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Female Founders: Rosie Mangiarotti of Perkies On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosie Mangiarotti.

Perkies founder, Rosie Mangiarotti, had enough of the subpar sticky bras currently offered on the market and created the Perkies Sticky Bra as an alternative. Today,Perkies creates innovative undergarments for women to wear with their signature product being the Perkies Sticky bra, the only sticky bra (backless/strapless bra that sticks on) with layered and replaceable adhesives! Perkies is dedicated to sustainability, inclusivity, and empowering women to feel confident, while also donating 5% of all website sales across www.perkies.com, to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation®.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thank you for having me! My interest in entrepreneurship was ignited at a very young age, watching my own father work to pursue his own venture. Like me, he is also an entrepreneur, and even as a child, I couldn’t help but be inspired by his drive and his dedication. My interest in entrepreneurship followed me all the way to college, where I was given a real opportunity to pursue it. During my time at Brown University, I concentrated in their Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations track and took a class called “The Entrepreneurial Process”. In this class, students were tasked in coming up with a solution (either a product or a service) to solve a common customer pain point. Based on my own awful experiences with sticky bras, and hearing similar testimonies from my sisters and friends, I came up with the idea of creating a sticky bra with removable and replaceable adhesives. After the class wrapped up and I graduated in 2018, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring this idea to fruition. And that’s how my brand, Perkies, was born. Four years later and here we are!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

My favorite story is actually a compilation of a few different moments that have taken place this Spring. Over the last few months, I’ve attended weddings and spent Memorial Day weekend with several friends for our Brown reunion weekend. These weekends encompassed 10–15 friends who were all wearing some form of Perkies…whether it was the Perkies Sticky Bra, the Perkies Petals, the Perkies Panties, or even a combination! These weekends were a strong, and necessary, reminder that all my hard work has been worth it. It felt so amazing and fulfilling to see that the products Perkies creates are actually helping women feel more confident. It truly was an indescribable experience witnessing first hand how many people needed the products and how happy they were to use them.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This definitely wasn’t anywhere near funny while it was happening, but I have no choice but to laugh now. Over the summer of 2020, I had taken a preorder of about 200 sticky bras. The grave mistake that I made was telling everyone who pre-ordered that the products would be ready almost a year before they were actually ready. While I had projected the fall of 2020, it wasn’t until June of 2021 that the products were delivered. Thankfully it was a preorder for family and friends, who were all supportive even through the delays. I quickly learned the lesson to always expect the worst and slowest production time, throughout the manufacturing process. I learned to never overpromise and underdeliver, but rather underpromise and overdeliver!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Shortly after I had graduated from Brown, I pitched at the “Get Started RI” Pitch Competition, and I ended up winning the audience vote. After the competition, one of the judges on the panel followed up with me and connected me with her friend, Melissa Studzinki who was, at the time, seeking hands-on experience with a startup. Melissa ended up being more impactful than I ever could’ve imagined. Starting Perkies, I had no sense of direction, accountability, nor experience, Melissa stepped in and became my very first accountability partner, offering both direction and experience. She helped me manage the overwhelming stress that often accompanies the 500 different choices a founder has to make on a daily basis. Early on, we spoke on the phone at least two times a week. Melissa is incredibly smart, diligent, and truly a force to be reckoned with and I wanted nothing more than to impress her. I swear I worked five times as hard just so that I could get the most out of those phone calls. I took Melissa’s advice where appropriate, and connected with the people she recommended. I highly suggest finding some type of mentor/advisor that acts as an accountability partner for those solopreneurs, especially in the early days. Although our weekly calls have dissipated to bi-monthly calls, Melissa is still a dear friend and continues to be a key mentor for Perkies.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

From my perspective, this issue could potentially be systemic/systematic and rooted in outdated cultural ideals and practices. Funding has gone to men for so many years that it is seemingly “natural” for men to be the founders of companies. With the “nuclear” family having the fathers as the breadwinners, it’s common practice for more of the business talk to reside between fathers and sons. That being said, this is thankfully changing. I’ve also seen how men and women are inherently different in addition to being raised differently. Men are often more risk-seeking and are able to confidently make themselves seem more distinguished. Women, on the other hand, are often (not always) taught to be risk-averse and conservative with their projections and more calculated before going into action (this has its pros and cons!). Often, men shoot for the stars and land on the moon when many women feel it’s appropriate to just shoot for the moon. Again, this is how it used to be, and I’m thankful a lot is changing to make this no longer the case.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

On the individual level, I think we need to be more intentional in making sure we are breaking the cycle of leaving young girls out of conversations, especially surrounding business. While thankfully, we are beginning to see this shift, we still have a very long way to go. As a society, there should be more emphasis on the logistics of business taught in middle and high school, such as courses on taxes, equity, investing, etc. A rising tide does indeed raise all boats! Although less of an issue in the US, educational disparity between young girls and boys needs to be addressed, specifically in developing countries. The way boys and girls are supported in the classroom needs to be equal so that moving forward, women have more confidence to go out and start their own companies and equal opportunities in doing so. The government could also play a role in overcoming these obstacles by offering grants to more female lead start-ups. All of these movements, however small, will have trickle effects. If there is even just one successful female founder, more young girls could see that they could achieve success as well, and this could end up inspiring a whole new generation of female founders.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Over 50% of the US population is women, meaning that women deal with 50% of the world’s problems. In reality, the average woman actually deals with a lot more issues than the average man, taking into account a myriad of societal, cultural, historical and other external problems as well as biological (ie-fertility). It’s no question that we would have a lot more success solving these issues if women were given more seats at the table, especially given that in most instances, they would be the end beneficiary. Perkies is a great example here; no man really knows what the issues are with current sticky bras. I’m not even sure most men know what a sticky bra is! It’s just that when you live through a pain point, you are more adequately fitted to solve the problem.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

One myth I take issue with, is the idea that if you start your own business, you can “work whatever hours you want and wherever you want.” If you are a one-woman show for a company that is a product-based company, you need to be within arm’s distance of your inventory, or your company won’t run. Speaking from experience, I can’t go away for more than three days without needing someone to stand in for me! Especially in the beginning stages of founding a company/product development, you need to be physically close to your product and as hands-on as possible. As for the working whatever hours part of the myth, I believe that if you want your company to be a real company, you have to treat it like one. Yes, you are, in theory, able to take however many days you want off, but in my experience, treating your company on corporate time helps with digesting information and prevents burnout. Of course, there are going to be special days where you’re working into the late hours of the night, but keeping yourself from burning out is a necessity. I know it might be the complete opposite for other founders but personally running on set hours instead of “sporadic hours” helps me achieve my weekly goals!

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I would never say you have to be a specific type of person to run a successful business. After all, you’ll find that founders come from all different walks of life and hold a variety of different identities, personality types, and characteristics. I’m a firm believer that anyone who works hard, is passionate, is willing to make the necessary sacrifices and above all, is willing to be on a continuous journey to learn, can run a successful company. You have to be the type of person who embraces hearing “no” and is receptive to feedback that won’t always feel nice to hear, but is necessary for growth. If you are stubborn or get easily rattled by rejection, you might not have the easiest time as a founder. I have to constantly tell myself: “persevere”!

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Deadlines will be extended. It’s important to be patient, trust the process, and understand that deadlines will be extended. Like I said above, I have experienced these delays since the get go. While it’s not easy to have issues in the manufacturing process, you truly have to be okay with it and be able to understand that it’s a process.
  2. Surround yourself with cheerleaders. You need to surround yourself with people who are your cheerleaders, not your doubters. Starting a business is not an easy thing to do, let alone doing it when people aren’t cheering you on. You truly need a support system for those days of hearing “no” one too many times. The support from my friends and family has been a lifesaver. Alongside this, you can’t let the weight of what others think get to you. Letting others’ thoughts affect you can divert you from your goals!
  3. THINK BIG. Thinking big is essential. I was taught the importance of this in Danny Warshay’s class. Reminding yourself constantly to think outside the box is a fundamental part of founding a business. Do not pigeonhole yourself! Investors like to see those bigger projections and a bigger TAM (total addressable market).
  4. Don’t take advice from someone you don’t want to be. The fourth thing that I feel is very important is that you will hear a lot of advice and you have to be discerning in the advice you choose to take. At the start of founding a business, it may feel as though you should take any advice you can get, but I caution the idea of following advice blindly.
  5. Enjoy the ride. Lastly, enjoy the ride! Enjoy every moment of it. From the late nights working on the pitch deck to every run to the post office. Being a founder is a wild ride and you can’t take any of it for granted!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I think a big part of it for me is being a role model. Setting an example to others that it is possible to start something right out of college while living in your parent’s house, and that it is possible to bring something to life without raising money. Whether I’m formally mentoring students or just having complete strangers follow my journey, I’m setting some sort of example and giving them the “if she can do it, so can I” green light.

On the more philanthropic side of things, working with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation has been very important to me. Some people told me to wait until I had more sales before donating, but I wanted to make a difference right from the start. In 2022, Perkies is donating 5% of all website sales across www.perkies.com, to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation®. BCRF’s mission is to advance the world’s most promising research to eradicate breast cancer. For more information about BCRF, visit www.bcrf.org.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

People often ask me (and my family) why we are such happy and optimistic people. For starters, we’ve been very fortunate in life, and that’s not to be overlooked. But, even when things are going wrong, we tie our happiness back to gratitude, and countless studies can back that. If I could, I’d love to inspire a movement where everyone could focus on the good in every day and appreciate the small blessings in their daily lives. One of my favorite quotes is: “When you focus on the good, the good gets better”.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

My most recent female role model is Amy Griffin, the founder of G9 ventures. Amy is a total wave maker, but in a subtle way that draws little to no attention to herself. Amy is super philanthropic and has invested wisely in this younger generation of women. She seems like an amazing mother and friend- and a dream investor!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.