When Joanna Griffiths was 25, she had a conversation with her mom about the physical reality of being a woman. “During that conversation, I discovered that one in three women leak a little bit after they laugh too hard or they do jumping jacks,” said Griffiths. “I realized that my underwear wasn’t going to cut it, and it was only going to get worse. The odd weren’t exactly in my favour.”
Griffiths is the founder of Knix Wear, a Toronto-based, high-tech intimate apparel company. Griffiths launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund her first line of Knix Wear underwear in 2013, which uses patented, leak-resistant and odour-eradicating technology. It was eventually picked up by Hudson’s Bay in Canada as a retail partner.
After the success of her underwear line, Griffiths has most recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for Knix Wear’s new Evolution bra, a fully-reversible 8-in-1 product that uses the same smart technology Knix Wear is known for, and is meant to last in environments as sedentary as the office to as active as the gym, thanks to its quick-dry features. The Evolution bra is also seam and underwire free, so it moulds easily to the wearer’s shape. While the initial goal was $30,000, they’ve already raised over $370,000.
“With crowdfunding it’s like the ultimate test, you get to put your product in front of customers and get their feedback,” said Griffiths. “It’s a great way to gather that data and information, so we did it that way because we wanted to get that market validation that people were actually interested in.”
“With crowdfunding it’s like the ultimate test, you get to put your product in front of customers and get their feedback. We wanted to get that market validation.”
For Griffiths, the overwhelmingly positive response is a validation of her belief that the women’s lingerie world has, for too long, been focused on fashion and not function. Griffiths makes her ‘high-tech’ underwear line sourcing from fabrics normally seen in outerwear and athletic apparel, and brought those fibres into her line. Using these materials, she developed her patented Fresh Fix Technology’. “We’re just driven by the belief that women shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other, so when we started with the initial line we basically bought the best underwear lines in the market and by incorporating our technology and differentiating our product,” said Griffiths. “The market is dominated by a couple of big players — Victoria’s Secret is definitely the behemoth — so there’s often room for disruptors.”
Griffiths admits that when she was first starting out she didn’t always have the same confidence she does today, especially when it came to pitching her product to men. “Especially with our first line, you’re talking about women’s periods and incontinence, so they’re not super sexy topics. I just try to lighten the mood,” she said. “Oddly enough, the most common question I was asked by men was when we were going to make a men’s line. I come from a family of doctors and I’ve done a lot of research on the topic, so when you have an idea that’s rooted in fact, you can’t dismiss it as easily.”
In the time since she started that first Indiegogo campaign, Griffiths has also learned the hard lessons that many startups can relate to. “Raising money as a Canadian is a challenge because the market is not the same here as it is in the US. I guess you could say there isn’t the same appetite for risk,” said Griffiths. “There’s a desire to do everything quickly, and I think there’s definitely an external pressure as to how things can or should move. It takes a lot of hard work and grinding it out every single day to build something great.”