How this Black femtech founder bootstrapped her business to $10M
Crystal Etienne founded Ruby Love and never again will you need to throw out your sheets or underwear because of your menstrual cycle
Crystal Etienne is the founder of Ruby Love, a Black-owned business created to help those who suffer from menstruation mishaps and incontinence due to age, birth, or a medical condition. Founded in 2016, Etienne started the company to advance the archaic practice of using pads and tampons.
Etienne founded the company after her personal experiences left her frustrated. Once Etienne gave birth to her daughter, she discovered one of the many aspects of motherhood that is rarely discussed. “I noticed I would laugh or cough and had no control over life’s pesky leaks.”
She also referenced an incident when she was watching TV and felt her maxi-pad sticking out from her underwear. Etienne remarked, “I thought it was not very modern and systematic in this day. I knew my preference was to wear a form of protection for my period without the insertion of a foreign object and having my pad sticking out, yet I also wanted to feel as if I weren’t wearing anything. Ruby Love was the solution to this problem.”
Etienne was able to grow her novel femtech company to $10M on her own, but before her eventual financial successes, she had a lot of trouble raising money.
“It had nothing to do with the product and everything to do with being a woman and a Black woman,” Etienne stated matter-of-factly. She says she had to bootstrap her way to the top and when she finally reached that $10M mark, investors started looking to her.
The NYC native didn’t grow up in a rich family nor one full of entrepreneurs. It was her grandmother, who owns real estate, that served as her entrepreneurial north star.
“She was able to control her destiny whether it was up or down, it was gratitude in the end. She accomplished something in the end and that’s what stuck with me,” said Etienne.
The company sells underwear in multiple silhouettes including bikini, hipster, high-waisted, briefs, and seamless. Ruby Love is size-inclusive, with offerings from girls’ size 10 up to women’s 3XL. There is an array of colors and patterns and in addition to underwear; they sell activewear, swimwear, and sleepwear.
Ruby Love is gender-inclusive with men’s leak-proof briefs to combat incontinence. I tried out the products and while the underwear didn’t cover me correctly (possibly a sizing issue), the sleepwear onesie was protective.
Etienne said that her favorite products include Bliss Bikini Period Underwear and the Hipster Period Underwear. For moms that are looking for a way to remove the stress that comes from discussing menstrual cycles, the First Period Kit is for you. Etienne said that the kit “includes educational material that challenges common misconceptions and equips teens and women with the tools to embrace their periods.”
“What keeps me going now is that teens and tweens are ignored. Women’s health, in general, is just ignored and I feel it starts when girls are younger. When you first get your period you should start learning about your body and things like that,” said Etienne.
“Knowing that there is a product out there that opens that communication to a young person better ways to handle their body and the natural body functions they deal with. Whereas later in life, I feel that it will result in better women’s health,” she continued.
Etienne also opened up about the difficulties of entrepreneurship and gave great advice for fellow and future entrepreneurs. “You have to put on many hats. You have to know when to say no. You have to know when to only spend on what is necessary. And you have to key in on what is the most important aspect of your business. And I know it sounds easy to say but it’s so hard to do when you are trying to do everything.”
“When I first started, I never thought the company would get to wear it is now and that’s a flaw within myself as being a Black woman. And every Black woman I come across, I tell them you have to think bigger. Investors are looking for unicorns and unicorns are not real, but are they really real? But that’s when you have to see yourself and place yourself and say, ‘I am that unicorn.’”
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