Female Founder Series with Rosie Mangiarotti
1. What was the key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I have definitely been inspired by my dad who has been an entrepreneur since I can remember. I have also been raised in a problem-solving household. Rather than complain about day-to-day problems, we always come up with some sort of solution to these problems. The real driving, and pivotal, force behind my becoming an entrepreneur, came from an entrepreneurship class I took at Brown, “The Entrepreneurial Process”. The core assignment for this course was to create a business plan for a product or a service that solves a customer pain point. After performing “bottom up research”, I realized there was a lot of demand for a better sticky bra- with longevity and value. I proposed the Perkies sticky bra - a sticky bra with replacement adhesives- for the course assignment and then pursued this idea after I graduated.
2. How did you come up with the name and mission of your company?
The mission of Perkies is to empower women everywhere to embrace freedom in fashion and in life. We want women to feel comfortable in what they are wearing, starting from the inside out! How can one feel confident, or comfortable, in a dress without confidence in their bra? Why shouldn’t a woman be able to buy a backless dress that she loves because of a bad past experience with a stick on bra? Why should they fear that their bra will sweat off on a humid night? I look forward to the future of Perkies and how we can give back in other ways, such as investing in young female entrepreneurs and education around entrepreneurship.
The original name for my company was “ReliaBra”. As my friend described it, this name conveyed an image of an old woman strapped into her reliable, full coverage, bra. This was far from the company image and brand vibe I was going for. The name “Perkies” was proposed to me by a local store owner (Interstyle) in my hometown, Locust Valley. I went there to discuss how retail markups work and what the process is when selling to retail stores. This is a quintessential example of the importance of getting out there! Do the field work, be on the ground, ask questions etc. If I decided to research this, I would have never found the most perfect name for my company! After all, the word perky means “cheerful and lively”, exactly what this brand stands for.
3. How do you build a successful customer base?
I have been fortunate to be creating a product that solves a customer pain point for the demographic I am a part of: female, ages 15-35, leading a social life. I have been very in tune to fashion trends, the needs and wants of this customer base, e-commerce purchasing, price points etc. Having a group of 200 friends (cousins, sisters, aunts, sisters’ friends included) who purchased my product, even with a 10 month pre-order, is special. This type of support gives you real confidence. They fully support you and give you honest feedback; they want you to succeed and they have your best interest at heart. I often think that I wouldn’t have been able to get to this point with Perkies if it weren’t for these women.
4. What kind of culture are you building and how did you establish it?
I’ve realized that throughout my 3+ years as a full-time entrepreneur, I’ve learned something new almost every day. There is an abundance of knowledge that you learn from doing things yourself and from speaking with others. I want anyone who helps me with Perkies to understand the value in both of these: trial and error, and networking. Although Perkies is small now, my goal is to to create a culture of curiosity and creativity. No question is dumb besides for the ones you don’t ask, and no idea is too crazy.
5. Describe your typical work day.
Not one single day is the same! Yesterday I spent hours doing research on government grants that I am eligible for as a small business owner, I packaged/shipped out orders from my website, I shipped two big boxes of Perkies Petals to Amazon and I was on a direct-to-consumer female founder call with ~7 other female founders. Today I am going to several retail shops along the coast of New England (Westerly, Newport, Mystic etc.) to pitch Perkies Petals to see if they are interested in selling them. I’ve found way more success with in-person visits than a cold email!
6. How do you define success?
I’ve moved away from calling a rich person “successful” - I call them “financially successful”. I think it’s important to not associate financial wealth to personal success. I look at success on the pillars of achieving: healthy relationships, happiness, confidence, and philanthropic goals.