It’s always important to celebrate and elevate women every day, but on International Women’s Day, we want to take an extra moment to recognize women leaders and innovators in the eCommerce space. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #embraceequity. To start a discussion on how to foster inclusion no matter what, we’re tasked this year with considering why embracing equity matters more than simply having equal opportunities — which isn’t always enough.
As a Shopify subscription app, we have the privilege of working with a variety of brands founded by people from all different backgrounds — many of whom are woman-identifying individuals who have forged their own paths on the journey to creating a successful business. We chatted with three of these women-led brands, L’AMARUE, Joggy, and SimpliFed, to discuss how innovation in eCommerce can take on many forms, what advice they would give to other women breaking into the industry, and what they're looking forward to in 2023.
L’AMARUE was founded in late 2019 by mother-daughter team Nicole Manke and Ande Sozzi, who stumbled upon the natural compound diindolylmethane 3’3 (DIM) and noticed it worked wonders for their skin. After sharing their findings with friends and family, the duo decided to patent what is now known as The Heart to Heart Complex®. And just as Apple started in a garage, Nicole and Ande officially started their brand in a Starbucks.
Nicole and Ande quickly figured out that their unique perspective as women founders who represent two different generations was actually one of their biggest, most meaningful assets. L’AMARUE is living proof that founders can use their distinct experiences and identities to their advantage. Coming from two different skincare journeys and two different stages of life, the L’AMARUE co-founders were able to put themselves in a broad range of consumers’ shoes and foster a real community because of it.
“It has helped us to be really close to our customers,” Ande said. “Also, as a mother-daughter team, I think that we have a special take on intergenerational things and get to spread a combination of different viewpoints, opinions, and ideas to women and girls, ages 0 -100.”
Apart from their innovative product, innovation for L’AMARUE happens on a human level. This real, human element to the brand is part of what Ande thinks sets L’AMARUE apart. Specifically, the secret sauce is in the strong relationship that she has with her mother and the bonding that happens between women who share their beauty products with one another. “I think a lot of [it] comes down to having such an amazing mother-daughter relationship behind all the work we do,” Ande mentioned. “We really try to make the products that we’d want to see out there and that we’d enjoy using together in that fun way you do with your gal-pals, sisters, mom, or grandma. Our products can do everything you need for your skin A-Z, but they’re also something that can be shared… I think that’s a really special aspect.”
When it comes to advising other women founders who are trying to break into the space, Ande’s words of wisdom were focused on quelling the pressure that many women feel to be perfect and just taking the necessary leap of faith, whatever that may look like. She also reminded women that they have autonomy over their own experiences, even if the path is bumpy.
“Just freakin' go for it!” Ande encouraged. “I think that as women, we try to perfect absolutely everything before we feel comfortable sharing it with the world — and we don't really need to do that. Trust your gut, and know that if you want it to happen, you can make it happen. Everything always evolves along the way, even if it's ‘perfect’ to begin with.”
She also mentioned that YouTube, the DTC Twitter-verse, and the ability to connect with anybody via DMs have transformed the DTC landscape to help level the playing field. With more information and tools accessible than ever before, women can independently equip themselves with everything they need to know to launch a brand — and Ande emphasized just how important it is to do this research before entering the space.
“Take your time finding people that you really trust to be part of what you’re doing every day,” Ande added. “It’s yours, after all.”
Just as it’s important to surround yourself with the right people, it’s also important to pick the right tools. For L’AMARUE, equipping themselves with the right tech stack was a crucial part of ensuring the success of their brand. L’AMARUE uses Postscript to talk directly with their community via their Skin Chat™, Octane’s store quiz to learn more about their consumers, Shogun to build out their site without any coding required, Gorgias for customer service, and Storetasker for help with maintaining the technology of their site.
Your tech stack should always support your personal bottom line and the mission you’ve created — which is how L’AMARUE found their way to Smartrr.
“Smartrr has been a game-changer for us!” Ande shared. “It's let us really unlock another level of our relationship with our customers. We say a lot that we're in this for long-term relationships (much more like a service industry, not one-and-done consumable CPG/DTC), and we are super grateful that we've been able to build out a VIP Subscription program that lets us do just that.”
Looking ahead, Ande is excited to continue growing — in every aspect of the term.
“Upwards and outwards is the goal,” Ande said. “We’re looking at some very exciting retail partners so that L’AMARUE can finally be on shelves near everyone, and we can’t wait to launch quite a few new, exciting, hardworking products.”
Ty Haney’s inspiration for Joggy stemmed from the idea that movement makes people healthier and happier (think: runner’s high). Recent research suggested that this high is actually triggered by cannabinoids, which are chemically similar to cannabis, rather than the common perception that endorphins are the culprit. Running with this concept, Joggy launched with plant-based energetics that are meant to serve as supplemental cannabinoids to support your energy levels and help increase positive feelings associated with exercise.
For Joggy, a big part of embracing equity is ensuring that the brand helps keep doors open for other women.
“Our brand is female-founded and, for the most part, also female-led,” Ashley Muir Davies, Joggy’s Head of Community, shared. “We’re a small team and highly collaborative across departments. We’re motivated by our community, constantly asking ourselves how we can continue to grow it authentically and inclusively. We try to have some fun along the way, too.”
A big part of Joggy’s success has been focusing on a specialized product within a highly competitive space. When it comes to differentiating Joggy in the ever-growing CBD market, Ashley mentioned that Joggy’s use of CBD as a specific enhancer of movement, focus, and energy sets them apart.
“Our formulations are all plant-based and the active ingredients are delivered via a premium water-based technology, which makes our products 4x more effective than oil-based alternatives in the market,” Ashley explained.
Just like L’AMARUE, when it comes to breaking into the eCommerce space and embracing equity, Ashley was adamant about how important it is to surround yourself with great people — as well as lift up and support others along the way.
“Build a community of people that you trust who support you,” Ashley said. “There’s space for all of us, and the only way we get there is by lifting each other up.”
In addition to Smartrr, which has helped the Joggy team easily manage their subscription program and customer accounts, Joggy’s tech stack currently includes Gorgias and Okendo. The team has been using TYB (“Try Your Best”) as well, which was also founded by Ty and is designed to allow the brand to directly communicate with their community members and provide rewards for any contributions.
Moving forward, Joggy is looking forward to developing new supplements and continuing to build community with in-person events.
“We're expanding outside of CBD into other plant-based supplements that support energy and activity,” Ashley said. “We also have so many fun events planned in Austin, Los Angeles, and New York. Come jog with us!”
SimpliFed founder Andrea Ippolito quickly realized a truth that so many mothers experience right after giving birth: feeding a baby can be challenging, painful, overwhelming, and even socially difficult. Many mothers transition from feeling cared for and special during pregnancy to feeling isolated and abandoned postpartum, often facing ridicule and shame for the feeding decisions they make. That’s why Andrea created SimpliFed — to provide new mothers with the preparation and virtual support they need for everything related to feeding their babies, regardless of how they choose to feed. In fact, SimpliFed recently announced that they will now be offering both breastfeeding and baby formula support, the very first feeding company to do so.
“You wouldn’t think this is controversial but it is,” Andrea noted. “And it is time now to support all parents without judgment, no matter how they feed their baby, and that is what SimpliFed is here to do.”
Part of what makes Andrea’s business so successful is the fact that she’s surrounded herself with a team of other mothers. In other words, everyone on the team really gets it.
“I think the lived experience that I have and that our team has as moms is critical,” Andrea said. “We have felt the pain that the moms we serve have felt. We have felt the same judgment that the patients we serve feel from others. We use that lived experience to co-design our experience with our providers to ensure that parents have a truly thoughtful experience.”
SimpliFed aims to support a wide range of parents and parents-to-be, providing 1:1 virtual appointments and affordable access to formula and pumps. SimpliFed’s brand inherently understands equity because the team truly meets people where they are, operating on the idea that parenthood can — and often does — look extremely different for different people. SimpliFed puts the power in the hands of the patient to choose and access the support they need.
“We provide choice,” Andrea explained. “We democratize access to lactation support services covered by health plans at no cost to families, we work with partners to help distribute insurance-covered breast pumps, and we improve access to an organic infant formula that parents can feel good about.”
According to Andrea, there’s no better strategy for forging ahead as a woman in any field than finding a mentor who’s been exactly where you are. “[Near-peer mentors] can share resources that are helpful, connections that can propel you along, and can share the areas where they faltered to allow you to fly,” Andrea said.
For Andrea, SimpliFed’s secret weapon is the team she has created. As she described it, her incredible team leans on tools that then strengthen the overall business — but ultimately, people are at the core of SimpliFed’s success. Even when working with Smartrr, it was crucial for Andrea to feel like her team had a trusted partner, wanting nothing more than a frictionless experience for her community.
SimpliFed’s main goal this year is to continue to serve families regardless of how they feed their babies. “We are excited to launch more choices for families this year to get access to breastfeeding support, breast pumps, and formula,” Andrea mentioned. “We want healthy babies and we want healthy moms. And a healthy mom is one that has the freedom to choose how to feed her baby in the way that she wants that protects her physical and mental health.”
Here at Smartrr, we strive to continue to empower, uplift, and celebrate women from all backgrounds, understanding that everyone’s journey is unique. We don’t all begin from the same starting line — which is why when we #embraceequity, both in the eCommerce space and in other industries, we take an important step toward full inclusion.