Knix Founder And CEO Joanna Griffiths On Why Customer Alignment Is Key To Achieving Accelerated Growth
To be an ally is one thing, but to run your company as a socially-focused platform is another. There was a time where it was better for business not to get involved with the personal views of your customers. However, as some of the world’s largest corporations begin to side with marginalized voices – some for the very first time in company history – it’s become clear that times have changed. Consumers of all kinds have begun to demand much more from the brands they give their money to, but with that shift brings the glaring problem of performative allyship – the insidious practice of saying one thing and continuing to do another for the sake of sales. But any founders hoping to scale their brands while remaining true to their fans need to look no further than the path of Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO of Knix.
“At Knix we’ve always decided that we were going to try to change the system, but we were going to do it from a place of inspiration and being a light,” Griffiths said of her brand’s origins in a recent interview. As we discussed the progression of her revolutionary company and their most recent social endeavours, it became obvious that she’s always made room in her business for doing what’s right and it’s just the thing that’s made all the difference in its accumulated success.
When Your Community Calls, Pull Up
In 2012 while Griffiths earned her MBA, the intimates industry was dominated by Victoria’s Secret. But as the old-school boudoir brand began losing traction in the age of #MeToo, Griffiths began surveying women about the underwear they wished they had. By the following year, Knix was launched as a women’s underwear brand focused more on function and less on frills, unapologetically catering to a diverse array of women that had long been silenced. Offering items ranging from wireless bras to leak-proof underwear that catch everything from incontinence leaks to period blood, Knix has successfully transformed the intimates industry simply by amplifying the voices of their very real customers.
Forbes spoke with Griffiths around the time her company was six weeks into a GoFundMe campaign aimed at providing frontline healthcare workers across Canada with a sufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). A campaign in which she’d launched after her brother, who is a doctor at a major Canadian hospital, let her know that facilities across the country were running low on the critical items they needed to keep everyone safe. To date the campaign has surpassed $500,000 in donations, including a matching initiative pledged by the Robert Kerr Foundation. Using the funds, the Toronto-based company has been able to bring in 400,000 masks and gloves along with 1,000 L of sanitizer, shipping to roughly 75 hospitals, long term care facilities, and other community organizations each week across the Greater Toronto Area. For 90% of the places that Knix ships to, they are the only PPE they’ve received.
“I feel like I can’t just sit and wait idly to see what other people are going to do. I need to get involved,” Griffiths emphatically expressed as she discussed her motivations behind some of the brand’s initiatives over the years. Just before we spoke, Knix had debuted the first lingerie ad in history to exclusively feature women over the age of 50 years old and since our conversation it seems that they’ve remained fully committed to doing good with their marketing dollars. On June 2nd it was announced that Knix was pledging a $100,000 donation to Black Lives Matter in solidarity, just days after Griffiths made her own call to action addressing her layered community of critical decision makers. Using the time since the announcement to dedicate their Instagram channel toward highlighting some of the incredible Black women within the Knix community, the brand is showing every other business exactly what it looks like to listen.
Remove Yourself From Being The Limiting Factor In Your Business
Whether your industry is nearly non-existent or you’re building during a global crisis, Griffiths believes that one of the keys to scaling your business is understanding how to spot its limiting factors and remove them immediately, even if that limiting factor happens to be you. “I think I packed the first five hundred orders and then was like, ‘nope, pay someone else to do it.’ I could have absolutely kept packing the boxes,” she explained. “But it would also take up hours and hours of my time that I could be working on building the business.”
Griffiths mentioned the same was true when the brand decided to switch from wholesale to online selling nearly three years after officially launching. Instead of relying on other people to tell their brand story and communicate the functions of the products they offered, by 2016 Griffiths made the bold decision to pull out of over 700 retail locations in order to make the thoughtful commitment as a direct-to-consumer brand. By offering their entire inventory online, Griffiths explained that at that point Knix could focus on sharing product stories with customers by customers, bringing the brand story directly to the retail buyer and instantly bringing sales out of middling territory. “If you are committed to your customers, you’re committed to your community, and you can respond quickly and pivot, you can still succeed in this environment,” Griffiths said.
Stay True To Your Vision
“When I started Knix, I had the ambition to turn it into a global brand,” Griffiths mentioned of her initial long term goals. “Like so many founders and startups, things didn’t exactly go the way that I planned them to go in the beginning.” While many of the industry’s heavy hitters dismissed Knix as a “cute” idea and wrote it off as a simple “lifestyle business,” Griffiths admits that in order to make it through the valleys of her company’s slow growth periods, she had to continuously convince herself that she was capable of building something new. And drawing from her past experiences of working at Universal Music Group in artist relations and interacting with some not so nice musicians, the mother of one has kept an air of resilience as she’s remained hell-bent on using her platform for good.
“People still want to buy from and support brands that they love,” Griffiths said, hoping to encourage other founders weathering the storm. “As a company, we’re seeing the strongest sales that we’ve ever seen, and so I do think that there’s something to be said there,” explained Griffiths. Knix is one of those brands that has a proven track record of giving back to their community and that’s been something that has undeniably kept them relevant and on the right side of history. Gearing up to release the coffee table book version of their Life After Birth Project – a groundbreaking art exhibition featuring images and captions of over 700 women postpartum, Griffiths included – it’s no question of whether Knix will remain dedicated to the causes of the customers they serve, only how.
Photo Source: Knix