Tapping into social commerce to empower women to feel and look their best
Anna Zornosa is the founder and CEO of Ruby Ribbon, a social commerce apparel company based in Burlingame, CA and New York City. With a network of independent stylists across the country, Ruby Ribbon delivers personalized, at-home shopping experiences to millions of women. Anna started the company in 2011, inspired by the confidence she gained by incorporating shapewear into her everyday wardrobe. Aside from her role at Ruby Ribbon, Anna is also a corporate advisor whose clients include startups such as Trulioo.com, Motista, Inc,Glam.com, and Chloe & Isabel. She has previously held leadership positions at Yahoo!, Knight Ridder Digital, the Cobalt Group, and Topica, Inc.
Tell us about the company: its products, history, and the name.
ANNA ZORNOSA: Ruby Ribbon is a company with a very unique and special product line that we take to market in a very, very particular and special way. Our sales force is entirely independent contractors: women who are working for themselves, when they want, where they want, bringing a high-touch customer service to our customers. The apparel line is very unique. It’s a three-part apparel line that includes the most comfortable shapewear in the market: a category of clothing that we’re creating called “Essentials with Shapewear and Fashion Layers.” From the very early days of our company we knew that the heart of the company was going to exist between the friendship of women. The original investors were women. Of course, the original sellers, the independent consultants, were all women, often intimately working with their customers. We really wanted the name of the company to resonate from this spirit of friendship, and we heard that there is a parable in some Far Eastern countries, where two women who love each other but aren’t related only have to put their fingers together and bind them with a red thread to be sisters for life. And so we took the notion of the red thread, and turned it into the Ruby Ribbon.
How did people initially respond to the idea?
My friends and family were all completely shocked when I told them that I was going start an apparel company that was sold through social commerce. It was pretty natural for me, however. I have been a serial entrepreneur. I’ve been part of the founding group of many small companies. I’ve also worked for large companies, but sometimes very young companies. I began in the Internet in 1996 and had many, many experiences with venture-backed companies. But I became really interested in the fact that every women I spoke with wanted to have a different relationship with work, that for my friends who are my age, the traditional workforce was no longer working because they wanted to put more time into themselves, or they had aging parents they wanted to spend more time with. For younger women, it was often about wanting to be home with children. I just heard from every women I spoke to a desire to take charge of her destiny and work in a different way. If you’ve been an entrepreneur, you hear things and you start to say, “Wow, that’s a macro trend. “That’s something that is going to be really, really important.” At the same time, I became aware of a shift in how women dressed. You saw the rise, suddenly from out of nowhere, of Lululemon, a company that focuses on very comfortable clothes but with performance fabric, giving it a beautiful fit. You saw the rise of Spanx, creating the youngest ever female entrepreneur. These in my mind were part of larger changes in the way that women wanted to dress as well. So, it was very natural as an entrepreneur to start to take these differences in how people wanted to work, and these differences in how they wanted to dress, and try to put them together in a combination.
One of Ruby Ribbon’s differentiating factors is its culture—can you give us some insight into that?
Ruby Ribbon does in fact have a unique culture. First and foremost, yes, we are an apparel company and yes, we sell in a social way, which often is a lot of fun. We have women who go off and have parties with other women, make friends, sometimes drink some wine, and over the course of that, actually make more per hour than they could in any other flexible job. Despite the fact that our category is so much fun and the way we go to market is so much fun, we’re at heart a company with a mission. The mission is through our work, and the way that we approach it including our culture, is to really spread the mantra of confidence. At the end of the day, confidence is a woman’s most beautiful accessory. I think all of the women who are associated with Ruby Ribbon have a strong sense that the economic opportunity that we offer women combined with the fact that they are part of a network of women who are truly devoted to helping each other, combined with the fact that our products often have a huge impact on our customer base—and make her feel better and give her something that she just feels great wearing—that all of these things have the impact of sharing confidence with other women. That’s part of our larger mission: to really spread confidence.
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