We have a special place in our hearts for anyone who is a self-described Chief Fire-Put-ter Out-ter. Amen mama. Iva Pawling is the co-founder and CEO of Richer Poorer, a line of innerwear that includes socks, the perfect T’s and the newly launched, bralette, that has the attention of the editors at Racked. Only 5 years after her initial launch, Iva’s company was acquired. This California mama didn’t sail off into the sunset after her sale, instead she launched another company, Pointe Studio. Bravo!
We live in loungewear and love what you’ve done with your line, Richer Poorer. What do you think has been the secret to your success?
There’s no secret! Lot’s and lot’s of hard work. My co-founder Tim and I have been really methodical about how we’ve grown Richer Poorer. What started as an idea for a sock brand and really developed into this idea of “Innerwear” over the course of a few years of listening to our customers and understanding what it was they wanted next from us. Our decision to move into new products very much comes from them, along with what is it that we’re all wearing around the office that we want more of. Understanding what exists in the market and what we can make better has been essential to our growth.
What was your background in prior to starting your company and how did it influence you?
I’ve been in fashion since college. I started my career as an assistant at Kate Spade in New York. At the time, they had a great program for newbies where you would spend your first few months jumping from department to department for a few weeks to really understand how the machine operates as a whole. From there, you determine what spot suits you and the company best. It was such an in incredible first job experience. After that, I moved to Hawaii and I worked in PR, focused on (as best as you can on the islands!) fashion for a small firm. I then moved to California to work for my sister who has the jewelry brand, Gorjana. That’s really where I cut my teeth in the world of a new brand and what it took to grow it. I got bit by the entrepreneur bug there and left after about four years to start Richer Poorer.
When you launched your women’s t-shirts, they sold out in a day (wow!). How did you market these shirts and what surprised you the most about those incredible sales?
It was so exciting! Our product development team worked their tails off on our t-shirts and muscle tanks to make sure we were releasing a great product into the market. We mimicked our men’s “In My Tee” campaign that everyone loved, where we featured friends of the brand, young and old, and told little bitty stories about who they are and what they do. It made it really relatable while still feeling aspirational. It also helped that women were tired of spending $100 on a cotton tee-shirt and our $30 price point made it a simple purchase. Oh, press from Vogue and Who What Wear didn’t hurt!
You went from startup to getting acquired. What did you learn during that process and would you do anything differently?
Anyone that has gone through the acquisition process will tell you just how arduous it is. My best advice is to be loose with expectations. No matter what side of the deal you are on, buying or being bought, It takes a lot of effort and commitment to get through it, and it often times isn’t a simple and smooth process. I, like many women, want to keep people happy and it’s hard to do during an acquisition. We were lucky to have a really good group on the other end that tried to make it as painless as they could, but it’s just tough. And most importantly, have a great attorney.
Do you have a company mantra or set of ideals that mean something to you? If so what are they?
I have two! Honest Hustle and Elevate Everyday.
Honest Hustle speaks to our humble beginnings and how we operate as people and as a company. Tim and I started Richer Poorer with littler more than a few dollars and determination. There was no seed round to hire great talent. We had to be really scrappy with how we did things and had to get as much as we could out of very little. While we now have almost 30 employees and departments and budgets, we still expect everyone to operate with that mentality.
Elevate Everyday speaks to not only what we hope our products do for our customers, but how we want people to think of Richer Poorer. We have a – no asshole – policy. We don’t hire them and we won’t work with them. Elevating each other up on a daily basis is so important to a healthy office culture and what we hope to pass on to our audience. We are happy to come to work everyday and hope to make our customers happy daily.
“We have a – no asshole – policy. We don’t hire them and we won’t work with them.”
We often hear that the best advice is to follow your gut. When have you gone against the grain and done something just because you felt it was the right thing to do? Did it work out?
My goodness, yes! Starting Richer Poorer was a massive leap of faith. Six years ago when we started the company, socks were not something you started a brand with. Everyone thought my business partner and I were insane. My gut told me that we were going to be early to a trend that was going to be something of value, so I listened to it. I think what’s most important though, is knowing that sometimes your instinct will be wrong, and even when it is, there is a learning lesson within the experience that sometimes may be more valuable to you than had you gotten it right.
We love to collaborate with people here at heymama and it seems that you guys do too. Can you tell us more about these partnerships?
Collaborations are great. We try and work on partnerships as much as we can, whether that be on actual product, content or trips. From a marketing perspective, obviously getting the other brand / companies audience to know our brand is really valuable. From a personal perspective, some of my closest friendships I’ve made from this industry were born from collaborations.
We want to snuggle up in the pages of your Instagram feed! Do you manage this internally or do you work with an agency? What has been the most important aspect in growing your following?
We handle it internally. We hired an agency to do it and they fired US after two weeks! We’re really picky with what we want on our social channels, what is on brand for us, and what our audience wants to see from us. Knowing who we are as a brand and being consistent with that has been the most important part of growing our following.
“I think what’s most important though, is knowing that sometimes your instinct will be wrong, and even when it is, there is a learning lesson within the experience that sometimes may be more valuable to you than had you gotten it right.”
Who do you look to for inspiration on Instagram?
I’ve tried to back away from the perfectly manicured feeds lately, and really pay attention to the ones that have something valuable to say, like @words_of_women and @be.the.love.today, or make me laugh, @womenirl and @prattprattpratt. Chris Pratt is seriously the best.
What do you see as the next big trend in innerwear and how do you stay on top of industry trends?
Bralettes! We just launched ours last month and they’ve mostly sold out over the holiday season. Racked featured them, and we’ve gotten so much great feedback on them. I think the generation under my old, 30-something self, has all but burned underwire bras. I think we’ve hit a nerve with customers because ours are not lace. They are made of an incredibly soft modal cotton and are really cozy. Comfort is the name of innerwear trends and we try and suss out what the next item is that we can design better, make more affordable, and fits seamlessly in the world of Richer Poorer.
We love your philosophy that you need to take care of yourself to be a better mother and wife for your family. If you had a full day with nothing pre-scheduled, how would you spend it?
With no child, I would workout, get a massage and take a nap by a pool. No devices, and a book in hand.
With a child, I’d spend the day at home and go on a stroll to the park. Our life is pretty busy, so I love nothing more than our days at home being lazy and playing.
Running a business and being a wife and mother is busy. Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?
Less sleep! I wake up really early to get my workouts squeezed in before the house is awake which is the only way for me to fit it in my schedule without taking time away from everyone else. And this past year, Amazon Fresh. Not having to go to the grocery store anymore has saved us a few hours during the weekend which is time back for me with Ford.
We know you love beauty products almost as much as we do. Do you have any beauty rituals that you can’t live without?
I have become an absolute cult follower of Glossier. I do not have time to spend 20 minutes doing my makeup in the morning, so taking care of my skin is most important, and having a fast makeup routine is second. Their products are my fav – cleanser, moisturizer, concealer, brow gel, highlighter – all of it!
What 3 things would you tell a mama with a dream who wants to build her own business?
1. Things aren’t what they seem. It’s really easy to look at all these moms on Instagram that are juggling it all and feel like you should be doing the same, on your own. What you don’t see on Instagram are the nannies, family members and close friends who are picking our kids up from school and helping us keep our heads on straight.
2. Shoot for the stars, but judge yourself fairly. It takes a long time to build a business. Our society has gotten really good at holding up the instant success story. That is the absolute exception, not the norm. It takes a lot of years, tears and hustling hard to get a business started and to grow it.
3. It’s okay to pick work sometimes. I had a really hard time with this one as I would be absolutely guilt ridden when I had to prioritize time at work or travel sometimes, over Ford. I firmly believe Ford will be totally fine if I have to be gone at times that he wants me home. Ford knows he is the most important thing in my life, but that doesn’t mean that he is the most important thing in every minute of every day. If he really needs me, I without a question drop everything, however missing a school performance for the most important meeting of the year is simply necessary sometimes.
“Things aren’t what they seem. It’s really easy to look at all these moms on Instagram that are juggling it all and feel like you should be doing the same, on your own. What you don’t see on Instagram are the nannies, family members and close friends who are picking our kids up from school and helping us keep our heads on straight.”
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