July 28, 2021
PUBLISHED BY Wildcat Venture Partners
Wildcat believes and invests in early stage companies that solve massive problems and deliver solutions for a better world. And those solutions can tap into powering those movements around economic equality, diversity and inclusivity. Ruby Ribbon is one of their portfolio companies that have done just that.
They are an innovative, social commerce-driven women’s shapewear and intimates company. As a recognized leader in body positivity, they not only deliver comfortable and innovative intimate and athleisure solutions for every woman’s body type, but also offer an economic pathway for women through their stylist community. Because their vision isn’t solely about building a better product but rather a more holistic solution to empower all women.
Clint McKinlay is Ruby Ribbon’s CEO. He believes that to determine how to cross chasms, there’s a great deal of humility and listening that’s needed. As a seasoned business executive, he held several leadership roles for leading global wellness and beauty brands such as Yves Rocher, JAFRA cosmetics and Rodan+Fields before joining Ruby Ribbon. Having been at the helm since early 2020, Clint’s worked closely with the Wildcat team to build upon their continued business momentum.
In this episode, Clint shares Ruby Ribbon’s story and values, the steps they have taken to realize their mission, and how the Crossing the Chasm framework has helped them along the way.
Care, Comfort, Confidence, Empower Real Solutions
Ruby Ribbon sells solutions where women can have the look they want, which subsequently gives them the confidence they desire. Yet what the company does isn’t limited to shapewear and intimates because their whole product solution is intended to deliver the vision they have set forth- a world of empowered women. This stems from their values of care, comfort, confidence, empower, real solutions. These are core to who Ruby Ribbon is and how they operate.
The Genesis of Ruby Ribbon started with their Founder Anna Zornosa. She was inspired to create a shapewear company that didn’t force women to choose between comfort and style.
She personally was frustrated with the options that were available and realized this sentiment, and this need for something better, wasn’t limited to her own experiences.
While she had no experience in the apparel industry she was motivated when she grasped the market potential. In fact there was a deeper understanding around the challenges that existed for women which were related to body positivity of which the current in-market offerings didn’t truly fulfill.
While women’s bodies change over the course of their lives, many of the products didn’t account for that ongoing evolution. The range of choices to align to one’s body type or lifestyle-based needs were ultimately limited. Anna realized this and decided to disrupt the traditional form and function of the industry so that women can be proud of the body they have.
In addition, the company saw an opportunity with the emerging gig economy to empower women by offering economic opportunities. The ability to have greater financial flexibility and control over their personal and professional decisions was another core need.
So the whole solution not only entailed their shapewear products, but also included helping women be their own entrepreneurs as stylists. These stylists in turn serve as partners and allies who deliver a successful experience for their customers.
In the end, the problem the company is looking to solve is how to create a better world for women. For Ruby Ribbon that is done by empowering them at scale through their product line and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The Bowling Pin to Cross the Chasm and Staying Deep vs. Going Wide
Like other early stage companies, Ruby Ribbon had to understand how to cross the chasm between the early adopters and pragmatic majority in their category. Leveraging the Crossing the Chasm playbook started with that singular use-case which Geoffrey Moore calls the beachhead or bowling pin was key.
That bowling pin was their original product, the Cami that addressed a range of needs that no single traditional shapewear or intimates product did. That one beachhead became the fountainhead for future innovations above the waist that enabled them to expand into other adjacent market segments.
But the business then reached a critical inflection point where they were evaluating whether they should expand the categories, and even industries, they were in or to stay focused within the market they have already had proven success.
After applying the principles of the Crossing the Chasm playbook, in addition to working closely with Geoffrey Moore and Wildcat, Clint and the Ruby Ribbon team recognized the importance and value of sticking within the existing intimates category, optimizing their product lines given their IP strength and continuing their innovations above the waist to grow their position in that market.
It was about understanding where they could beat their competition more easily and stand apart, which involved staying deep vs. going wide. But it also required them to employ a very disciplined planning approach as a result to continue to cross that chasm.
“Stick to your knitting. Don’t go wide, go deep. It’s enabled us to stay focused throughout the pandemic on delivering what we’re good at and turning the business around rather than entertaining every idea that comes down the path. Those decisions have been easier knowing what true north is within intimates and being very clear with our board and getting aligned with them on what categories we’re going to play in that place using Geoffrey’s playbook.”
An Ecosystem of Support Through A Solid Partnership
A complete solution to help early stage companies cross the chasm also includes the partnership that Ruby Ribbon has with their investors.
With partner Jennifer Trzepacz, Ruby Ribbon has found a valuable relationship where they are able to tap into Wildcat’s strategic and operational resources while also getting their guidance throughout the pre-chasm, chasm and scale-up phase.
As a result, they have been able to develop a valuable ecosystem of support not only for their company but also their broader community to achieve their vision. In the end, both organizations have a mutual goal in creating businesses that strive to create a better world.
“It’s been a strategic advantage to us in the pandemic because we’ve been able to be surrounded by good thinkers who have good information, who care a lot about the objective, the vision and mission and who have given their time to us to help us learn.”
Traction and Trapped Value is produced by Flywheel Associates