Just go for it, because you never know what can happen. You’ll hit some roadblocks along the way but at least you can say that you did it. It will make you feel empowered to know that you built something, whether it is big or small. My journey began in the basement of my home searching for the best functional fabrics, most absorbent materials, and a design that was comparable to your favorite brand of undergarments. It takes a lot of researching and hard work, but I am so proud to have made the commitment in believing in my capabilities carrying out my ideas.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Crystal Etienne. Crystal is the founder and CEO of Ruby Love, the period apparel company founded upon the unifying message that periods should never stop women from doing, being and going. Crystal grew up in Flushing, New York and now lives on Long Island. Crystal is a wife, businesswoman, and mother to two amazing kids– a wonderful son and daughter who she calls her best friends. They inspire her to be her best self every single day. Although she has a busy work schedule and is constantly flying from state to state for speaking engagements and meetings, she ensures that she always makes time for her family. Crystal makes it her duty to go to every single one of her son’s basketball games and enforces dinner every night to get a chance to understand what went on in everyone’s day. She also plans a vacation to any location the family votes on at-least once a month so they can wind down, embrace, and be thankful for all of the opportunities that has filled their lives.
Like so many of us, she juggles countless things in a single day. She’s also a woman who gets her period once a month and deals with occasional incontinence. In August 2015, after helping her daughter navigate the ups and downs of her first period and disappointed with the lack of options to provide her, Crystal decided enough was enough.
Recognizing that the hygiene and personal care industry needed safer, healthier and easier options for individuals of all ages and genders, Crystal set out to effectively address common questions: Why settle for uncomfortable products that were designed decades ago and fail us constantly? Why give young girls objects often riddled with chemicals to insert into their bodies? Why stress over the embarrassment and shame of leaks and stained clothes and sheets? And why not wear white with confidence, race in a swim meet, or sit through hours-long board meetings without worrying?
Crystal seeks to continue revolutionizing the Femtech industry, fostering puberty education and promoting open dialogue within families. She believes that anyone can make their dreams come true after setting their mind to it!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I’ve always been resourceful and innovative. One of my first businesses as a little girl was selling figs to neighbors from the tree that was in front of my home. They easily could’ve picked them off themselves, but I pre-bagged them, set up a table and sold them.
Envisioning how to do things and then actually doing it was something I was taught by my parents. They were hard-workers and always supported my sisters and I. We got our diligent mentality through them, which helped lead us in becoming the people we are today.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
The idea for Ruby Love started when I was lying on my bed watching T.V. and noticed how my maxi-pad was sticking out of my underwear. 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. I was inspired to come up with a better solution and envisioned Ruby Love, which is rooted in the belief that periods should never stop women from doing, being and going.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I did not want other people nor myself to settle for products that were designed decades ago or stress over the embarrassment of leaks and stained clothes. I wanted simple clothing to be worn with confidence and to enable women to sit through lengthy board meetings in white apparel, and for teens to enjoy time with their friends at school with no worries. In the first year, I single-handedly sourced, packed and shipped orders for what was known as PantyProp at the time. Instantly, I gained the support of thousands of women who wanted the same product I envisioned prior to creating Ruby Love. Moms around the world wanted a way to make their daughter’s first period experience as easy as possible and much better than theirs. By turning my problems into an innovative solution, I was able to bring a unique concept to life and make a lasting impact on others.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Just go for it, because you never know what can happen. You’ll hit some roadblocks along the way but at least you can say that you did it. It will make you feel empowered to know that you built something, whether it is big or small. My journey began in the basement of my home searching for the best functional fabrics, most absorbent materials, and a design that was comparable to your favorite brand of undergarments. I bootstrapped my company to 10 Million in dollars less than three years. It takes a lot of researching and hard work, but I am so proud to have made the commitment in believing in my capabilities carrying out my ideas.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
This venture was not something motivated by profit, but by passion, necessity and comfort. I knew there had to be a way to accomplish protection, comfort, and discretion, coming up with different prototypes and the constant search for perfection keeps everything enjoyable. There is always room for improvement and things are changing day by day, which is what drives me to keep moving forward.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I enjoy being able to offer an alternative within the period apparel space. Developing smart and intuitive technology that offers a built-in absorbent, organic cotton liner wasn’t tough but still somewhat of a challenge. I went through numerous testers before pushing anything out to the market because I knew it had to be done correctly. Ruby Love’s products are now perfectly angled to collect flow, offer maximum absorption and protection against leaks and stains in multiple styles and designs for the modern woman.
And as a result became the leading Femtech period apparel brand.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I would say that there is no difference — I knew I would face challenges along the way in building Ruby Love and was readily prepared to face them.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Well, this is my real job. Your period is something that comes regardless. It’s something that is very real. I devoted myself to find a solution for tweens, teens, and women so that the insertion of a foreign object is not needed. My goal was proven through being a leader within the teen feminine care demographic, encouraging families to openly communicate about periods and puberty. Not only does Ruby Love provide period products, but we also include educational materials that challenge common misconceptions and equip teens and women with the tools to embrace their periods.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It’s not really a mistake since it reassured me I was on the right path. I was sitting at my desk sorting through various samples of period underwear and I accidentally knocked over my iced tea, and it spilled everywhere. To save my computer and phone, I grabbed a pair of underwear to mop up the mess and it absorbed so much liquid! That’s when I knew I was on the right track!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Every woman, teen, or mother inspires me. They are a part of the reason why I began this company and are my constant motivation to this day. Periods are way too taboo in today’s society and a solution was needed.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I would like to say that I have. As a brand, Ruby Love provides a safe solution for teens and women alike to manage their flows and continuing doing, being and going without being held back. As a female entrepreneur, I’m excited to be able to show women that they are capable of putting their ideas into motion and changing the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Have a mentor — I was fortunate to have one that gave good advice.
- Don’t limit your success — I had no idea that my business would achieve so much in the first year. I would have set plans to accommodate the overwhelming response and quick success to prevent back orders and out of stocks.
- Be prepared to face obstacles and deal with them head on! Sometimes these obstacles present opportunities.
- Do your research, know your competitors and know what your point of difference will be in the market.
- THINK BIG!
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love? You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
In this day and age, no woman should be without safe, hygienic period protection and education. I would like to see more women be confident enough to embark on running their own businesses and receive the same support as male-owned businesses.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Plan for the life you want. I always knew that I wanted to run my own business but I did not know what it was until I was inspired to create Ruby Love.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oprah! Oprah! Oprah! Her personal and professional stories are such an inspiration. By refusing to compromise and remaining authentically herself, she broke down barriers and initiated important conversations. Her audience loves her because she takes them with her on her journey. She’s human, flawed and real.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.