Joanna Griffiths, Founder & CEO of Knix Knix

Joanna Griffiths is the CEO and founder of intimate apparel brand, Knix.

Founded in and bootstrapped since 2012, Griffiths set out to build a company to “change the way women feel about themselves,” she says.

In 2013, Griffiths went on to raise over $60,000 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, validating the customer need for Knix’s flagship product, leakproof panties. Since then the company has expanded its product-line to include everyday bras, underwear, sports bras, bodysuits and tops, and has launched an additional brand called Knixteen offering leakproof panties and training bras for teens.

As dozens of other companies have been growing alongside Knix and carving out their piece of the market-share in the $12 billion dollar lingerie industry, Griffith’s has been doubling-down on her brand’s core mission to empower women to live unapologetically free with its emboldening brand strategy. When she started the company, Griffiths made a strategic decision to feature only its real-customers in marketing materials. To date over 600 of Knix’s own customers have been photographed and featured on the brand’s Instagram feed, in marketing campaigns and throughout the website. The photos of the women strike that fine balance of a celebratory aesthetic and one that captures the essence of each woman in her imperfect glory making her appear perfect actually–from her stretch marks, to her mastectomy scars, to the special features of her body shape.

As Knix goes into its seventh year and eases into an era of even faster growth—the company currently sells an item every 10 seconds and last year shipped half a million orders—Griffiths is considering outside capital and is evolving its brand voice to take on the vulnerable topic of fertility.

Below Griffiths shares the advantages and challenges of self-funding, talks about the difficult decision to move from wholesale to direct-to-consumer, how her role as CEO has changed as the company has grown, and more.

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Gilbert: You’ve been self-funded from the start how has that been helpful for growth?

Griffiths: We’ve really been able to follow our own path which has allowed us to make some of these tough moves. We pulled out of wholesale which was a risk, but because we owned our destiny, we could make that call. The same with our marketing and the decision to use real women, our customers, in our photoshoots I’ve had potential investor meetings where they just didn’t get it. They thought our images were “raw” or “unpolished” which was code for them being uncomfortable seeing stretch marks, cellulite and bodies of all different ages. That authenticity has become a part of our brand DNA and something I received a lot of push back on in the beginning.

It’s also meant that we can take our time to get products right. We don’t rush things to market because we have a quarterly goal that we need to hit, we take our time and make sure that we get it right. In the end I think that we are stronger for that as we make decisions for the long run.

Gilbert: And in what ways has self-funding been challenging?

Griffiths: The biggest challenge is that you have to be very smart about your resources, especially with a product-based business that requires working capital to grow.

We would often fly in 20% of an order so that we could sell through the…