The One Thing This CEO Says She Won't Do

photo credit:  Richer Poorer  

photo credit: Richer Poorer 

Top shelf products in your top drawer. That's Innerwear company Richer Poorer, minus the hefty price tag. 

Founded six years ago by Iva Pawling and Tim Morse, Pawling says "Richer Poorer is building a brand that makes you never want to leave your house." (But, you will.)

Richer Poorer started at the bottom, literally, launching with colorfully patterned men’s socks and then expanded into women’s and kids’ socks, and underwear. Last December the company made the decision to add men's tees to the lineup. The tees were, "so passionately loved by our customers and friendlies," says Pawling, "that we fast-tracked our women's tee collection launch, and got them to market last month." That was July of this year. According to Pawling, "Women's tees sold out the first day, and have been making up over 20% of our sales since." 

This success can be tied to what Pawling believes "is the evolution of the Athleisure movement we’re all pretty tired of seeing. Instead of wearing workout clothes all day when you’re not actually working out just because of comfort, we wear our Innerwear that we’re still comfortable in, and feel presentable outside the house."

It's also a way of dressing that works well for moms, a role Pawling knows herself as mother to son, Ford. It's simple, casual, and perhaps mostly importantly, convertible. She'll wear their tanks to yoga and then wear the same tank with a fancy necklace, skirt and heels to dinner on the weekend. "Our products are blank canvases," she says. 

From scratch beginnings to a acquisition, we caught up with Pawling to talk mom and mogul-hood, the evolution of Richer Poorer, and if it's possible to hustle your way to happy. (She says yes, with one major "duh" caveat.) 

Mom and mogul. These roles are not mutually exclusive these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re simple. How do you do it? 

The only way I do it is with lots of help and planning. My husband and I split parenting duties pretty evenly so that we can seamlessly parent on our own when the other one is traveling or tied up, and Ford has total consistency. We also have a really great nanny as well who we couldn’t function without. She fills in the holes for us when we both have early morning meetings, crazy schedules, etc.  

One of the reasons I wanted to start my own company was because I knew I wanted to be a mom, and wanted to have control over my time out of the house. I stayed home with Ford on Fridays until he started pre-school, which was such a gift. Having one day of the week that was just for him and I to go to music class, go to the park, become besties, was great. The flip side to that coin is that running your own business does not come with a three month maternity leave, so I was back in the office a week after having him. Sacrifice is the name of the game. 

Also, lots of planning and foresight is needed to keep our life organized and running smoothly. I have found that parents with careers get much more efficient with their days almost instantly, so we pre-plan everything we can. A month in advance for travel if possible, and every Sunday go through the coming week’s logistics of meetings, drop offs and pick ups. 

How do you NOT do it?

I do not prescribe to being a martyr for my child by sacrificing myself. I love my child more than anything on earth, but I also love working and my career. Fitness is really important to me so I still squeeze it in as consistently as I can. What I learned early on was that I am not a good mom for Ford if I am not doing what I need, to be happy.

"I do not prescribe to being a martyr for my child by sacrificing myself."

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Taking care of myself mentally and physically allows me to be really present and engaged during the time I have with him, rather than in my own head battling myself. 

What are some parts of modern motherhood that you don’t buy into?

Parenting as a sport and the mommy wars. The judgment in parenting is something I have great disdain for. It’s become very present in the last decade, likely because of social media, but it is one of the most destructive things we do to each other. The topics are endless – epidurals, breastfeeding, sleep training, organic food, co-sleeping, potty training. We are all doing our best, and doing what we believe to be right for our child, so I really wish the divisive speak would come to a stop. 

Similar question, slightly different approach: If there was a part of modern motherhood that would end up on sale… what would it be? 

Unsolicited advice. After I had Ford I was totally blown away with how much direction strangers feel compelled to give when it comes to parenting. There is no other subject matter that this happens with, only parenting. And while I think most people mean well, as a parent with a young child the – shoulda / coulda / wouldas – are exhausting during a fairly confusing time when you are just trying to find your own way. 

photo credit:  Richer Poorer  

photo credit: Richer Poorer 

In what ways did the role of founder help you prepare for your role as mom? 

There is nothing that prepares you more for parenthood, than running your own business. The parallels are endless. I was really prepared for becoming a mom to flip my entire world over, and while it certainly did from a priority perspective, on a day-to-day basis I felt like it was so similar to the early day of Richer Poorer.

In the world of a start up, the business changes all the time. The second you think you have things on lock, everything shifts and you have to dig back in to adjust. Kids are exactly the same. You think you have them figured out, and they do something like START WALKING. 

And the sleep, oh the sleep. My sleepless nights and learning to function on not very much of it began when I started Richer Poorer, so once Ford arrived it felt very similar and like old hat. 

Are there ways your leadership changed postpartum? 

My leadership style definitely changed postpartum. It softens you at the core, so I think I’m a lot more understanding than I was before. I give people a bit more rope when we make mistakes. On the flip side I’ve become a lot more direct and decisive since I can no longer afford to burn the midnight oil at the office. I require efficiency out of our team and they’ve become really good at moving through things quickly.

What are some ways you think Richer Poorer is disrupting the market?

Two ways – by defining a new category for the industry that is focused on how we’re dressing these days, Innerwear – and working really hard to be part of the solution for retailers in this really turbulent and tough market. 

We believe there is a new way of dressing that has taken over most of our wardrobes that is really focused on comfort, utility and simplicity – your Innerwear. We’re determined to be the brand that makes your favorite pieces that live at the top of your drawer, that you can’t wait to put on every day – tees, underwear, socks, sweats, etc.

There is a lot of doom and gloom in our industry right now with the shift in consumers buying habits, and quite a few brands are either launching with the plan to just be direct-to-consumer, or established ones are trying to shift their model to stop doing wholesale and only do direct-to-consumer. We really believe that you need to build both channels to support each other, in order to grow a strong brand. We are focused on working with our retailers to create unique buying experiences in their stores that tell our brand story rather than just product, and give the customer a unique way to shop that they can’t necessarily get online. 

photo credit:  Richer Poorer  

photo credit: Richer Poorer 

When you’re repositioning what are facets you have keep, where do you have some wiggle room?

The defining brand tenets of what Richer Poorer was built on haven’t changed – Elevate Everyday – Honest Hustle – California Born. 

Elevate everyday speaks to not only our why, which is to create great products that make people’s days better in the simplest of ways at an attainable price point, but also our internal culture at Richer Poorer. We are here because we love what we do. We are lucky to be in this passion-driven industry, so I firmly believe it is our obligation to treat each other really well, both internally and all the people we work with outside the walls of our office. 

Honest Hustle is how we do it, we are as scrappy as can be and work our asses off. This was born out of necessity because we had no dollars or budget for anything when we started, and we still instill this in every employee that enters our world. Limited resources force people to think outside the box and work smarter, and we’ve almost always seen better results from that. 

"Honest Hustle is how we do it, we are as scrappy as can be and work our asses off."

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We’re a California Born brand, and it informs our overall aesthetic from product to photography. California is a dream of a place to get to live in, the entire world knows this, so we embrace it and love it. 

So short story long, we religiously adhere to these tenants with everything we do as we’ve repositioned the brand, so it still feels like the same Richer Poorer, but better.

When you shifted from the traditional wholesale model did you learn anything new about the customer?

We shifted our model in December with the launch of our first apparel item, mens tee shirts on our direct-to-consumer site, which helped us understand our customer a lot better. 

The first thing we learned was that our customer wasn’t price sensitive to our brand. They were willing to spend more with us if the product was good. This was a great eye-opener for us as it gave us the confidence to speed up our timelines on the new product categories we wanted to offer. 

The second thing we learned was launching a product direct-to-consumer first, then wholesale channel second is really, really helpful for growth of the wholesale channel. The customer is now walking into the shops asking if they have our tees and wanting to touch and feel it, but buying it right away. Historically if they had seen it there first, it may take a few visits to convince them that they wanted to actually buy the product. Now it’s instant. 

How did this shift change your business? 

It changed our entire business because it was proof that there is in fact a way to run a true hybrid model that supports both the wholesale and direct-to-consumer channels. 

We’ve since spent the last six months strengthening our supply chain, internal processes and adjusting calendars so that we can get items to market on faster timelines that are focused on direct-to-consumer, all while maintaining a consistent solution for the traditional wholesale calendar. 

Running on two paths at once has been really difficult, so we’re lucky that we have an insanely committed team that is excited by these changes and sees that as a team we are committed to being the change in the industry, rather than the dinosaur that gets left behind. Tim and I are always pushing our team to think differently and iterate what we do quickly. We tell everyone that we expect what they are doing today to be different six months from now because they are making our products, processes, just everything we do, better as they learn more and grow.

"We are committed to being the change in the industry, rather than the dinosaur that gets left behind." 

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Simply, what is an honest hustle? 

The Honest Hustle was derived from our original company rally cry, that – Humble beginning make for great stories. Tim and I started Richer Poorer with little more than a few dollars, a mountain of inspiration and the drive to create something we could share with the world. 

Seeing a brand through - from a simple idea to a truly functioning business -required having the perseverance to guide it and us through hundreds of roadblocks. It demanded an unwavering spirit, some serious scrappiness, honesty with ourselves, and a lot (A LOT) of hustle. As our team grew, it was important to us to maintain these values, so we named it the Honest Hustle as an easy way to define it. 

The honest hustle has become a way of life to me. It’s a commitment to being the best, most honest version of yourself in what it is you chose to do with your life. Regardless of whether you are running your own business, in your dream job, or your first job – it’s a belief that working as hard and smart as you can will lead you to the next best step, and so on. Be proud of what you do and how you do it.

Can you hustle your way to happy?

Yes! I entirely believe this if you are doing work that is meaningful to you. As human beings, we derive immense happiness and self-satisfaction out of accomplishing things. I read about how important the feeling of accomplishment is to humans in a really great book called Brain Rules before I had Ford, and it describes this starting in children as early as a few months old through adulthood. I know for myself, when I leave a day at the office and have been able to cross a big thing off my list, I feel great. 

I say this with the caveat that work alone will not make you happy. Human connections and relationships are the most important thing. Duh. 

We can't wait to have Iva Pawling join us #CreateCultivateATL this October on View From the Top: The Do's and Don'ts from the Women Who've Done It.