Sydney [00:02:57] Since starting Nude Barre back in 2009, Erin’s line of inclusive hosiery and undergarments has been worn by Wendy Williams and Tyra Banks and also gained investments from the ranks of Whitney Wolfe Herd and Serena Williams, who are both Angel investors of Nude Barre. But despite this journey and all of these successes that Erin has enjoyed along the way, there have been a lot of challenges, especially being a Black female CEO and founder. And in this episode, Erin is really open and transparent about these obstacles that she had to overcome in order to continue growing this company and getting to where it is today, because it definitely hasn’t been an easy road.
Anjana [00:03:45] Erin, it was so great to meet you like over a month ago now, and I just fell in love with your story about Nude Barre. So, first of all, thank you so much for your time. But we would love to know, you know, you started Nude Barre soon after graduating, if I remember correctly. And what was that decision making process like for you? And I remember you saying, you know, you didn’t have any real world business experience, but I believe you minored in business. Correct?
Erin [00:04:13] Well, thanks for having me. Yeah. So I didn’t have what most people would consider real life and business experience, but I guess I had a lot of personal experience with this pain point and personal experience in the business that I was in. So I was in the entertainment industry. I, you know, was signed to an agency and had been performing professionally for some years now, really since I was about 16, 17 years old, I had done professional gigs, whether it was on TV or in what we call concert dance or like modern dance ballet, what you see on stage or even musical theater. So I had a lot of experience there. And my personal experience from that was that Nude was always required in terms of your underwear, your tights, your dance shoes, but nude only reflected white skin or beige skin. And I am not of that hue. So because of that, you know, I was having to dye my tights and put makeup foundation on my shoes, which we call pancaking in the industry. Like it’s so common, there’s even a term for it. And this wasn’t just something I was doing, but many, many artists were doing it, not just Black women, but of all different ethnicities and races. So, you know, for me, that was my business experience, if you will, but it wasn’t the traditional pathway of entrepreneurship or say where you maybe work for a fashion brand and you learn all the things about manufacturing and merchandizing. And I didn’t have that pathway, but I did have a different type of, you know, professional and personal experience.
Sydney [00:05:55] Right, and entrepreneurs, I mean, often find inspiration for a business based on a point in their own lives as well. And that’s kind of the jumping point into, you know, their business and starting that idea. And you were a professional dancer for quite a number of years and also danced for the Knicks, if I remember correctly. At what point, like during your dancing career, did you realize that the fashion industry was not progressing toward greater exclusivity, particularly when it comes to nude undergarments? And I guess, like, what was that final push for you to start Nude Barre?
Erin [00:06:37] Yeah, I, I always knew that this wasn’t, it wasn’t progressing. I mean, I had been very frustrated by this dilemma of figuring out my own nude and, you know, creating my own science project in my kitchen on a weekly basis since I was a teenager. But I guess the biggest turning point of like, wow, no one’s really going to do this is, I always assumed that as I got further along in my career that one day this would all change. But one day I was getting fitted in the wardrobe department for an American Airlines commercial that I was getting paid really well for. I got residual checks for it for a few years. So it was a union job. It had a really large budget. And I kind of assumed that once I got to that level of my career where we had access to a lot of things or the wardrobe department or the company had access to a lot of things, that this problem would all of a sudden kind of go away. But it didn’t. And I was even talking to friends that were in, you know, big Broadway shows, what very well known Broadway shows that were frustrated by this issue and their wardrobe departments were trying to figure out how to get the proper skin tones for everyone performing. And so it just kind of hit me that, like, wow, this isn’t going away because the manufacturers clearly are not doing anything to make something that is more inclusive to, you know, the industry or even the world we live in. And so that was around, I think maybe like 2009, or 2008 that, you know, that realization happened. And then in 2009, after talking to many friends, some in the industry, some in other professional careers, I then just decided to, in 2009, incorporate the business and spend some time figuring it all out. So 2009 to about 2011 was when I was just like trying to figure out funding, learn about manufacturing and things of that nature in terms of just getting started. What really led me there was that at the time that I was dancing for the Knicks. So I was signed to an agency, which is how I did a lot of commercial simultaneously while performing as a necessity dancer. And then I have a BFA in ballet. So I also have a lot of, you know, friends in the industry that are in ballet companies and modern dance companies. And just I’m very connected in that circle. And at the time, I was also teaching barre fitness classes for a company in New York City. And one of the other teachers I was talking to about this idea that I had. And I was also nervous about telling people about it, because when you’re a first time founder, you’re always worried like someone going to steal my idea and all of that. So I was not really sure who to talk to about it, but for whatever reason, I was talking to this teacher about it and she said, oh, well, you know, this other teacher who was in the New York City studio as well, she manufactures the grippy socks for the studio. You should talk to her about how she how to manufacture and all that kind of stuff. And I was like, OK, great. So set up some time to talk to her. And it turns out that socks, because of the type of machine it’s created in a circular knit machine, is the same machine that you would use for socks. So she could really point me in the right direction as far as like what types of factories to look for, what type of machinery I would be looking for in these factories and things of that nature. And she just pointed me in the right direction and that felt like I was on the right path. I felt like, OK, I’m supposed to be doing this
Sydney [00:10:36] I love that people can be so, you know, helpful to and like willing to help, it just comes to like asking questions. And were you started Nude Barre from my understanding, then it sounds like you were still managing, you know, your full time job. You were teaching barre fitness classes, plus starting, you know, to research and get the beginnings of this company off the ground. Sounds like a lot to balance.
Erin [00:11:07] Yeah, for sure. I definitely was a crazy person. So, yeah, I was teaching like 15 to 20 classes a week. I was at that time, I was still dancing for the Knicks I was still signed to my agency and going on castings throughout the day. And then if you book a job, you’re booked for however many days they schedule you for. So yeah, I was definitely juggling a lot of different things. But, you know, my dad really pushed me that, like, you’re young, you have all the time in the world to figure it out. You know, there really isn’t a rush for you to build this multimillion dollar business tomorrow. Just take it one day at a time. Just, you know, work on this today and then, you know, maybe for this month you’re working on manufacturing. The next month you’re thinking through marketing. And that helped me like mentally get into it. And to be able to not feel overwhelmed by like, oh, my gosh, I’m starting this big thing that, you know, I don’t have time for because I have all these other things right.
Anjana [00:12:07] And looking at you now a decade later and like all these big names wearing your product and you’re so successful now. But in the beginning, you know, I remember you saying you started off with three thousand dollars from those residual checks and you’re dancing, like the ads and all of that. And so what were the hardest moments of like that early stage?
Erin [00:12:29] Honestly, there’s so many. You don’t know what you don’t know. And I think the biggest thing that I had to wrap my head around in the early days is that even if you have this really perfect, you know, thought out plan, most of it isn’t going to happen the way you planned it or the way you thought it would, at least in my experience with entrepreneurship may be different for me as a mom. Like, I can be very regimented with, you know, my daughter’s schedule. And that could happen. That plan could happen. But with business, things tend to change because, again, you don’t know what you don’t know. Right. You may think, oh, the consumer wants this based on your experience. But then once you put the product in market, you may get tons of feedback to tweak your product or your service and go a different direction. And so for me, the beginning days was really just all about being flexible and being a strategic thinker. OK, so this didn’t work. Now what are we doing versus quitting? I definitely meet a lot of women who want to be entrepreneurs, but things maybe don’t go exactly the way they planned and they’re like, well, maybe this isn’t meant for me to do. And that’s not necessarily the case. I mean, I do believe in that. I do believe in like, you know, there being signs along the way or, you know, whatever you believe in God, whatever it is that you believe in and that and you being led and guided in those ways, I 100 percent believe in that. But at the same time, when it comes to entrepreneurship, it’s a lot about just like being flexible, figuring it out, strategically, thinking about the next step and the next, you know, moving forward. So I would get tons of I would get migraines in the beginning, like just being so frustrated that, you know, the sample that I got from the manufacturer didn’t come out the way that I imagined it. And I thought I was communicating very clearly my vision and what I wanted. But for whatever reason, I didn’t get the same final product. So then I had to think, OK, how can I re-explain this? How can I get that message across? That makes it really clear as to what it is I’m trying to make. I thought, you know, I made a list of my first hundred friends that I thought would buy the product and, you know, definitely less than half of them first bought my products. Right. So I had done all my projections based on like, OK, these first hundred people are going to buy the product and literally wrote down their names and then these next two hundred people are going to buy it. And you know, that’s how I did my math. And that didn’t happen, and that’s — you don’t know what you don’t know. But it turns out a lot of times friends and family don’t actually buy your product when you first launch it. That’s just how it goes. It’s not unusual in your entrepreneurship journey. So anyway, just being flexible.
Anjana [00:15:15] Have you had to really make a huge pivot since you put the product in market, like something just really wasn’t working?
Erin [00:15:23] Oh. I can’t really think of anything off of the top of my head that’s been like a complete pivot. I think we’ve been pretty true to like the general origins of the brand. The only things would be we originally started with, I think, like 20 shades. And then eventually it was 18. And we then we moved to 16 and then now we’re at 12. So I wouldn’t call that a major pivot. But that was for me, at the time, it was a hard decision to make because I really wanted to have this full holistic perspective of nude and skin tones. And I was concerned that, well, if I cut colors or cut shades, I won’t be offering that. But ultimately, even still with the shades, we continue to be the most inclusive brand that exists. And the undergarments category with our 12 shades, most brands are making much, much, much less. So, you know, we’re still winning there. But for me, I had to really look at the data when it came to investing in inventory and what was selling what was not selling. Listening to the feedback from the customers of all this color is pretty similar to the color next to it. And, you know, maybe we don’t need that color, you know.
Sydney [00:16:43] Right. So iterating based off of what you were hearing from customers and those who were buying. Yeah, it also just sounds like I mean, fashion and merchandizing as an industry went, like you were saying, having to deal with the manufacturers. There’s so much like involved in shipping and packaging. And so, in the early stages, were you handling all of this? How many years was it before you started to grow your team?
Erin [00:17:12] I mean, I did this by myself for a really, really long time, like literally inventory coming to my apartment carrying, you know, 20 boxes up and down, you know, my walk up apartment and things like that. I did that for a long time by myself. And I think I brought in my first intern to just help out with some of that stuff I’m shipping like I was literally shipping every time that any customer was getting. I was setting up the social media pages, replying to all the comments, like I was doing all those things by myself. And then interns came in around, maybe it was like 2012, 2013, probably more like 2013. And that was just that was one person that I think she was working with me like a once a week or something. So still, I was pretty much doing it by myself. And then I brought on like contractors around 2014 or so. Yeah. So it just had been a long time. And even still, like a contractor is basically a part time person. So that’s doing a lot of it by myself and then literally just hired full time. And I came on full time like formally in terms of like pay, salary, benefits, all that kind of stuff this past September.
Anjana [00:18:43] Wow, congratulations. But it took so long and it’s so much hard work and I mean, we were talking about this with another entrepreneur yesterday about like how much we glorify that entrepreneurial journey, but we’re only really seeing like, the end of it. Right.
Erin [00:19:01] Or the highlights.
Anjana [00:19:04] The highlight reels, right?
Erin [00:19:06] Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, for me, a lot of that slow growth of like team and things of that nature really does boil down to the lack of capital to grow the business. You know, it’s not I mean, if I would have gotten venture funded, you know, in 2014 or even in 2012, I would have hired full time people back then. But that wasn’t my pathway, you know, like like we were talking about earlier. I started the business with three thousand dollars in my savings, which is really crazy to think about now. Now looking back like I would never do that. Now, like, that’s just I don’t even know what I was thinking and why I did that, because when you think about the math of like how many SKU inventory, the minimum orders that you need to get, like three thousand dollars is getting you nowhere and then you have to like package it and ship it and all these things. So I mean, I don’t know what I was doing, but somehow I obviously I’m here and somehow I did it. But like, there was no way from three thousand dollars that I can hire anybody, you know, that quickly. It was impossible. But, you know, there are lots of companies that raise venture capital like right out the gate and they can get all of those ducks in a row. And, you know, that wasn’t my journey.
Anjana [00:20:24] Also, you know, first of all, the shipping costs really creep up on you. They’re like ridiculously expensive. But let’s talk about that. What were the issues of raising venture capital all this time for you?
Erin [00:20:38] Yeah, I mean, ultimately, the whole pipeline is is just fairly broken by, you know, the fact that most investors are white men and they’re investing in people that look like them. And I mean, this isn’t new news to you. This, you know, tons of articles have talked about this. And so a lot of times when I was pitching in the early days, so in that period between 2009 and 2011, I was trying to actually raise outside capital, but everyone was saying no to me. And that was for a few reasons. One, because they didn’t truly understand what I was building and why it was that important and needed. And I think, again, when you don’t have people from diverse backgrounds in, you know, writing checks, how can they understand? Yeah. You know, their experiences in life are limited. And then the second piece of that would just be that in their mind, they thought, well, if this was really a big opportunity, then why wouldn’t all these other brands be doing it already? This seems so simple. And so, I mean, my thought is when we look at like Sara Blakely and Spanx, that was a very simple idea. Like literally my mom was cutting off the legs of her control tights for a year. She was making her own Spanx for years. Like women, women had been doing this for years. And now she has a huge multimillion dollar business that, you know, I don’t think most investors from back when I was pitching would still have thought of Spanx of like, well, why do women need that? Because they’re not coming from that experience. So I think it’s a little bit of both of those things. And then additionally, I think that there’s bias when you walk into a room and you are different or you are other to where you may not be taken seriously. So whether that’s a woman or whether that’s a woman of color, I think I was getting a lot of that in the early days. But I did have one angel investor who I pitched. That was a woman who said to me, I think this is a good idea. But, you know, she wasn’t confident enough yet because I literally was just like pitching her an idea with some samples. I didn’t have any customers or anything at the time that I recommend you just start this out of your apartment on your own, build it to something, and then come back and raise some money, raise some capital. So I took that advice and that’s what I did.
Anjana [00:23:22] What was one of your very first experiences, when you were walking into a room full of people that didn’t look like you and you’re trying to pitch this product you didn’t really have yet? And what advice would you give to young people, young women and young women of color who might want to do the same thing, but still, even like years later, face the exact same barriers?
Erin [00:23:43] When I walked into those rooms, I often felt. Well, one, I was often the only woman, even if it were like a networking event that investors were aware. It was like more than just me pitching. Right. There were other people. I was usually the only woman there. I was usually the only person of color there. Maybe there is like one other dude every once in a while. But yeah, typically that was a situation. So, you know, here I am and like a dress because I want to show the product that I’m attempting to pitch as well, like the tights and all of that. So I look very girly. And yeah, I mean, I think I always got the sense in those rooms that people were just kind of talking to me to be nice. But they they didn’t have a lot of interest in what I was actually pursuing until we got into the conversation. I explained, like, why I’m doing what I’m doing. And people like, that’s interesting. But obviously, no one took me serious enough to write a check then, which is why I ended up bootstrapping. So ultimately, you know, I felt that I was being uttered or I didn’t fit in or gosh, I mean, I honestly, I hated going to things like that for that reason. And, you know, aside from that, I’m coming from the perspective of already being an artist, which is where I feel comfortable, and then I’m stepping into something new for myself. So there, you know, was that dynamic as well?
Anjana [00:25:15] Yeah. I mean, I as a business major who has been networking for four years, I still hate it. It’s like the worst.
Sydney [00:25:25] But on that note, you were also able to, you know, get connected to really amazing women who have supported you along your journey. You know, Wendy Williams, Serena Williams with really incredible people who have shown support and backed Nude Barre. Can you describe a bit about what you know it was like to get connected with them? I remember reading that you actually just sent Wendy Williams a like a sample products and the same with Serena Williams. And, you know, they fell in love with that from the get go.
Erin [00:26:05] Yeah. So, Wendy, I did gift her a box of products that I thought, you know, she would like in terms of skin tone and things of that nature. At the time, she was wearing Wolford fishnets on her show on a regular basis. And Wendy, she still does this, but even then would post on her website and social media channels. This might have been even before Instagram was like a thing. But anyway, so she would post, you know, head to toe what she was wearing. And so it was mainly like Twitter and her website at the time and Facebook. And so I could see, like what products she was wearing. And my mom brought to my attention that she had been wearing this other brand, which is a pretty high end luxury brand of of hosiery. And so I just pulled together a box, wrote a letter explaining who I am, what I’m doing. And then a couple weeks later, I got a call from her wardrobe assistant that she’d been wearing the tights on the show all week and loves them and wanted to make sure I was available after the show for them to place an order and to get all my information so they can now put it on the website and everything. So that was like so crazy and huge. I mean, it actually honestly, it took me a long time to put that package together for her because in my mind, I just thought, gosh, you know, she has access to everything in the world, you know, through her TV show, like, why would she wear my product? But after this box was like sitting on my kitchen table for many weeks and I was like procrastinating writing this letter, I finally just somehow got the guts to chip off this this package to her. And it worked out. And then later, as far as I mean, the awesome thing about Wendy posting, then Tyra Banks’ stylists reached out and Laverne Cox became a customer like many other people, you know, where I was getting a lot of visibility with the product that way of people reaching out, wanting to buy or just like anonymously buying on our website. Serena, I didn’t gift her product from day one. She actually was buying on the website and reached out, you know, wanting product for a certain tennis match that she had coming up, and that was kind of the start of that relationship, and then later we got down the the pathway of like, hey, I’m raising capital. So very exciting times, I mean, when I first got invited to the Wendy show to see her in the products, you know, as a gift, basically or a courtesy, inviting me to the show, that was very emotional. Like I have seen her walk through the double doors, live in my product like, you know, on a TV show. It kind of felt like, I don’t know if you can identify with this, but like when you’re an artist and you create something or like a choreographer, you choreograph something and you finally see the piece, the performance live with the costuming. And all of that is like, wow, like that from my brain. Like that baby that I created is like out in the world. Now, it felt like that kind of, but in a different way. So yeah, it’s a very emotional feeling.
Sydney [00:29:26] That feeling of your idea and like you were saying something in your head literally coming to life and and being a tangible product that people are wearing and supporting. So I can imagine that must feel incredible, especially after all of the hard work that you were putting into this, too.
Anjana [00:29:45] Right. And what was it like years later, you know, doing the pitch competition for Serena Williams and Whitney Wolfe Herd?
Erin [00:29:54] So meeting Whitney and meeting Serena, this was me meeting both of them for the first time. It was I was so nervous. I mean, I can’t even explain how nervous. And it’s funny because, I mean, obviously, you know, Serena is a celebrity and there’s like that to be nervous about. But I personally get so nervous to pitch my business like it’s a different type of performance than because people are like, oh, but you performed at Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 people night after night. And that, like, is scary and nerve wracking. But this like I get pitching my business is like a whole other level because it’s my creation. So the feedback feels different than when you’re performing. And it’s like, well, it’s somebody else’s choreography. So if they didn’t like it, it’s like I didn’t create it or I didn’t make it up. I’m just trying to make it look better, you know? So it’s like a different version of performance, you know what I mean? So that one, you know, honestly, at the time, like I, I was getting to the point where I really needed outside capital and so much needed that for me, like I needed this win, I needed for us to get funded. So meeting them there was like the nervousness of meeting a celebrity, the nervousness of meeting, of pitching my business, the nervousness of like I need this really bad, you know, like right now, like I need this. So and then also I was still breastfeeding my baby. So when I went to meet them, it was in California. So I flew from New York to California to meet them in person and like, brought my less than a year old baby. I think she might have been like seven months old. Took her out there. It was like my first flight with her. So I was, like, nervous about that. Yeah. So there was just like a lot going on and it was very crazy. But once I got in the room with them, I felt fine, like I felt it was so different from any other pitch I’d ever experienced, which was usually to a man. They just they got it. They understood what I was doing. They were just so nice and kind and just like telling me so many things they loved about the branding and the packaging. And I just never gotten that reaction when pitching my business before. It was just so different, almost like too good to be true kind of moment. Yeah. So yeah, that, that, that was just like so memorable and my baby got to come in and meet them and she’ll never remember this, but I have photos of her but yeah. And so it was just like really special and just meant a lot that they really were like wow — because even at that point I was still teaching, you know, fifteen to twenty fitness classes a week. I wasn’t performing anymore, but I was still doing that to fund my business. I was still in bootstrap mode. So I was explaining, you know, my typical day to them, you know, teaching at night, running the business during the day, you know, being with my baby at simultaneously during the day. And they were just like, whoa, oh, my gosh, you know? And I think if I at least in my experience with pitching male investors, I always felt like I needed to hide those things. I felt like those things were kind of viewed as negative, that I wasn’t taking the business seriously and things of that nature. But really, for me, like, well, I’m taking it so serious that I’m hustling hard to do this, like I’m not playing games, you know, right.
Sydney [00:33:41] Yeah, it sounds like such a stark contrast between being in a room full of white male investors, you know, in that group, versus being in a room with women and women of color who who get it. You know, you don’t have to constantly be, like defending, you know, yourself in front of them. So, yeah, it’s on there fighting gangs. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A complete difference.
Anjana [00:34:08] I remember chatting with you and talking about how you were so excited about this winning this competition. You really expected things to pick up after that, but it still didn’t even though you have Serena Williams’ name. You have Whitney Wolfe Herd’s name. And I know that was a struggle for you. And I would love to just talk about the unique challenges that black entrepreneurs face, especially black women. And we already talked about, you know, the investing aspect of it. But in terms of like other ways of getting capital and any other thing that you can touch on.
Erin [00:34:43] Yeah. So, I mean, just, you know, as a black female founder, we know the statistics are so poor in terms of venture funding that they’re getting like it’s less than a percent, which is just crazy. And, you know, that’s a hard thing to have to navigate every day, because especially if you’re in founder groups or you’re around other founders that are like, I just raised a million dollars, you know, with this idea, you know, we don’t even have any revenue. It’s like, why? And that is a whole different experience for black women. You know, it’s like I was constantly being told that we should be further along, that we should have this and we should do that and all of these things and no one actually writing the check. And that was very, very frustrating in the beginning. So, yeah, even with having those checks, like, sure, I was getting interest and people were taking meetings with me, but still no one was actually writing the check. And it took you know, it took several months later before we were able to get, you know, another big push of a check. But still, even with their investment, because their angel investors, it wasn’t quite enough to, like, get I mean, we were pretty much at zero, like, no inventory, like zero pretty much sold out of most of our inventory, you know, like full time team. I’m still not taking a salary. Like there was so much work to do to really get the business humming that, you know, we needed more checks. We needed more cash in the bank. Yeah. So, I mean, in terms of other sources of capital, what I ended up doing was I joined an accelerator program called Launch with Jason Calacanis. He’s pretty well known Silicon Valley investor. So he was my third check in. And he was another one that just like, got it. Like when I pitched him and ironically, when I pitched him to get into the accelerator, I pitched also it was like a panel with the other investor is now our lead investor for our current round, which I didn’t know would happen in the future. But yeah, I mean, Jason just really got it. Really believed in the business. Really loved that Serena and Whitney were on board. He was the third check in and then a part of his accelerator program is really focused around raising capital. So just getting you in front of so many investors, fine tuning your pitch. And he I mean, honestly, I think he really helped us close around. So. Yeah. And then he put in more money. So, yeah, I love it.
Sydney [00:37:31] Speaking about back to, you know, like your journey and and choosing to start Nude Barre, you know, for many years, larger companies, when it came to things like make up, clothes or even band aids, you know, hadn’t created diverse offerings because they assumed there it just wouldn’t be profitable. They didn’t think it was a good business decision. And we’ve seen that, you know, this hasn’t really changed until recent years. And so it seems like many people who, you know, come from from underrepresented groups often do have to choose between staying in a space or at a company and trying to drive change from the inside out or leaving and creating something on your own, similar to your experience. And did you ever at any point think of joining a larger company and choosing that first path of, you know, trying to to change the, you know, undergarment industry from the inside? Out or also just any advice for also any advice for people just who might be navigating that situation or that decision?
Erin [00:38:44] Short answer is no. Yeah, I never really imagined myself in any of those environments. But, you know, I I probably was just in a different mindset of. I’m a performer, and I know that there’s this need and I want to solve this problem and clearly all the other people are not solving this problem, so they clearly don’t care enough to do that. Ultimately, that’s the reality of it. So I never had an interest in joining those companies to drive change because they experience the customers enough to know or at least the feedback where they should know better. Really, I mean, to be honest. And yeah, clearly they don’t care enough, so they’re not doing it. So why not me? And I think also I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, like I was like the kid in elementary school making bracelets and selling them and all of the like. I was always that type of independent person. Like I started my own dance club outside of school as a young person. I sold Mary Kay in college, like literally had tons of makeup under my bed, which is the business model, like you buy the makeup wholesale and then you sell it at retail. So you’re like an independent salesperson. It’s basically your own business. So yeah. So I’ve always just have been an entrepreneur. I’ve obviously also worked for people, but just through things that I’m passionate about, like I’m passionate about movement. So therefore I was in the fitness industry, right?
Sydney [00:40:28] Yeah. Yeah. And you know, when talking to entrepreneurs, it does always sound like there was just it was in their blood, you know, it was something that was bound to happen. It was just a matter of when and what, you know, they were going to start.
Erin [00:40:44] Yeah, and I mean, I definitely I think there’s value in working somewhere and getting the experience and learning why things are happening and why things are not happening. And even I, I would never say it’s a regret, but it would have been nice if I did work for a company that’s in manufacturing to learn about manufacturing versus having to learn things the hard way on my own. And it taking a lot longer to produce a product. Sure. But ultimately, you know, as I mentioned before, with my dad nudging me to start this business like I was young, I was in my early 20s, like I have all the time in the world to figure those things out. There was no rush. There was no competition to, you know, be here by X point in time.
Sydney [00:41:29] Right.
Anjana [00:41:29] Right. Speaking of competition, like now that you’ve seen so much success for your own business and a lot of pressure from society for these larger companies to now diversify their offerings, are you ever afraid of competition from any of these larger companies?
Erin [00:41:45] No, honestly, since we’ve had more you know, people come into the category of skin tones, because when I first incorporated in 2009 and even when I launched in 2011, there was no one out there doing that. I mean, there was like one other business and they’re out there out of business now. But there was like one other business doing this. So at the time, in the early days, I was constantly having to really explain what we’re doing, like the change we’re making. Like, OK, this is a different type of Nude. I mean, we would even get emails and phone calls from Wendy watchers. I would be like, yeah, I want to get the nude one. Like, OK, well, tell us more about your skin. We need a starting point. And the whole concept of, like, your nude is individual versus beige was really like mind blowing, like it was kind of a hard concept for them to wrap their heads around. So all that to say that with competitors coming into the space, it’s actually been helpful because we have to do less explaining to the consumer, less explaining to investors or partners and things of that nature. It’s being explained through other people. But the benefit of Nude Barre is we do have the most options on the market. So truly inclusive. And then two, we are coming from a very authentic place like we’ve been here before inclusion was a buzzword.
Sydney [00:43:12] Right. And so what what’s next for for the future of Nude Barre?
Erin [00:43:19] Next steps are just continuing to grow. My team has been growing pretty quickly. We’re, you know, launching new products. So lots of things in the pipeline and really excited to announce them very soon. But, yeah, it’s growing.
Sydney [00:43:34] We’ll have to be following along to hear what these exciting updates are. We are we are very excited to see just the future of your company and its growth. And I’m sure many more great successes are ahead.
Anjana [00:43:48] How do you think that we can, as a society, reimagine the startup space to make room for and welcome more underrepresented founders?
Erin [00:44:00] I think reimagining it really starts from there being more diverse investors to write those checks, and I think the more that we see — so for example, I guess it was like two years ago, there were only on record like 15 black women that had raised over a million in venture capital dollars. And I think by the time I raised my money, I was maybe like around like at least from what I could see from what was recorded like around 40, 40 something. But at the end of 2020, it ended up being like 99 or some women that had raised over a million in venture capital dollars. And I think for me when I saw that like, wow, there’s other women and I knew some of those women that had raised a million that was encouraging to me. That made me feel like, OK, there is someone out there writing the checks. I just have to find those people. Maybe it’s not the same people that my friends or the women that I was seeing were getting investment from. But there are people out there. And so that that really helped me to keep going. So I think as we reimagine, you know, one, it’s like seeing other women’s success and hearing their stories helps you reimagine what your reality is. And then two, I think, you know, ultimately we do need more diverse people out there writing those checks.