How Bre Cruickshank's role at a legacy brand, millennial startup, and small business led her to create Radical Girl Gang, a women-driven marketplace. Radical Girl Gang is an online marketplace to shop for products to support women-owned brands.Photo by Julia Soniat
With a background in apparel and merchandising, Bre Cruickshank began her career at Nike in Portland. After three years, she began to search for more meaning in her work. Bre started to look into startups as a next step, away from large and established companies. She moved to Austin to join the growing activewear brand, Outdoor Voices. There, she wore many hats and established their eCommerce merchandising practice.
Though things were going well, she still had an itch to make an impact.
She knew she was interested in fashion, feminism, and self-fulfillment. To work at the intersection of all her interests, she started to think of how a brand could go beyond the product and design. So after work, she started what was then her side project, Radical Girl Gang (RGG). She launched RGG in February 2018 with the celebrated and controversial "CEO" shirt.
"Why is it provocative for women to wear "CEO?" We were wondering the same thing.
The reaction from people online fueled her desire to design and create more products to give women a stronger voice. For the next six months, she used her lunch breaks to run errands for her business and run the RGG Instagram. Within a few months, she reached a fork pretty quickly and had to choose between her job and her new business. "It's always been important to me to give back and do something meaningful. It was an emotional decision – not impulsive," she said. Her emotions and gut were telling her that to feel fulfilled, she needed to take a gigantic leap of faith.
How did you get started? Give us all the details – the good and the bad.
Looking back, it was obvious I was always an entrepreneur, but it took me a long time to realize that for myself. Growing up, I never really knew I could be an entrepreneur because I never actually saw it in mainstream culture. If you don't know what I mean, go google "famous entrepreneurs" and you'll see that no women come up (grossly inaccurate). Things started really happening for me when I began to fully believe in myself and my vision. I never ask for permission—and that's probably the best piece of advice I could give aspiring entrepreneurs.
How did you make yourself stand out?
I've never thought about it too much. I think it was clear from the very beginning of RGG that there's a real hunger for sisterhood in the world today. By tapping into that, we've been able to build a community that's engaged and passionate about supporting women. From a design standpoint, I've always been unapologetically myself. And in this next phase of the business, our curation of both products and brands has really helped us gain momentum and recognition.
How did RGG evolve into a marketplace?
It became obvious to me that we have to create different solutions to truly empower women in business. Not only are there gender-specific barriers that women entrepreneurs face, like lack of access to capital, but there's also the challenge of breaking through the noise as an emerging brand. Given my experience growing my own brand, and my background in fashion and eCommerce, this next step made total sense.
Consumer behavior is also changing. Shopping is a form of activism and our platform provides a space where women (who control the majority of spending power) can vote with their dollars and directly affect change. Until RGG, there hasn't been one centralized, curated place to shop women-owned brands all at once.
When was the moment you knew you were on the right path?
I don't think there was one moment, more like lots of little moments. I'm just starting this journey – I don't have it figured out. I remember telling one of my mentors about the marketplace a few months back and she was like, "Of course you're doing that. You've always been doing that!" I also joined an accelerator program called Founder Institute this past summer that really helped me hone in my vision and how I could execute it best. But mostly I know I'm on the right path because I feel aligned with my calling; it's that feeling of 'I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing' that I get to experience on a daily basis. I care. I'm not emotional for caring; I'm passionate. That's what you would tell a man.
Photo by Julia Soniat
Did you have a period of questioning, if so, how did you overcome it?
Yes! I have periods of questioning all the time. It's totally normal and accepting that has made my journey a lot easier. Being an entrepreneur doesn't eradicate fear or self-doubt (in fact, it exacerbates them both), it's about learning how to move forward despite those feelings. I do that by reminding myself of my mission to support other women. As long as I'm doing that, I'm aligned with my purpose. Teddy Roosevelt's famous "in the arena" quote and Brene Brown's writing also help me when I'm feeling particularly vulnerable. Both help me refocus on what's important: daring to try.
What's a common mistake people make on Instagram – and how can they avoid it?
I'd say inauthenticity is the biggest mistake I see on Instagram; brands not embracing their own unique voice and instead intimating the voice of others. One of our greatest guiding forces as a brand is authenticity. If it doesn't feel like us, we won't post it. And we don't share content just for likes and shares, ever. Ask yourself what kind of content you'd want to see in your own feed and post that.
The RGG Instagram community built itself. All I did was create a space where women felt included in the conversation and could let their guard down—not just with RGG, but with each other. By being real and honest and vulnerable, we empower other women to do the same. And let's be real, women already have enough pressure to look and act perfect. I want RGG to be an antidote.
I seriously use PLANOLY religiously. As I find content, I upload it to PLANOLY right away so I have an ongoing collection of images to choose from on PLANOLY mobile. It's about finding a balance between being strategic and authentic with your content. Plan, but leave room for spontaneity. And make your feed cute!
How do you maintain digital and life boundaries?
Boundaries have been a constant theme in my life lately. I just got back from a solo vacation where I completely unplugged and spent a few days reconnecting with myself (mostly bubble baths and red wine). Sometimes social media makes us feel like we have to share every part of ourselves and I find that to be really draining. For me, taking time to intentionally unplug and reset is key. It's such a constant practice to detach from technology.
What's next for RGG?
So much! The movement to shop women-owned is truly just beginning. It's exciting. Looking towards the future we're focused on brand awareness, growing our community, and staying true to our mission in everything we do. RGG is about tapping into the collective power of women. You support her, she supports you, and we support each other.
To learn more about Bre Cruickshank and RGG, visit here.