Too often society replicates Black women’s ideas rather than give them their flowers for being the originators. Ruby Love founder Crystal Etienne is one of many who has unfortunately experienced this firsthand.
Etienne told ESSENCE she was among the first to dive into the period sleepwear and swim apparel sector. Yet, if you were to do a Google search for “period underwear,” you won’t see her name as a top result.
“If someone even thinks of period underwear or period swimwear, the last name you’re going to hear is Crystal Etienne,” she told ESSENCE. “But I’m the one who created it, created period sleepwear and period swim apparel, things like that.”
Etienne conjured the idea after she saw a need for comfortable swimwear apparel that considers menstruation. She felt like the next natural step was to start her own company in 2015.
“I launched Ruby Love in 2015 because I was fed up with the lack of period apparel out there,” Etienne said, according to the outlet. “One day, I don’t know, it really bothered me. Nothing even happened. I just didn’t understand why every month myself or any other woman is aggravated. A man would never understand. There’s this silent stress and anxiety around it and I vowed to fix it.”
Getting Ruby Love off the ground was not easy. Yet, Etienne was determined to bring her vision to light at all costs — literally. While searching for funding to get her product and company up and running, she struggled to secure funding after sending out a slew of emails. The sea of ignored questions led Etienne to risk it all in hopes that her vision would pay off.
She proceeded to pay for the prototype and later a full line, self-funded through her own personal savings account. She emptied it out and even quit her day job in operations.
The effort was fruitful. Within months, she had earned $1 million.
Now, Ruby Love has scaled to an impressive $50 million and Etienne is a major player in the period apparel sector. However, she is not blind to the work that had to be done for her to reach this milestone. For this reason, she started her own venture capital firm CaJe, inspired by the existing Black founders who are working to get their businesses off the ground.
“As a female founder and woman of color, I’ve personally experienced the vast inequalities Black women face when looking to secure venture capital,” Etienne said, according to a press release. “It is my dream to leverage my learnings and give back to fellow women looking to turn their business goals into a reality. My husband and I want to provide today’s leading Black entrepreneurs and visionaries with the capital, resources and guidance needed to help them win.”