We’re launching a monthly series called What’s Her Secret? celebrating successful Canadian women who share their secrets to happiness, life, success and style.
One of the country’s rising entrepreneurial stars is Joanna Griffiths, founder of Canadian company Knix Wear. She’s helping to change women’s underwear one lacey thong at a time and has received accolades from Forbes and Fast Company. However, behind Griffiths’s successes are many life lessons learned from starting her own business to her travels around the world.
Occupation: Chief Knixpert at Knix Wear
Astrological sign: Scorpio
Favorite guilty pleasure: watching The Bachelor
Favorite song: “Life Is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane
Kimberly Lyn: You’ve had many jobs throughout your career, from working at Universal Music to the CBC, when did you realize you wanted to start your own business and develop high-tech underwear for women?
Joanna Griffiths: I first came up with the idea for Knix Wear four years ago while having a conversation with my mom, who is a doctor, about the physical realities of being a women and realizing that my underwear wasn’t cutting it. As ladies we’ve got a lot going on down there, and I saw the opportunity to create a product specifically designed with women and their many needs in mind. That is when I first came up with the concept, it wasn’t until completing my MBA at INSEAD and winning the school’s annual business venture competition (and $20k) that I committed to moving forward with the idea and launched Knix Wear.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned, so far, being an entrepreneur?
Ohhhh so many. I think the biggest lesson that I have learned is don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is truly impossible to know how to do everything and so asking for help and learning how to effectively ask for help is key. It may be uncomfortable at times, but it is way better than making costly mistakes that could have been avoided.
Who are the most influential people in your life and why?
I have so many. A big inspiration for me is my grandparents. They are 93 years old, still work every single day and have been married for an astounding 70 years. I admire their love and commitment to one another. I got married two months ago and think they are such a living testament of what it means to stand by one another. I also respect their work ethic. They love their work and feel passionate about changing the world.
Knix Wear boyshort and lace thong
What are your favorite go-to pieces in your wardrobe?
I have a red hat that I wear all the time. It is my go-to for air plane flights and those days when I am too busy to do my hair. I’m traveling at least one a week and so it is quickly becoming a go-to staple. I also love a good pair of black skinny jeans.
What was the best advice you received from your parent(s)?
“You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for.” Throughout my life I think that I have always been my own worst critic. It is really easy to let self doubt hold you back from accomplishing your dreams, and incredible to see what happens when you decide to give it your all and go for it – without fear of failure and without regret.
If you could create a recipe for happiness, what would it contain and why?
I think that my wedding day was the recipe for happiness. It was all of my favorite people in one room, eating incredible food, drinking champagne (another guilty pleasure), sharing stories, and dancing our butts off to great tunes until the wee hours of the morning. We got married on NYE and everyone was in an amazing mood. It held the promise of what lies ahead and the desire to celebrate what was behind. It was the perfect combo and if I could recreate it over and over again, I would.
If you could spend Sunday brunch with a famous person (celebrity or historical figure), who would it be and why?
At this exact point in time, it would be with Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx. I have so much respect for her as a business woman and I have so many things that I would like to ask her about building an underwear empire.
Travel has played an important role in your life, name three places that impacted you and why.
Oh wow – this is a tough one. Panama, because it re-ignited my love for travel and led me to leave Universal Music in pursuit of my own dreams. La Paz, Bolivia because it is where I lived for six months, learned a new language and pushed myself to new limits and Fontainebleau, France; where I went to school, for the incredible people I met from all over the world who believed in me and my ability to grow Knix Wear into a thriving company.
What’s the best advice you share with your girlfriends when they come to you with their man troubles?
I am a big believer in open communication. So I typically encourage them to talk about their feelings and address it head on with their man. Chances are that something is bothering them and their other half doesn’t even know that something is wrong. Communication is key for any relationship to work. If it’s too difficult to talk about, or if the guy walks out because he isn’t interested in having a real conversation then chances are in the long run, it’s not going to work.
Completing an MBA can sometimes feel like you’re drinking out of a fire hose. What prompted you to pursue it and what words of wisdom do you have for women who are considering it?
I love school, I love learning, I love meeting new people, trying new things and doing an MBA seemed like an incredible opportunity to invest in myself and my future and to set myself up for success going forward. It was a lot of work and just because you have an MBA doesn’t mean someone is going to hand you a big six figure paycheck. I would say to think carefully about what you want to get out of an MBA and which institution you want to go with. It’s a big investment and you should pick the school that is right for you and your goals. If you want to have a global career and expand your global network, then look at INSEAD. There are MBA programs for just about everything and picking the right school and having a clear idea of what you want to get out cette school is a big piece of the puzzle.