Universal Standard cofounder on company's decision to support Planned Parenthood
“The new consumer is absolutely starving for something from the brand they support other than the products they buy,” says Alexandra Waldman.
Alex. I mean the questions of the female founder double standard and scrutiny go beyond, I think go beyond just investors. Um, you know, we've seen a lot of, we've seen a lot of concern, um, that it's, it's the press, its employees, it's your customers holding holding companies that are both run by women. And I think especially stand for something or embrace some sort of social justice mission may put themselves up more for failure or be put up more for failure. And I'd be curious, um, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this, this whole conversation. So really a really a timely question because what people expect from companies today is quite different than, um, even a few years ago, certainly partly because of social media and I think partly because of the, um, political challenges, sociopolitical challenges of the last five years. I think that I think everybody kind of scratched their head and said, you know, you know, we've got to change something because we're not, we're not going anywhere good. And so we um, had to decide who we wanted to be, and then we had to be it unashamedly. So just to give you an example, one of the organizations that we support very publicly is planned parenthood. And it's a controversial thing because there are people who are like, you know, I have very strong feelings About it one way or the other, and we we knew that as a company, um, you know, providing health care to two women, uh, was something that we felt very strongly about. And so we decided to publicly take a stand of support and support them financially through various sales or through collaborations. Um, and we kind of did it. We we sort of pulled the trigger and then we waited to see what would come our way. And it was amazing because there was almost no pushback uh, which told us that we understood our audience very well. Uh it also actually told us that the people who shop with universal standards want and expect our brands to fly the flag for what we stand for, what we believe in, and that it mattered to them, and that it um actually, um very often push them closer to the brand because they were proud to be associated with it in some other way other than just through the clothing. And throughout the five years that we've been around, we have uh, leaned more and more into what we believe in, um, both in terms of, you know, the social change, both active and reactive uh, with Black Lives Matter. And with, you know, I was taking a stand of our own that sometimes was difficult for for some of the audience that we had acquired early on to to kind of believe in or stand behind, but over the five years of being consistent with that, um we've really learned that the new consumer, this new consciousness is absolutely starving for something more from the brands they support than just the products they buy. They want to know that they are aligned in some other way. Um so this has definitely been something that um I think made us just a better company. We have our our return customer rate is so unbelievable that when people, um when we tell people that they're just like they're skeptics, but obviously, you know, we have full accountability and transparency to our board, so I can assure you this is all true, but on a bad day we have um 80 return, right Our customers, once they become customers, they are customers for life, like they really stick with the brand and every time we do any kind of um social content in terms of, you know, um whether it's with planned parenthood or blue jeans go green or supporting initiatives uh for you know, various organizations almost always um uh female or environment focused. Uh The response is tremendous and I know that it only sort of makes our brand stronger. Um and I really do believe that the shift, this sort of post social media shift um has become a very important aspect of running a successful business, at least it has for us.