Happy Wednesday, Mamas! I woke up this morning at 4:30 excited to get up and get to work (which, if you know me and my night owl ways, is a pretty big deal), as we have a BIG interview in store for today!
Side Hustle Moms: Meet the ultimate boss babe, Anna Zornosa.
As per her bio on Ruby Ribbon, Anna Zornosa's career has included leadership positions at startups, as well as large public companies. She founded Ruby Ribbon in 2011 after being inspired to create a unique everyday shapewear apparel company, whose products are only available through social commerce. She serves as an Advisor to several other startups including: Trulioo.com, Motista, Inc, Glam.com, and Chloe & Isabel. Previously, she served as EVP of the Cobalt Group, Vice President, Yahoo!, Chief Marketing Officer, Knight Ridder Digital, and CEO, Topica, Inc. She has both a Masters and Bachelor's degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and lives in Burlingame, CA with her family.
It isn't every day that I get to chat with the CEO of a Silicon Valley company, so better believe that I took full advantage and thought long and hard about what to ask! Without further ado, here is the fabulous Anna:
It is such an honor to be speaking with you today, Anna! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Before founding Ruby Ribbon, I spent 20 years working in Internet services companies both big and small. Career highlights include roles as a vice president at Yahoo! and the chief marketing officer for the digital division of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain.
In 2011, the last company I was part of sold to the ADP Corporation.
At that point, I considered many options, including retirement, but was inspired to create a shapewear company that doesn’t force women to choose between comfort or style.
In your own words, just what is Ruby Ribbon?
Ruby Ribbon is a body-shaping and bra-alternative apparel company. Not only does Ruby Ribbon differentiate itself with its wire-free, variable compression product line, the company sells its apparel products directly to consumers using a nationwide network of technology-empowered independent stylists.
Ruby Ribbon offers bras, camisoles, shapers and more that are made by women and for women. Its innovative products reflect the company’s response to the changing needs of American women, addressing both the need for real support while providing comfort and style.
Did you know that over the past 20 years, the average bra size has increased from a 34B to a 34DD? At the same time, in part due to the pain under wires inflict on more endowed women, market share for sports bras has increased – but sports bras have the undesired side effect of compressing and flattening a woman's breasts.
Enter Ruby Ribbon, which has created wire-free products that offer both support and style, as well as variable compression that’s slimming and smoothing. Not only is variable compression more flattering, it is also much more comfortable (uniform compression, which most competitive products feature, is too constricting and just doesn’t work with a woman’s curves).
More specifically, our shapewear technology and construction solve a number of common body challenges, such as: smoothing your core, shaping your legs, leaning out your hips, and lifting your bust.
How did you come up with the idea for Ruby Ribbon? How did you know where to even begin in building a clothing company?
My “aha moment” came when I escaped to the ladies room in the middle of a social event to throw my ugly and uncomfortable shapewear item in the trash and noticed several other women had done the same thing.
Coming from the world of media and Internet, I had no idea how to build a clothing company, but I was motivated when I grasped the market potential and need. Ruby Ribbon started as a crazy idea in my living room in Burlingame, California in 2012 and today we're a nationwide company. It’s been quite a journey!
What did the beginning stages of Ruby Ribbon look like and how did you scale it to the size it is today?
Ruby Ribbon entered the market in Q4 2012 and I seed funded the company myself early on because I so firmly believed in our mission and product.
We began our national expansion in 2014 after fine-tuning product, defining stylist training and compensation, and ensuring scalable operations in markets. This was at the start of the gig economy boom and capitalized on the desire of women to find a side hustle.
We later raised raised more than $11M from investors Trinity Ventures, Mohr Davidow Partners and DBL Partners and our network of stylists who focus on social selling really helped us achieve viral, word of mouth customer growth.
Just what is a Stylist and what made you decide to use this model for selling?
Today, virtually all of Ruby Ribbon’s business is conducted through independent stylists who work their business part-time or full-time and always flexibly as they juggle competing priorities.
We have more than 2,600 stylists nationally, who invest $250 in exchange for product samples and the ability to be paid commission on sales (and can purchase additional samples using a stylist discount).
The company supports the stylists with sophisticated web-based training programs—which it calls Ruby Ribbon Academy— as well technology tools including their own personalized e-commerce sites, templates for CRM-marketing, and training to conduct sales in-person and via online events.
Our stylists sell the garments through at-home parties in order to ensure our customers are in a comfortable and intimate setting where they can speak freely about their bodies and the product fit.
Stylist sales commissions range from 20% to 40% and the average sales event has sales of $850. Some women make over six figures, and it is their full-time job. Other women sell Ruby Ribbon to supplement part-time jobs or in addition to their roles as stay-at-home moms.
What makes Ruby Ribbon different from other clothing companies like Lu La Roe or Cabi?
One key differentiator is that Ruby Ribbon requires a minimal investment from stylists. Unlike the Lu La roe wholesale model which requires its sales consultants to purchase and manage a very large inventory, a Ruby Ribbon stylists can very successfully sell our line with only a few samples on-hand. We also have a product that women both need and love and require multiples of: our wire free support Cami.
Can you walk us through a day in your shoes?
When you start a company, you take on much more than a new job. It’s truly a lifestyle. I’m very hands-on and love to have a personal relationship with our Stylists and customers. I’m not the type of CEO who is locked in an ivory tower – I’m in it with our Stylists day-in-day-out.
Typically, I start my day answering emails over coffee and breakfast. I’ll usually have a call with East Coast teammates in the morning. When I’m not on the road, I’m at the office, meeting with my team, looking at sales figures, planning and reacting to what is going on with our Stylists. A couple days a week I also do an opportunity call with potential new Stylists. I love to meet them and answer their questions about Ruby Ribbon.
Can you give advice to any moms out there dreaming of launching their own company?
My advice to other aspiring “mompreneurs”—and women in general—is to wake up every day and say, “Today I will have more confidence.” I really believe that confidence is a woman’s most beautiful accessory because when you have confidence everything else comes easier and looks better! I also suggest surrounding yourself with great people whose expertise and skill sets will augment your own.
What has been your proudest moment since launching Ruby Ribbon?
There are many! We have had 60 months of consistent growth and now have a presence in all 50 states. We’ve sold more than 500,000 camisoles and empowered 2,600 women to earn incomes. These milestones all show me that we’ve had a tangible impact on a lot of women’s lives and that makes me very proud.