Deciding to drop out was especially difficult for Téllez because her parents saw her Ivy League degree as a ‘icon of success’ in America.
Two years ago, while many of Cami Téllez’s peers at Columbia University were busy choosing majors, cramming for final exams, and working part-time jobs, Cami Téllez was quietly building a valuable company worth millions of dollars.
Téllez founded Parade, a direct-to-consumer brand when she was a student, with business partner Jack DeFuria, also a college student at the time, with a 3.5 million USD seed investment. She studied English and art history for seven semesters before dropping out in January 2020 to become Parade’s full-time CEO and Creative Director.
That betting decision has paid off: Parade has sold more than two million pairs of lingerie since launch and is now valued at $140 million, with funding from investors like Neil Blumenthal, Shakira and Karlie Kloss.
Family – Solid rear
Téllez, 24, grew up in Princeton, New Jersey and Berkeley, California with her parents. Her parents’ determination, she said, empowered Téllez to lead a fast-growing startup. “My parents were visionaries pursuing the American dream and creating a better life,” she said. The incredible courage of the two of them instilled in me a real sense of mission and purpose. This is what is necessary for me to nurture my dreams and lead Parade to success.”
The decision to drop out was especially difficult for Téllez because her parents saw her Ivy League degree as a symbol of success in America.
However, seeing Téllez succeed in business gives them even more joy and they are one of her biggest supporters. “My dad used to say to me, ‘America is one of the only places in the world where you can fail and even failure is not the definition of a career. That helped me “open my eyes”, allowing me to overcome my own barriers and nurture bigger dreams on the journey of developing Parade.”
Succeed by creating what the traditional underwear market doesn’t have
Rather than gravitate towards popular sexy standards based on supermodels and expensive lingerie, Parade has focused on creating comfortable, affordable bras that flatter all body types. . Parade’s lingerie collection ranges from $8 to $15 and comes in sizes XS-3XL.
Much of the inspiration for Parade’s creations came from shopping mall walks when Téllez was a child. These are the places that display sexy panties and men’s underwear with white models. “I felt very out of place with Victoria’s Secret and other stores’ vision of femininity,” she said. I’ve always thought women deserved brands that were both bold and expressive.”
In the early stages, Téllez said, investors didn’t understand the need for a new underwear brand focused on younger consumers. “But the strongest point in advertising my products so far has been the focus on the customer. That allows me to predict what the industry will look like in the future and keep abreast of rapidly changing consumer preferences.” With Parade, Téllez hopes to “rewrite the American lingerie story” and become a leading competitor to Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein and other big names in the lingerie market.
One of a kind marketing
Instead of pointing out what’s interesting, Parade took a “bottom-up” marketing approach by focusing on Instagram influencers to showcase Parade’s underwear. These people will use underwear that matches their personal style. The company’s advertising campaigns, which feature young people modeling in flamboyant styles, have garnered a loyal online following. Parade has 5,000 brand ambassadors who promote designs on their personal social media channels and give feedback, some in exchange for bonuses or giveaways. Téllez also estimates that “tens of thousands” of customers have posted Parade products online.
2021 is an eventful year for Parade. Last month, the company raised $20 million in a Series B round from Stripes, a growth equity firm that also invests in fashion with the Reformation brand and a dairy company based in Califia Farms. The investment comes as Parade also prepares to open its first store in November in New York.
Before reaching such milestones, Parade spent the early days of its establishment with only 5 employees, working as a product packager in a 900 square meter apartment in New York. “Before each launch, our entire office will pack more than 500 parcels, writing notes on each box and deliver them to the post office. We all have to do it and work it out.”
Although Parade enjoyed early success, there is still a huge gap in the way white entrepreneurs receive venture capital compared to entrepreneurs of color. According to Crunchbase’s analysis, founders of color accounted for only 2.4% of all venture capital received between 2015 and 2020.
Téllez hopes to see more young entrepreneurs and Latino entrepreneurs enter the field and make the startup world a “fairer, more equal” ground.