When you're a venture capitalist considering investing in a company that makes women-oriented products, you better be comfortable with all aspects of womanhood. That includes seeing the head of the company pregnant—with twins—while she makes her pitch.
CEO Joanna Griffiths made that perfectly clear while raising capitol last year for Knix Wear, the undergarment company she founded in 2013. After online sales during the pandemic pushed the company's revenue in excess of $100 million, Griffiths decided it was time to expand. When approaching venture capitalists about investing, she had a rule—any investor who spoke negatively or disparagingly about her pregnancy, raising it as a concern about her company's future, was automatically disqualified from investing.
No matter how much cash they could bring to the table, she didn't want their money if they thought her pregnancy was going to devalue her company.
"Knix, at its core, is so rooted in women's empowerment," Griffiths said. "My viewpoint was if that was the way that they felt about me, then they were never going to understand what Knix was about and what we were trying to accomplish and they sure as hell weren't going to be the right partners for me."
The philosophy didn't end up hurting Knix's prospects. The company raised a whopping $53 million in capitol, taking in its final investments for the fundraising round just days before Griffith gave birth to her twin daughters.
"Last fall I had a new dream," Griffiths wrote in a post on Instagram. "I wanted to raise a round of financing for Knix before giving birth to my twin girls. I wanted to prove that pregnancy or motherhood doesn't have to be viewed as some kind of setback. I knew it would be hard. I knew that some people would underestimate or overlook me because of it. But I also knew I could do it....I closed the round on March 5th at 4:30 pm on my last day of work—three days before the girls were born."
Griffiths told CTV News that the money will be used to increase the company's product lineup, open more physical stores, and expand the brand's storytelling.
"I'm really excited to lean into this momentum of growth and to continue to build the company," said Griffiths.
Women have had to climb a steep hill to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs and heads of companies. Even with the strides that have been made, pregnancy can still be a sticking point for some people. Griffith's insistence on standing up for herself and her position in the company was a way for her to challenge people's assumptions and prejudices about moms in high-level careers. There's no doubt that having kids changes your life, but that's true for both moms and dads, and becoming a parent doesn't automatically mean you won't be able to do your job as well.
The support Griffiths has received for refusing funding from people who don't get that has been overwhelming.
"I can't keep up at this point with so many people reaching out and just saying how important it was for them to see this story," Griffiths told CTV News. "Those unspoken rules... that you can't fundraise pregnant, you can't switch jobs while pregnant, you can't get a promotion while pregnant, don't have to apply, and they shouldn't apply."
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