How Ruby Love Built a $22M Business with Wix
Five years ago, Crystal Etienne came up with an idea for leak-proof period underwear, started an online store and went straight to NYC’s garment district. These were the beginnings of her eCommerce business, Ruby Love. Forty employees, a fulfillment center and $22M later, she says she’d do it all over again if she could.
Watch her Wix Best Sellers interview. Then, check out her full story and expert business tips below.
"My goal was just to sell some underwear. That was it!"
We spoke with Etienne in Ruby Love’s bustling fulfillment center in May 2020. From one conversation with Etienne, you can tell she’s unstoppable. She’s a calm, powerful woman who doesn’t need to announce her drive. We got the hint from both her attitude and the multi-million dollar company she built from scratch.
The business kicked off one day in September 2015, when Etienne set out to solve the frustrations of dealing with her own period. While researching, she noticed an unmet niche in menstrual products. Nothing she wanted was on the market, and it turned out others were frustrated too: “I realized that I could sell it; people really wanted it.” Once Etienne recognized the unique opportunity, she decided to begin a business.
The start of a success story
Even before she had inventory, Etienne created a Wix online store to win over manufacturers. “My background is business, so I knew I had to pretend I was a huge corporation for no one to question me," she says. “You would have thought I had, like, 500 employees. But no one knew.”
It worked. Etienne found a manufacturer and started her company, then called PantyProp, for comfortable and reliable period underwear. Once she started selling online in January 2016, Etienne kept thinking big: from product development to fulfillment to customer service, she took on every role. Each time Etienne transferred calls, she would adopt a different name and persona.
At the beginning of her sales, PantyProp operated out of Etienne’s basement. She fulfilled her orders by herself with some help from her husband. As sales increased, they moved into a small office. They outgrew that office in six months. At the time, Etienne had two employees. To keep growing, she knew she needed to move into a warehouse and hire a full team.
Ruby Love’s self-fulfillment
“When dealing with this amount of orders, you have to open up your own fulfillment center.”
As her next bold step, Etienne moved her business into its own fulfillment center. This transformed Ruby Love. Even now that her team has grown, Etienne wants everyone working under one roof, close to the products they sell. It’s been crucial for efficient communication and problem-solving.
Among the things that have stuck with Ruby Love since the beginning is their Wix template. Ruby Love’s site gives their shoppers a great customer experience. Using beautiful product galleries, easy-to-navigate menus and coupons, shoppers can find exactly what they want.
Now, they’ve stepped it up by utilizing their built-in suite of Wix eCommerce tools.
Around the warehouse, they use the Wix mobile app on tablets to scan product QR codes and pack orders. From their site, they save time managing orders with automated sales tax and a clear order dashboard. When they ship orders, they print shipping labels right from their dashboard and send automated order confirmation emails with unique tracking numbers.
With Wix, they’re able to fulfill their own orders and manage a business that’s constantly growing.
Etienne herself runs on a different type of self-fulfillment. Like many successful merchants, she loves the challenge of growing a business. "I'm very competitive and I like competitive people around me," Etienne says.
“The connection we have with our customers—that, everyday, is what keeps us going.”
Equally important to Etienne is the self-esteem she gives her customers. Ruby Love products give women the power to keep moving when they have their periods, without ever worrying about leaking. Ruby Love’s swimwear, underwear and first period kits give customers the confidence to say, “I’m going to be okay today.”
That connection with customers drives every department at Ruby Love. Working in their own fulfillment center gives employees close contact with the products, so they can ensure quality and know exactly what their customers receive. This way, Etienne explains, they know what customers need even before they call.
Customer feedback for period underwear presents a unique challenge: customers are less likely to post reviews. Ruby Love’s customers only come out of the woodwork if they’re unhappy with the product. This motivates the Ruby Love team to constantly stay on top of their game. Product quality and customer service need to be so good that every customer is satisfied.
Although customers don’t often volunteer to post positive feedback, Ruby Love has never needed to purchase good reviews. “When we ask customers to sometimes just go leave a review, they’ll do it without any problems, because they just love us,” Etienne explains. The press loves them too—Etienne’s business has been spotlighted in Forbes, People Magazine, Teen Vogue and more.
Rapid business growth
“In two years, this company grew from me and Wix to 40 employees and our own fulfillment center.”
Every year since 2015, Ruby Love has grown 400%. Etienne is unphased. “There were never times that I thought this business wouldn’t work. Because right off the back of me launching in January 2016, it just shot up. Before I launch something, I’ve already done all the research behind it to make sure it is going to work.”
As Ruby Love’s orders increased, so did their goals. Etienne originally aimed for $100,000 in revenue. Once they surpassed that, she went for $500,000. Next came $1.1M, then $5.5M, then a little over $10M.
The company rebranded from PantyProp to Ruby Love in 2019, which brought an unexpected setback. By rebuilding their brand recognition, they persevered. Today, their revenue is over $22M.
Looking toward the future
Etienne says her main goal has always been to sell a quality product. Since the beginning, her team has tested hundreds of design prototypes. She won’t stop until Ruby Love perfects its leak-proof technology and fit.
Next, Etienne wants to reach $100M. Long term, she has her sights set higher: “I see Ruby Love going and growing into a billion dollar company, one that will be another offset of tampons and sanitary pads.” When it comes to selling online, she suggests finding your niche audience and developing your product based on their needs.
The best advice she can give merchants is to communicate clearly: “When you’re doing business with people, get to the point. Be honest and very direct.”
So, we asked a direct question: Would you build this company all over again if you could?
“I would,” Etienne says, laughing. “It’s crazy to say, but I definitely would.”
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