Innovative Brand Of Intimates Uses Seduction To Empower, Not Objectify, Women

EBY Founder Renata Black

We’re all accustomed to the idea of brands, especially lingerie and intimates brands, objectifying the female body as a means of marketing and sales. It’s a distinctive strategy that has been about empowering the male gaze, instead of catering to what a diverse population of women want. The Victoria’s Secret landscape is being examined and in many ways disrupted. One of those disruptors is the brand EBY, which stands for Empowered By You, founded by Colombian-born entrepreneur and founder Renata Black.

EBY is a purpose-driven, size-inclusive intimate apparel brand launched in 2018 with big name investors like Rosario Dawson and Venus Williams. Trained in microfinancing by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Renata’s mission for EBY is to enable women to have an influence with the one decision they make every day – the underwear they wear. EBY repositions underwear as a tool for empowerment rather than one of seduction. 

Renata’s own success story is not your typical entrepreneur journey, especially when you consider the abysmal statistics surrounding funding for WOC founders.

Born in Colombia and orphaned as a toddler, Renata Black was raised in Miami and at age 15, dropped out of high school and took off – back to Columbia. For three years, she worked as a translator to make just enough money to go to college (with loans, of course!). She then traveled the world volunteering in different countries that landed her in India, helping to repair villages destroyed from the 2004 Tsunami.

It was there she had an aha moment, witnessing powerful women with no options but to be beggars. One in particular stuck with her: A woman shared, “I don’t want your money, but can you teach me how to make money?’

In 2005, she met Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and learned everything she could about microfinancing. Returning to India she shared with one of the village women what she learned from him. She said to Renata, “Meet me at the square, I’m going to bring some other women.”

There, 800 women were waiting. Renata ended up staying in India in order to keep the books of 800 women so that they would be classified as “credit worthy” women in the eyes of the government, which is the first step in getting the money they needed to start and grow their businesses.”

EBY is a line of intimates that was founded to have an impact on women-led small businesses, but also as a way to shift the ownership of seduction and sensuality back into the hands of women. This was also something Renata learned from the women she met in India.

With products that consistently sell out today, we wanted to learn more about EBY and hear from Renata herself about what it means to disrupt a space that is typically known for objectification, and instead bring entrepreneurship and innovation to it.

EBY Intimates

Your entrepreneurial journey is an inspiring look at the rollercoaster of a business owner. Can you talk about the different industries and jobs you tried before founding EBY?

When I graduated from college, I didn’t get my dream job working at MTV in the ad sales department, and that was one of the biggest travesties of my life and I felt that my life was over. So I took a trip around the world for a year and volunteered in different countries. So that move in itself now in hindsight, made me realize that I was a visionary at heart, that I would have a vision and see it through.

From there I created a foundation called the Seven Bar Foundation that I would raise money for microfinance and small loans to help women start their own businesses. I was inspired to do this because of the work that I had done in India, starting a small microfinance organization, and seeing the direct impact of that money which helped 800 women.

While I was living in India, I was really fascinated with the women’s predisposition to sensuality, seduction, and femininity. They used to say to me, “it must be horrible in the States, you have to show your cleavage and your legs to get a man.” I didn’t like having to wear a sari everyday, feeling like I was wrapped in a burrito.

But that comment really stuck in my mind when I moved back to the states and I thought, “maybe these women are right.” Maybe we do use seduction to objectify women, but what if we could use seduction to empower women? So that set me on my next trajectory. I began hosting massive luxury lingerie shows in London, Miami, and New York, and would have the top couture, luxury lingerie designers attend (primarily from Europe) and have celebrity star-studied hosts like Eva Longoria, Michelle Rodriguez and Sofia Vergara, all a part of my events to raise awareness and funds for microfinance.

Prior to launching EBY, my focus was on growing the foundation, which raised funds through lingerie shows.

How did the idea for EBY first come about, and how you launched the brand? 

The idea of EBY came from my time in India where I learned a new, deeper understanding of what seduction really means and how, for some women, using seduction is their choice.

I had read an article about Deepak Chopra around 2009 and in the interview they asked him, “what are you doing now?” He said, “I am supporting innovative solutions for poverty alleviation.” It made me think about my own solution, which was redirecting the power of seduction to the empowerment of women. So I wrote him a letter like a kid with a dream, and he responded with, “if you are able to redirect the power of seduction to the empowerment of women, it’s transformative.” He then later wrote a chapter about me in one of his books called ‘A Soul of Leadership’.

Fast Forward a few years, the former CEO of Victoria’s Secret, Grace Nichols, read the aforementioned book and when she read the chapter about me, she had Deepak put us in touch. Grace said to me, “I spent all my years creating intimates for men’s benefit. If you wanna create an intimate line for women’s benefit, I’ll help you.”

So Grace really set me on my trajectory of getting me into the factories, showing me the pain points of women’s lingerie. She said to me, “if you create this one product, it would be transformational because it solves the main issues that women have with their underwear,” which is riding, sliding and bunching.

There’s a factory that uses a technology which is traditionally used in athletic wear. I thought if you could use the same technology on underwear, it will solve this problem and we would have a breakthrough product. Because of these circumstances of events, from Deepak to Grace, I was inspired to launch EBY. I always wanted to do something that would consistently fuel women’s empowerment and I wanted to have a percentage of all the profits go back toward microfinancing.

EBY Cathay Spice Sheer High-waisted set

In every business success story there are sacrifices made along the way. For you it was a personal relationship. Can you share more about this? 

I feel I’ve sacrificed a lot along the way but I’m not alone, most entrepreneurs give their life for their companies. In my first marriage, I felt that I was more dedicated to my vision and having an impact on the world, than my actual relationship. He ended up meeting somebody else and we ultimately got divorced after seven years. In my new relationship, my husband works just as hard as I do and he’s just as obsessed with changing the direction of his industry as I am.

We are two very obsessive compulsive people that it doesn’t matter if we’re up working until 10:00 PM every night! But I would say that I’ve sacrificed so many moments with friends and family because of the amount of energy and time I put into this business. It has been my blood, sweat and tears. Not only that, but the amount of money that my husband and I have personally put into the company has also been a sacrifice.

With the stats on VC funding for female founders being pretty abysmal, worse for women of color, how have you navigated this space to secure funding? 

I think raising capital has always been incredibly difficult. Only 2% of VC funding goes to women and  much less than that goes to women of color. I myself have raised over $10 million in four years and I understand exactly what it takes to raise money. It is a very intense and gruesome process where you’re basically laying out your entire soul, thought process, and vision on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and having people say ‘no’ repeatedly over and over, telling you every reason why it’s not gonna work. And you have to wake up the next day with the same amount of enthusiasm and pitch it all over again.

Without missing a beat, I always took the ‘no’s’ into consideration, and it ultimately helped me make the business better. One of the things that I didn’t do was give the obstacles energy – I always said that if you’re gonna raise capital, it doesn’t matter what color you are or what gender you are. I felt that if I gave it energy, it would have power over me so I never looked at the stats.

For me, I focused on the numbers game. It’s all about the amount of people that I pitch and what percentage will convert. I was more obsessed with getting in front of the most aligned people as often as possible in the shortest period of time to get the deal done as opposed to focusing on the reality of raising capital as a female Hispanic woman. I just never gave that power and that was a decision that I made early on.

One of the ways EBY is empowering women is through a micro-financing program. Can you tell us more about this, and why it was important for you to incorporate this into the brand?

I think one of the most important things in everyone’s life is to ask yourself “what is the best use of my life?” For me, because I’m adopted and both of my parents died when I was very young, it was always very important that my life mattered. That I wasn’t here to enjoy and consume. As much as I do love that, I felt that my life needed to have a bigger meaning and purpose.

It was important that in everything I did, there was a component that impacted women. I know that empowering women as a business is the strongest way of alleviating poverty for children.

You were trained in microfinancing by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. What did you learn from him that impacts you as a business woman?

His vision of accountability, transparency and integrity were the three main things I learned.

Accountability with your finances. For example, when you’re working with microfinance, you give out a loan to 15 women. If everybody doesn’t pay back, nobody gets a loan. So you are accountable to your peers to follow through with your commitment. If you don’t go through with your commitment, you let everybody down. So that accountability also raises you up.

There’s a lot of transparency in finance. You know exactly what your numbers are and metrics is something that you can be held against, you can measure growth. And if you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing. So transparency is just as important as accountability.

And lastly, using business to have an impact is the most sustainable way to have an impact. It’s not reliant on donations, it’s not hoping for generosity. Building a business to consistently have an impact is our way of creating integrity.

As a young girl growing up wanting to learn more about her Colombian identity and traveling between the country and the US, how has your pursuit for growth and family shaped who you are today? 

Had I not been adopted, had my parents not died, had I not been brought to the states, had I not had left home and had an identity crisis at 15 because my mother had blonde hair and blue eyes and I myself was very confused on the inside, had I not gone through so much strife, pain, anguish, crisis at such a young age, I wouldn’t have had the vision, foresight, tenacity, pursuit, grit, and grind to take my company to where it is today.

Had I not had that sorrow carved so deep within me that I can then fill with so much tenacity, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Because I was able to weather all of that pain and that strife, there’s nothing that I can’t take on today.

What are some of the most popular items in the EBY range, and what are your personal faves? 

The beautiful thing about EBY is that we have these breakthrough products that are such a hit, and our biggest problem is keeping them as stock! My personal favorite is the sheer line because it has a no-slip grip technology (that we use on all of our products) and it holds the underwear in place.

However, I cannot go to sleep without wearing our high-waisted EBY underwear. The fabric is so soft, and I really love to feel hugged and snuggled in my stomach before I go to sleep. But as an everyday must-have product that is just as important as coffee (and coffee is very important cause I’m Colombian!) is the support bra, which is our breakthrough product. We sell this thing like hotcakes! It has the technology that gives you support without discomfort.

EBY no slip grip technology

EBY is a size-inclusive brand. What does this mean, and why it is imperative that the lingerie world cater to all bodies?

I think that there is a fine line between aspirational, inspirational, and relatable. A successful brand has to be a perfect mix of all three. We still want to be inspirational because we all want look at beautiful things that we aspire to be. We still want to be aspirational and create circumstances that we aspire to be in. And we all want relatability because we want to be able to see ourselves in that inspirational environment and that aspirational feel.

Brands are all about being a natural extension of who that person is. You cannot be an extension of that person if you are not relatable or the customer cannot see themselves in what you are creating. This is why size inclusive is important to us.

You have been called a disruptor. Can you put into words what you are disrupting, and why disruption is needed? 

In a few ways: 1) There are not a lot of brands out there in the intimates space that are having a positive impact on the world (there are a few). We launched as a brand wanting to have impact, and it is at the root of EBY. We give 10% of our proceeds to help women start their own businesses to come out of poverty. 

2) I feel that I’m a disruptor because of the way that I run my company. I run it with a strong hand, but with a tonne of love. Every single team member is a thought partner in our company.

3) I don’t mind going over the edge, not only with the way we shoot our product, but with our language. I always tell my team, I’d rather reign you in than to have to ask you to go further. We’re very real and we’re very raw. 

4) In the product, I feel that we’re very disruptive because it’s 2023 and the fact that we still have wire bars lifting up our boobs is completely backwards. We have not innovated the bra in decades! EBY launching innovative bras with no pesky metal wires to give you the support you need so that you can have the confidence to move throughout your day, is something that I feel very passionate about – disrupting with innovation.

I’m innovating with impact. I feel that I’m innovating with leadership and that I’m innovating with products. 

See the full EBY product range by clicking HERE, and support women-led small businesses by making a purchase today.

EBY Cathay Spice Sheer brief and bra

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