Joanna Griffiths launched Knix Wear when she became aware of a need in the market for underwear that could handle “little leaks.” She solved that problem, and for the next five years focused on building a brand that helped women get over their insecurities and facilitate conversations. The strategy paid off. Not only is Knix a wildly successful global business — they sell an item every 10 seconds — Joanna can feel good about having a positive impact.
By Sarah Kelsey
When Joanna Griffiths launched Knix Wear in 2013, she never anticipated the company would achieve the success it has — and in only five years. Starting out as a crowdfunding campaign, these days one Knix item is sold every 10 seconds. In 2018 alone, the company launched six new products, 18 new colours, acquired over 300,000 new customers and shipped over 500,000 packages.
Part of the reason Joanna feels her company is doing so well is because she made it a priority to create something that addressed a real problem. “Life is so much easier when you are selling something that a large number of people need,” she explains. “We started with leak proof underwear. Was it a sexy idea? No. Was it needed by millions and millions of people? Yes.”
But it is more than meeting a need that has led to Joanna’s success — she’s also striving to change people’s lives. In October Knix launched #FacesofFertility: a series of articles, videos and social conversations about fertility, infertility and their impact on women. Over 1,500 people shared their personal stories with Griffith’s team. The content will soon become a podcast.
“We really found our voice in 2018,” Joanna says. “We pushed ourselves. We did a lot of team-building, and inevitably what happens is a lot of building the boat while you’re on it. You’re doing everything at once. I think what I’m really proud of is that we’re constantly evolving.”
She’s also incredibly proud of how her and her team strive to “mirror the world,” and to give back to the community.
“There are a few things we’ve been doing since 2013, like showcasing diverse body types and featuring real women in our ads and sharing their stories in a much bigger way, that have shown us some great results. We want to continue to do that and to reach new markets,” she notes, adding 2019 will see the company launch their first swimwear and maternity lines. “Our success has really surpassed anything I had anticipated.”
“We did a lot of team-building, and inevitably what happens is a lot of building the boat while you’re on it.”
It also earned her and her team a 2018 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award in October 2018. “I think when you first start a company you read about these awards and you put them on a pedestal. To kind of be at the stage now where we’re getting that kind of recognition, it’s insanely valuable,” she says of receiving the Staples Start-Up Honour in October. “It’s amazing to know that people are connecting with the work we’re doing.”
Griffiths says it wasn’t until a couple years ago that she started to see the potential of Knix as a brand. Minor successes started to happen, sales began to grow and, eventually, the work became less about her and her goals, and more about doing work that would have a positive impact on the world.
“What I want to inspire other businesses and leaders to do is to give back and to make a positive impact on their community — locally or at a scale of tens of thousands of women globally,” she says. She also wants small business owners to know that though her company is successful now, she still has good days, and bad ones.
“At the RBC awards ceremony I bumped into people I had met before — other female business founders — and I chatted with one woman who was having a hard time. I told her, ‘I cried last week!’ I have hard days, too, because being an entrepreneur is hard. It’s part of the process.”
She adds: “If you’re feeling like it’s challenging, that’s because it is. If running a business was easy, everyone would do it. I’ve been at this for five years, and I still haven’t figured it out. But what happens over time is you build up your resistance. Troubleshooting gets better. You build your confidence.”
You also learn how to fight for something bigger than you.
“It’s about facilitating conversations, and getting over insecurities and pushing boundaries. And when you’re operating in that space, anything is possible.”