Meet the Founders:
Michelle & Sally
We’re celebrating International Women’s Day by getting to know the talented forces behind our female-founded brand.
How did the two of you meet?
We worked together for years at method, the green cleaning company, where Sally led the Creative team and Michelle was head of all things for the North America business. We’ve always admired each other, both personally and professionally, and became really good friends.
What inspired you to start Rowan?
When you think about starting a business, you often look at things you use that you wish you could improve or things you want, but can’t quite find. We both love dogs, but we don’t love a lot of dog products. We were quite strategic in thinking through an opportunity where we could use our product and business experience to create something original. Combining the worlds of clean beauty and pet care was the big idea that sparked Rowan.
How’d you come up with the name Rowan?
Naming your brand is easy(ish), trademarking your brand is hard. We went through several names we loved, but were unable to trademark them. We knew we couldn’t name it after one of our dogs because how do you choose? We love Rowan because it’s simple, modern, and gender-neutral. The day our trademark passed was a hard-won milestone for us!
What's your vision for the brand?
The big picture is to build a brand that does good in the world for dogs and the people who love them. We want to make products that give our pets the quality they deserve and set new standards for cleaner pet products. We’re also passionate about creating a business that is inclusive, diverse, and kind. Our goal is to build a brand that brings together the joy and optimism of dogs with beautiful, clean products.
What's your fave thing about working with each other? Sally: I know that Michelle always has my back. It’s huge to be working with someone who you trust completely. Plus, she’s super smart and kind.
Michelle: We know each other so well and there is such implicit trust—it’s refreshing. We’re both good at focusing on the important stuff and we don’t let the BS weigh us down. Plus, Sally’s super creative and a total badass. I feel so lucky to have her as my partner.
What has been your biggest challenge so far with regard to starting your own business?
It’s difficult enough to start a business, but doing it during a pandemic has added a whole other layer of complexity. We’ve had to be really resourceful, flexible, and roll with the unexpected—and do all of it over Zoom.
While we’ve both helped other brands launch successfully, when it’s your own business you quickly realize where there are gaps in your experience. Our lack of ego, ability to identify what we don’t know, and willingness to find smart people we can ask questions of has helped enormously.
We’re still tiny, but getting to this point has given us the confidence to keep pushing forward and building something we can both be proud of and love doing! Just getting the brand off the ground and making something tangible out of an idea and a lot of hard work has been our biggest reward.
What advice do you have for other women trying to start their own business?
Trust your gut and your abilities. As women, we already juggle a lot, and that’s a great skill to have when starting up a business. If you have that little voice in your head telling you negative stuff, tell it to take a hike, and do something small that gets you one step closer to your goal. The path to success is usually made up of a hundred little steps versus one big one.
Although we have come a long way to start our company, we know that this is not the case for most women. Women make on average $0.81 for every dollar a man makes and in 2019 less than 3% of VC investment went to women-led companies. And the numbers are even lower for BIPOC women. Take full advantage of online resources and organizations that support and promote women in business. Here are a few links to help you get started:
NAWBO, the National Organization for Women Business Owners
SCORE, a network of volunteer, expert business mentors with special resources for women entrepreneurs
SoGal, a global platform for diverse entrepreneurs and investors
29 Resources for Female Entrepreneurs by Funding Circle
What’s one thing you’ve learned from your dog that’s helped you along the way?
Sally: Confidence. Indy is delightfully sure of herself. She’s unflappable and doesn’t care at all that she’s small. She walks down the street like a boss queen. Goals.
Michelle: I admire my dog Bea’s tenacity. She’s relentless at going after what she wants—treats, squirrels, birds, cookies, and lots and lots of attention!