Rachael McCrary’s career has you covered. Literally.
As the founder and CEO of Jewel Toned, a women’s brand that creates “shapewear shaped like you,” Rachael and her colleagues create hard-working body shapers that hug curves softly. The company strives to “take the shame out of shapewear” and creates pieces that don’t require you to (at last!) take them off before—or after—a big date. The line also launched a collection called Dear Drew by Drew Barrymore that features kimono robes, silk shorts and cashmere pants, to name a few.
But perhaps one of the most iconic moments for Jewel Toned thus far was having its shapewear worn by Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter. And one of its biggest successes, behind-the-scenes, was Rachael’s ability to raise more than $1M in her first round of funding, making her the first woman ever to reach that milestone.
Before launching Jewel Toned, Rachael served as the vice president of design for Maidenform and worked at Victoria’s Secret before that. We’d definitely trust Rachael with our best assets!
If someone tells you that you can’t do something, go do it. Sometimes people can’t understand things they haven’t seen, but if you can see it in your mind, then you should go for it.
What did your roles at Victoria’s Secret and Maidenform teach you that still impact your career today?
They taught me that fashion is glamorous … for about two days per year when you have a fashion show! Otherwise, it’s a career path that takes a LOT of hard, consistent work. I don’t think many people realize this. Creating something out of nothing is very rewarding, though. Doing a sketch and then seeing a product come to life eight weeks later is like Christmas to me.
What prompted your career change from vice president of design at Maidenform to entrepreneur?
I was always an entrepreneur, and even had my own businesses in high school. During my corporate career, I was constantly birthing new ideas and finding ways to step outside the box. I always had a feeling I’d start my own company, eventually. It takes a while to learn the different facets of business and to gain enough contacts go out on your own.
How would you describe to Jewel Toned to those new to the brand?
Jewel Toned is disrupting the shapewear category. Our products are different. They’re body shapers that are so cute, that it’s okay is someone other than you to see them. The styling of them is more like a mini dress or bodysuit, so you can wear it as-is, layered or covered up. They help diversify your existing wardrobe. It’s undies made by women, and marketed to women, instead of the old model of how a man might make underwear for women. We understand curves and body challenges, and we provide help in those areas with our products.
How long did it take to bring Jewel Toned from concept to launch?
From concept to consumer, it took 9 months.
What was involved in your efforts to raise funds for Jewel Toned?
I entered—and won!—about eight pitch competitions. After refining my pitch over time, I got to where I could nail a one-, five- or 15-minute pitch. This helped my networking, as did taking classes at Stanford. I met with many investors from across the country, even if they weren’t an exact fit, just so I could get the practice. I also met other great people during my time at Stanford, took finance classes, and created a corporation with shares that I then sold a portion of, to strategic business partners.
What is a typical day in your life like? How do you organize your day?
Typically, I work on emails from 7 to 9:30 a.m., then I exercise and shower. I have meetings from about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the late afternoon until about 7 p.m., I will work with my employees answering their questions and am available for updates. I usually go out for dinner for a change of pace, then I’ll work on emails again later and night and also hold any Skype sessions I need to do with overseas partners. On the weekend, we usually have events or photoshoots. I travel to New York City about once a month, and I travel overseas about once every quarter.
What is your favorite aspect of the business to be in?
I love talking with the customers. One recently told me she never felt comfortable wearing a bodycon mini dress in front of her husband until she tried our Major Mini. And she emailed us photos! We have a lot of moms who use it for nursing, and we also have single ladies who are so happy that they don’t have to deal with that whole taking-off-the-Spanx issue on a date. Our shapewear just looks like a slip. I could talk to our customers all day. It’s inspiring, positive and fun to know we’re helping more women feel beautiful.
What is something your customers have taught you?
All women, from size 2 to size 20, dislike shapewear. It makes them feel bad about themselves. I hear in their voices that they think needing shapewear means there’s something physically wrong with them. But really, many fashion pieces simply require a foundation garment. I hope my products give them a renewed sense of style, but most of all, confidence.
When you think about building your team, what qualities do you look for in those you hire?
Our core values include trust, positivity, and working as a team player. We feel that when a team is small, it’s most important to stay on the same page. Skill sets can be taught, but core values were either learned a long time ago—or they weren’t.
What is an accomplishment on that you feel particularly proud of?
I put myself through private college while working three jobs. At the beginning of my last semester, my advisor said it couldn’t be done. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice, so I did it. That’s the thing about hard circumstances: you have no choice but to make it work. I was so proud when I went back to her with good grades and my rent paid in San Francisco. Both were done solely by me. I think that work ethic sticks with me today, because anything is easier than that time in my life.
What does it feel like when you see your shapewear on celebrities and everyday women?
It feeds my soul.
What career advice do you have for our readers?
Challenge yourself. It’s when we step outside of our comfort zone that we learn and grow. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, go do it. Sometimes people can’t understand things they haven’t seen, but if you can see it in your mind, then you should go for it. I’ve met with, mentored, and befriended lots of successful entrepreneurs. One of the common traits I see in them is persistence. Stay laser-focused. Don’t jump around. Keep doing your thing until your dream in your head is happening in real life—right in front of you.
- I’d love to grab coffee with: Oprah
- My favorite purse is: Want Les Essentiels
- My go-to outfit is: A black dress and heels
- My favorite dinner spot is: A night market in Thailand
- I can’t live without: Self-expression
- My favorite way to unwind is: A beach day, with a good cabana in front, 80-degree water, a bottle of Krug, a new bikini and my man
- I feel my best when: I feel both abundant and giving