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Rachel Jones is the founder of Jonesy, an underwear brand that combines style and comfort in the best way possible. She formerly worked as an advertising staffer in NY's tech scene, but decided to branch out and start her business in 2015. She was surprised by the lack of stylish and comfortable bralette options available for women in the A-C cup range, and set out to create her ideal bralette. After spending nearly a year working on samples for a simple yet stylish bralette and undies set, Jonesy was born. Read on to learn more about her journey as an entrepreneur, how she strives to stand out from other 'intimates' brands, digital strategy tips, and more!
Hi Rachel! Please introduce yourself.
Hi there! I'm the founder and designer behind Jonesy, an undies label that makes stylish, comfy undies and bralettes. I live in Fort Greene, work in Soho and am often traipsing around the city with my dog Frasier.
Before starting Jonesy, you were formerly an advertising staffer working in NYC's tech scene. What inspired you to jump ship and start your venture?
While working in the ad scene in NYC, I started a lifestyle blog in 2011 with my then boyfriend (now husband). Early on we interviewed friends and people in our network about their career trajectories while photographing their work looks. Eventually, the platform evolved into a channel to interview makers & entrepreneurs that were blowing up online or building businesses in the early 2010s. It gave us an opportunity to stalk people we looked up to. The site was fairly scrappy; my husband took all the photos, and I did the Q and A write-ups, but it was the best education. Over and over, I got an opportunity to hear from different creatives about how they carved out niches for themselves, and it planted a seed that I too might be able to do that someday. Eventually, I had the idea to do Jonesy, and by then I had enough confidence and know-how to pursue the idea (or at least fake it!).
"Tapping into certain practices rooted in startup culture has been hugely helpful for me."
Based on your previous role in advertising, how did your experience come in handy in your current entrepreneurial/founder role?
Working as a project manager in the tech world trains you to be adaptive, and roll with the never-ending punches that come with dealing with vendors miscommunications, timeline delays, production emergencies, etc. -- not to mention all of the direct overlap between managing product rollouts in the digital and offline space. But above all else, tapping into certain practices rooted in startup culture has been hugely helpful for me. Ideas like testing your hypothesis (in my case, product styles) before investing large sums, always capturing feedback from your users, and embracing iteration (aka improvement) have freed me up from the pressure of having to have it all "figured out."
What is the story behind Jonesy? With so many different brands in the space, what made you see a need for this type of product in the 'intimates' market, and how does it strive to stand out?
The intimates market has certainly exploded in the last couple of years, but I still think there is a gap in the market between your everyday 'basic' undies & bras and more sexy, special items that you may occasionally invest in. We want to sit between those two extremes and design undies and bralettes that are stylish, comfy AND an extension of our customers' closets. For us, that means incorporating trends & ideas from the ready-to-wear space and adapting these to the intimates category in a way that feels fresh (hello #GenerationZyellow). At the same time, we're not solving rocket science here, so staying quirky and playful is important too. Underwear brands have been way too self-serious or generic for far too long!
What role has social media played in the growth of your brand, and how frequently do you revisit and pivot your strategy to keep up with that growth?
Since we have no PR agency and are a direct-to-consumer brand, social media has been the primary vehicle for us to tell the story of Jonesy and build our customer base. Early on that took the form of establishing a set aesthetic and narrative and staying true to that vision with our followers. Now, I regard social as more of a "listening tool" to hear from customers and fans. We're a small brand with a tiny team, and while I'm at the helm of Jonesy, I don't pretend to have all the answers. Instead, I want our followers and customers to be driving our agenda and business strategy forward. That approach may eventually evolve, but for now, that is where my instincts are leading me. PLANOLY has been an invaluable tool for testing these ideas, and new Instagram features, so I'm always monitoring our analytics and using that as a 'gut check' on the conversations and ideas we're putting forth on social as well. Data is king, and while we're not just pandering to the most likes/comments, that insight is essential for understanding what's resonating.
What are your top 3 tips for curating content that connects the brand with the right audience while standing out from the rest?
- Stay true to your content strategy, but remember there needs to be emotion. I'm a fan of planning out our social calendar ahead of time using PLANOLY features, but then fine-tuning and making day of decisions based on mood, news cycle, the weather ;) Content shouldn't feel canned or rehearsed. People can smell that.
- Piggy-back off what you see around you to drive your aesthetic and content forward. I'm a fan of crediting anyone who needs to be credited (a la Taylor Swift songwriting credits) since I firmly believe that adaptation (not straight copying!) is the sincerest form of flattery. I'm not a photographer or artist, so I'm continually training my eye by looking at what other creatives I look up to are doing, and usually that as a testing ground to do my own thing.
- Think of your content as an opportunity to learn: ask questions, post surveys, and embrace the ambiguity of not having everything figured out. People love to give feedback and to forge a connection, even one based on random opinions or criticism, is still hugely valuable.
What stereotypes do you think need to be broken in the undergarment industry and what steps are you taking towards changing the 'norm'?
It's really exciting and cool to see so many brands taking a more active stance toward showcasing bodies across a range of sizes and shapes. At the same time, our brains are truly hardwired by culture/entertainment/media to see certain bodies as beautiful and others as less so. I recognize some of these biases within myself, so I feel challenged to create more content that is beautiful while also retraining our instincts around what that means or looks like. As a small chested lady, I also have a special place in my heart for - B cups in the world. I often hear from DD+ women about their needs for bralettes that can fit & support so recognize their struggle is real, but I also feel strongly about creating bralettes that make all of us feel feminine... even as an AA chest.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given before you dived into becoming an entrepreneur?
I wish for two things...I wish someone had told me to start building an audience before "going live" and to listen to my customers *before* releasing the actual product. I've always taken a minimum viable approach to building the brand, so testing styles has always been part of our philosophy, but I wish I'd done more focus group interview testing before launching. It would have taken some pressure off of the idea that I needed to get it right.
What's next for Jonesy?
The brand has grown significantly this year, so it's a goal of mine to transition from "startup mode" into a season of stability & maturity in the next six months. For us, that looks like 1) increasing the frequency of our product drops, 2) upping the quality and consistency of our content (hello underutilized email newsletters), 3) and finding new and unexpected ways to connect with our followers on Instagram. I'm hoping PLANOLY can especially help with that last one!