“Through a career in marketing to women, I thought I was an authority on the female consumer. I knew obscure things – for instance, that eight out of ten women have a tea bag in their purse – And then I was surprised to discover that no one had ever understood something very important: The women of America hate their bras.” Anna Zornosa is sharing her motivation and the path to creating her million-dollar business 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 directly to consumers using a nationwide network of technology-empowered independent stylists. Those stylists offer customers high-touch service resulting in very low return rates. With nine out of ten customers planning to purchase again, the company repeat purchase rate is striking.
Anna is a serial entrepreneur and her start in business coincided with the beginning of the internet industry that changed the face of life as we knew it. Before founding Ruby Ribbon, she 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 she was part of, sold to the ADP Corporation. At that point, she considered many options, including retirement, but she was inspired to create a shapewear company that doesn’t force women to choose between comfort and style.
Women who start businesses come at it from their own knowledge base. I knew if I were to start a company my previous experience set the bar pretty high. Two things were clear to me. First, it wouldn’t be enough to generate revenue, I wanted a company that would meet a need, do good in the world and have a mission of service. I needed a higher objective at play. Second, based on my experience of building successful companies, I knew that I wouldn’t start a company unless it could be big and very profitable.
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 very same thing.
Soon after that, Ruby Ribbon started as a crazy idea in my living room in 2012 and today we’re a nationwide company. It’s been quite a ride!
The key to our product is variable compression. We interweave different types of material bringing different grades of tension to play in different places. We’ve learned to do this so well that we can banish the underwire as a means of support – both in bras and swimsuits.
We knew women were struggling with their undergarments so we set out to offer a comfortable fit and consistent sizing and service that made it easy for them to find the right product. What we have is the result of a lot of work, ongoing experimentation, collaboration with technical product producers and dedication from all involved in serving our customers and the company.
We started in the market with ten items; a few pieces of shapewear, legging, and pants, with some layering to bring them together. We now have; a full support and demiette cami, size range from 32 to 50, suitable for all cup sizes. Recently we added swimwear. In 2017, our Demiette won the Direct Sales Association’s prestigious Product Innovation Award.
At the heart of the company is the belief things can be done better. We continually fine-tune our product and services as a result of listening to customers and stylists. The entire company walks the stylists walk. We have slept in their homes and worked right alongside them doing trunk shows, meet and greets and fitting clients. Every quarter we sit down, review feedback from our stylists and clients and integrate it into our business.
What Was The Best Advice You’ve Received?
That was to start small and test our concept in markets we knew well.
Ironically though, when we executed on this advice during our soft launch in NY and the Bay area, we realized that our Stylists in those markets would not adhere to our parameters. They were so excited about the products that they shared them with friends all over the country, so we suddenly and unknowingly had launched nationally!
The lesson I learned is that geography is irrelevant when you have a viral product on your hand. So, the advice I now give to other entrepreneurs is: Be prepared to scale whether you are ready or not!
We’ve sold more than 400,000 camisoles and empowered over 2,700 women to earn incomes. Recently I celebrated with 70 women who earned an all exclusive vacation to Jamaica. These milestones all show me that we’ve had a tangible impact on a lot of women’s lives and that makes me immensely proud.
Anytime a woman walks in the world, confidence is her most important accessory. How you look and feel gives a woman the power of possible.
Women today need options for work, to allow them to marry all the components of life. Women often have to make choices they shouldn’t have to make. Having clothes feel good and look good shouldn’t be one of them.
How Do You Rate Your Success?
Success is when I know we have helped a woman achieve her goal and objectives. So many of our stylist’s accomplishments are deeply impressive. The stories that move me the most are those who never believed they could have a successful business much less be a top earner. I feel so much joy when a woman tells me she didn’t achieve her success just because of her skill set. The community we have built lifted her up.
When I started Ruby Ribbon with a revolutionary product that no one else had, I believed I was creating a sales company. I have come to realize we, in fact, are a personal development company. With Ruby Ribbon, women have the opportunity to own their own business. It doesn’t matter where you came from, whether you have little experience running a business or have some face to face retail experience, have never bought online or are a social media superuser, you can fly with this business.
We offer self-paced training that starts the moment you choose your “Boutique in a box”. Ruby Ribbon Academy provides access to our support and training services including a series of 12 videos which a woman can listen to as needed, in many different ways. She will have the basics to thrive; how to fit clients, use the back office and utilize social media. The woman with even more ambition, one who is interested in growing her contribution to her family and increasing her skill set to include managing people and time, can move on to other training opportunities.
Is There A Key Piece Of Wisdom You Would Like To Share?
My advice to women 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 recommend surrounding yourself with great people whose expertise and skill sets will augment your own.
Women need to know there is a company with a line of clothing that is dedicated to having them look and feel great. Recently retired, single women, or any woman who is asking how can I have a life that supports my goals with my personal reality, I invite you to take a look and see if representing Ruby Ribbon can help make your dreams come true.
What Is Next For Ruby Ribbon?
Ruby Ribbon represents the changing retail experience with personal service and the use of social technologies. They deliver ultimate comfort and shopping convenience that easily fits in with women’s busy, multiplatform lives. The company estimates that they’ve reached 200,000 unique customers: women who now LOVE their camis (and have ditched the dreaded bra.)
Anna knows many more waits to be delivered from uncomfortable undergarments. She calculates there is one Ruby Ribbon Independent stylist for every 45,000 adult US women. Anna has often turned to her Board of Directors for advice – should we respond to the growing invitation to expand beyond the United States? She reports they always say the same thing – with a smile: “Have we done the job in Indianapolis?”
They are looking to know that the first market is optimum. Refreshing to know even such an accomplished woman as Anna heeds advice. Remaining focused on the business at hand is a recommendation many entrepreneurs find hard to do.
The Board of Directors is deep and broad in expertise. There is excitement about the newest addition to the Board of Directors, the former CEO of Rodan + Fields, Lori Bush. Read more here