience for customers, regardless of where they are shopping for Knix products.
A photo from a Knix ad campaign.
“It has been very eye-opening,” she said. “Whether you have one store or 1,500 stores, the customers’ expectation is that it will be a seamless, omnichannel experience. They want to buy online, pick-up in store or have easy in-store returns or they want to shop in stores and ship to home.”
The stores are also an extension of the inclusive community Knix has so carefully created online. The stores are meant to be a warm and welcoming place where trying on intimates is a comfortable experience and where no question is too awkward to ask. Thoughtful touches such as diverse mannequins, hand drawn murals and a luxuriously comfortable fitting room experience are all designed to make customers feel welcome and at home.
“Our mission is to be a mirror to the world,” Griffiths said.
She has long said that the best advice she has ever received was to attach her company to something bigger than herself, as it would make the hard days worth fighting for. She said that advice has served her well, particularly in the last year when the pandemic halted Knix’s store expansion plans.
In the past year, the brand launched a fundraising campaign, raising nearly $800,000 to help deliver Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to frontline healthcare workers and homeless shelters. Knix has also donated $125,000 to Black Lives Matters, including $75,000 to help support fighting maternal mortality rates within the Black community.
“We’re selling something bigger than underwear. In the last 18 months, the world was in a state of rapid change. It was so easy to find our purpose and our role. It gave us a purpose to fight forward,” she said. “When you have a bad quarter or a bad year, it’s easy for morale to slip. But when it’s tied to something bigger, it’s easier to navigate through those challenging times.”
Being a mission-based company, Griffiths said she keeps a critical eye on the companies that work with Knix.
“Consumers are really smart and empowered and so you have to use a critical lens with whoever you work with,” she said. “When we look at making a switch, (a company’s values) certainly is what makes us stay.”
Knix’s own staying power throughout the last eight years doesn’t surprise Griffiths in the least bit because from the very start of her business, she has always been able to pivot and look to the future rather than focus on the past.
“Pulling out of the wholesale business and focusing online was scary and terrifying but it was the best decision we ever made,” she said. “We learned the importance of investing in the brand and building community, so that of all the competition, customers choose you.”
For more information on how PayPal can help grow your business, visit PayPal for Enterprise (paypal.com/ca/enterprise) and get in touch.
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