Beauty, Consumer Goods, forbes30u30

How Sarah Ribner built and scaled Piper Wai!

“If you are not represented, it is your opportunity to become the representation. The really cool thing about being a founder is that you get to write your own narrative and rules. It is really powerful that as an executive woman, you have the power to change the conversation about black women at work and what it means to be a woman of color in your space”

When black women think about deodorant, we usually think about the big brand names without necessarily giving thought to all the toxic chemicals that come along with them. I first learned about Sarah Ribner and PiperWai through her Shark Tank pitch. I rediscovered her again on Forbes 30 under 30 list in Retail and E- Commerce. I am a huge fan of her product PiperWai! Sarah, a fierce advocate for clean beauty and wellness in women, is the co-founder of PiperWai, an all – natural charcoal – based deodorant. PiperWai is a safe way to help women (and men) neutralize underarm odor without the extra harmful ingredients like aluminum and synthetic fragrances.

Sarah Ribner and her partner started PiperWai in Philadelphia and gained fruition after their pitch on Shark Tank. Sarah and her Partner applied for Shark Tank online after Sarah’s mom sent an application link ( moms are literally the best); and three months later they were given the opportunity to pitch to the Sharks- AHmazing! They quickly produced more samples of their product in time for their episode to air at the end of 2015.Sarah said “there was a lot of uncertainty because there is no guarantee that your episode will air.

PiperWai’s Shark Tank Pitch was very successful and their sales skyrocketed afterwards – it grew 6000% in a year. Today, they are sold in more than 250 retailers across the US and Canada and their 2017 revenues were estimated at $5 million.

How She Transitioned from the world of finance to a Beauty Entrepreneurship

With a background in real estate and finance from the University of Pennsylvania and the banking sector,Sarah’s transition into beauty and wellness entrepreneurship is very distinctive. She applied for business school after her second job in real estate whilst launching PiperWai. She was able to hone her business management skills at Columbia University. Her previous experience equipped her with basic market research skills.Her main marketing strategy was through subscription box sampling, demos, Instagram Influencers, beauty blogs and word of mouth. Since her debut on Shark Tank, she has relied on a lot of mentors! She attributed most of her professional growth to “going for industry and networking events in the wellness and beauty industry”. She also reads a ton of business-related books and attends accelerator programs.

Moving away from corporate was very liberating for Sarah because she found it stifling and was often the only woman of color. “It was tough to adhere to all the rules and bureaucracy that come with working in a corporate environment” Sarah said. She said “in corporate there is that fear of asking for help or talking about your personal life without coming off as unprofessional”. She makes sure her employees have well balanced lives!

 

On bringing your authentic self to work

Some corporate environments can often feel constraining as you don’t necessarily use a lot of your creative abilities. Sarah learned to prioritize her self care. She focused on what would make her feel present and more energized to tackle a work day. She soon realized that she was more passionate about the wellness industry, and PiperWai was born!

These days, to avoid burnout, she thinks about all the things that made her excited when she was little and she is carving out time to help her in those therapeutic pursuits. She is doing things that makes her feel more refreshed. Sarah is a firm believer that “if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of other people. You can’t burn out and bring best self to work”.

On seeking mentorship

Seeking mentorship can be tough but it doesn’t have to be. Sarah was able to find reliable mentors by looking through the attendee list of specific events and knowing exactly who she wanted to talk to. As her business grew, she noticed that other entrepreneurs were coming to her for advice and they began mentoring each other.

Her advice for young women seeking mentors is that they should utilize soft introductions. “When you go to a networking event, make sure you research the panelists first and identify what really inspired you about their talk” She said. Working from the co-working space, Alley NYC, has also helped as she has the opportunity to interact with other entrepreneurs.

Sarah also reads a lot of books; books have helped her growth as an entrepreneur. Books are so important to our growth. Mentorship can come in the form of reading the work of a person you admire.

What being an Executive Woman of Color means to her

“ If you are not represented, it is your opportunity to become the representation. The really cool thing about being a founder is that you get to write your own narrative and rules. It is really powerful that as an executive woman, you have the power to change the conversation about black women at work and what it means to be a woman of color in your space!”

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