We’ve all been there: standing in a florescent-lit store, going through bins and bins of five for $25 underwear that no longer have even a hint of organization — and the only ones left are hot pink with green hearts.
Ellyette Gheno was as aware of this as anyone, and wanted to change the landscape of how women got their underwear — she didn’t think they deserved bottom-of-the-sale-bin underwear, but flattering, matching sets that gave them confidence day in and day out. She thought about the subscription services she was receiving, and how they weren’t giving her what she really needed delivered to her door every month.
Then, BootayBag was born. We chatted with Ellyette about her roller coaster of a career journey, how she came up with one of the hottest subscription services on the market, and the advice she’d give to her younger self — you’re going to want to hear this.
Name: Ellyette Gheno, Founder of BootayBag
Current Location: San Francisco, CA
Education: High School
What was your first job and how did you land it?
Oh yikes! I was hoping you wouldn’t ask… First job was “playing dress-up” for Super Franks. Any Super Franks fans out there?! For those of you who aren’t familiar… think Chuck-E-Cheese. Glamorous, right? Thanks, Mom, for the hook-up!
Tell us a little bit about your career journey. Did you always imagine you’d be an entrepreneur, or did your plans change over time?
I definitely had thoughts — and maybe you could even call them dreams — about being an entrepreneur, however, I didn’t think I could do it. I was passionate about figuring out how to make it work, but because I struggled with school, I figured I wasn’t educated enough to be in the biz. After I somehow managed to graduate high school, I dropped out of college after realizing I tested into the lowest possible classes. I spent most of my life sitting in a salon chair beside my mom, hard at work, and, knowing the barrier to entry was just a few months of classes, I figured that could be my path. Upon graduating cosmetology school, I apprenticed at one of the top salons in San Francisco and truly loved my job. It was only a little while later that (I bet you could see this one coming) I met a guy and followed him to Denver, Colorado. Upon moving to Denver, I realized I had a lot of one thing — free time — and a little of another — money. I worked some odd jobs to get by, but still wasn’t making enough money to support my lifestyle. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands.
When did you first get the idea for BootayBag?
I distinctly remember the moment BootayBag found me. I was cleaning the new place, drinking a glass of wine, and looking through my newly-delivered Birchbox thinking, “I should probably cancel this,” because I was tight on cash and didn’t really need it if you saw my then makeup collection. That got me thinking [about] what I really needed, and what I could possibly put those Birchbox monthly funds towards… undies! I had a site up the next day. Not a good one, lol, but it was something.
When you decided to start your own company, what were your first steps?
Creating a brand wasn’t in my initial roadmap, therefore my first steps were not well-executed. In fact, I can say that I would have totally done it differently today, however, there is something to say about initially taking the plunge and just going for it. I was so excited about what I was doing at the time and just so proud of my project that I didn’t care about waiting until it was perfect. At the time, I just wanted to get it going and put it out there into the world! Little did I know that it would go to market so quickly… but because of this, I was able to use real feedback to build my brand early on. This allowed me to pivot, grow, and mold BootayBag to not only fit my vision, but to better serve the community I was building it for.
Shopping for underwear is looked at as a chore to most women. How do you think BootayBag is changing the way women view shopping for underwear?
BootayBag was built to solve an issue my closest friends and I were having. We were so over digging through mis-labeled sale bins and waiting in line to shop the semi-annual panty sale. As the business took off, I realized other women were feeling the same way. Restocking your panty drawer was such a drag, and yes exactly, a “chore.” Shopping for a cute new outfit for a GNO was exciting. Undies? Not so much. BUT, they’re a necessity; and — we quickly learned — an expensive one. The semi-annual sale was a time to replace my current stock at a decent price, but a hell of an event. BootayBag is changing the way you shop for underwear by delivering this product that most women don’t really want to have to think about when it comes to “out with the old and in with the new,” at an affordable price, delivered straight to your door, on a recurring basis. Convenient, affordable, mindless, and easy breezy.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve come across? How did you overcome them?
Everything is a challenge. Most days I feel like I am flying blind and hoping for the best. I have definitely been figuring it out as I go along this continuous journey. Every day is a new challenge. I’ve learned the best way to overcome these challenges is to experience them head on, but not alone. I’ve surrounded myself with a great team, knowledgable mentors, and peers who want the best for the brand and stand by its core values. They have become the heart of the brand and my personal guard rails, allowing the business to take measured risks and overcome obstacles along the way.
You mentioned that you feel your best when you get into a cute matching set of undies. How do you think underwear impacts women’s confidence?
Every woman’s journey to self-love is intimate, personal, and for more than you’d think, a common struggle. I can tell you firsthand, having a slim figure is not what leads to self-love and happiness. Being “skinny” absolutely does not equal being confident. When I learned that my personal view on myself and my body didn’t need to sync up with what society and social media was telling me, I was able to begin my journey to self-love. I still have more to go, but I am definitely more in love with myself and my body than I was four years ago. Even without looking in the mirror, sliding into a cute matching bra and undies set that fits my body type and is comfortable and sexy is a game-changer. And, I mean, dancing around in it when nobody’s watching helps too. 😉 With BootayBag, we are striving to rebuild the definition of “sexy” for women. We have created a safe space on social media and are using our platform to grow our community of like-minded women and support each individual’s journey to self-love. We hope that journey comes full circle when sliding into our undies.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
The work never stops and my mind never shuts off internally. Picture a revolving door — those are the thoughts and ideas spinning in my head 24/7. How to better the brand, how to better manage my team, how to deliver new and exciting products to our community, how to engage more intimately with the women supporting the brand, etc., etc., etc. I recently have taken a step back and tried to figure out how to better manage my day-to-day so that I am most useful to myself and my team. I try to work in time blocks of 90 minutes, allowing for not only task related to-do items, but creative blocks as well that grant my time to think big picture. I love the business and brand that I’ve built and I love my part in it all, especially making my own schedule. I’ve been able to find a good balance of all-in, go-hard time, and the time needed to pull away. I have discovered how important it is to make more time to read, work out, and just have time to myself. This has allowed me to breathe and create the space needed when moments get heated!
Do you ever feel burnt out? What do you do to stay inspired?
As a young entrepreneur, it is so hard to not feel burnt out! I find myself having to work hard every day to maintain my habits and keep my energy focused in the right direction. I am inspired by growth; growth in my company, my team, and myself. I’ve also learned that it all starts with me; when I don’t take the time to reset and step away, everyone and everything suffers. Staying inspired and growing rotates between education and community. Networking with other female founders and entrepreneurs has been huge in not only being inspired by their journey, but learning from their successes and mistakes and a reminder that I am not alone in this journey.
What advice would you have for a young entrepreneur looking to start her own business?
Do it. Take the plunge, dive in head first. You will walk away stronger than you started regardless of if it’s a total flop. As far as advice for what to do first, I would say seek out people in your network that could point you in the direction of potential mentors and/or sounding boards, and make sure to build your support system. You WILL need them!
What are your plans for the future of BootayBag?
Being such a young brand, the world is really our oyster! It’s so unbelievably humbling to see where we are now from where we began. I NEVER thought this thing would actually take off… We are no longer just a brand or a business, we have become a community and that is what I now value most about BootayBag. We are by women, for women, and those women are our North Star. We are going to continue to grow and evolve by listening to our fierce community of women and hearing what they want (or don’t want). We have some exciting things in the works coming up but we won’t say too much! We don’t want to ruin the surprise.
If you could give any advice to your 22-year-old self, what would it be?
CHILL THE F OUT. Shit happens, right? Some of which you just can’t control. So get your sorry butt up and figure out how to solve it, faster.
Ellyette Gheno is The Everygirl…
Go-to coffee order? Iced latte with almond milk
Favorite item in your closet? White cowgirl boots
The last TV show you binged? Stranger Things
Most played song on Spotify? Big Plans by Chris Lane
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why? Oprah. And well, because it’s Oprah.
This post was in partnership with Bootay Bag, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.