After working 20-plus years in investment banking sales and trading with a focus on retail companies, Louisa Schneider was inspired by her daughter to create the brand Rowan in 2018. Schneider realized that the ear-piercing category was focused primarily on fashion and convenience rather than the piercing procedure and healing process.
Since then, the company has focused on a procedure-first approach, with nurses performing its piercings. It leveraged insights from its nurses and medical board to create single-use hand-pressurized devices for piercing that are more sanitary and precise than traditional piercing techniques. Rowan is the only piercing company that has its own medical board, which includes a plastic surgeon and a pediatrician.
Now, Schneider is growing the business while keeping practicality in mind. In January, Rowan launched earrings that can be worn while playing sports. And It launched its first standalone store in 2019 in New York. Creating an inclusive working culture for nurses and making stores a place where customers can celebrate special moments have remained priorities.
Rowan has raised more than $30 million to date from Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures and Beechwood Capital, and it’s now focused on a country-wide mall expansion. It currently has 30 freestanding locations, with six more underway. Rowan expects to double the number of its locations within the next year. Schneider also plans to tackle global expansion over the next three years with hundreds of stores. The company briefly experimented with a “store-within-a-store” model at 300 Target locations in 2021, but it now focuses on its own locations, where it has greater control over the customer experience and culture.
Schneider joined the Glossy Podcast to talk about the brand and its recent openings. In October, Rowan opened its doors in Preston Royal Village Mall in Dallas. It is the fourth ear-piercing brand to move into the Dallas market in the past three years, joining Wildlike, Maria Tash and, most recently, Studs. The Preston Royal store is the brand’s fifth Texas location, following stores in Southlake and Fort Worth.
Below are additional highlights from the discussion which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Redefining the mall
“A lot of these malls were seeing decreased foot traffic, and the anchor tenants in those malls — the Sears and JCPenneys of the world that had historically driven a lot of foot traffic — were no longer driving traffic to the malls. In addition to that, online and DTC brands were coming to life more and gaining more share every year. Also, the physical space of the mall wasn’t adapting and drawing people in with experience, all while new centers were being constructed that had an indoor/outdoor aspect that was more modern, so people were choosing to go there instead.”
On working with nurses
“Hiring is a huge challenge, and it’s hard because nurses are professionals. They are extremely well-trained. They’ve often taken out loans to pay for expensive schooling. They have a very high standard for where they are going to spend their time, and where they’re going to build their careers. So creating a training program that is of merit to them, and creating a working environment that is of merit to their professional level, but also fun and engaging, was critical. We’re listening to them and making changes to the business model to accommodate them. They’re not getting that at the hospital. Coming out of the pandemic, many of them were quitting because they had been subjected to horrible work expectations. We’re able to make nurses the star of the show at Rowan.
Our recruiting program is entirely run by nurses. We also have a medical board that’s overseen by a nurse and includes physicians and nurses, so we’re creating research on what we do. We’re creating a new avenue for work. Many nurses do three 12s, meaning they are working three times a week on a 12-hour shift. They are doing something that is incredibly meaningful in hospitals like delivering babies, but the weight on their shoulders with that work is significant. To be able to come into Rowan and do a relatively straightforward procedure and be part of a day that the customer will likely remember for the rest of their life is a nice complement.”
On post-Covid work
“When we’re entirely remote and we ask our teams about it, they don’t feel as connected. So rather than opening an office and spending $50,000 a month in New York City, we opened a studio office in Larchmont, New York after one of our board members suggested it. She had suggested it would be helpful – that we’re going to have our team working in a studio, they’re going to observe what our customers are experiencing, they’re going to see what they need and work with our nurses.
Oftentimes, you’ve got your corporate and then you have your field, and they don’t have the opportunity to overlap. Therefore, the field can feel unheard or the corporate team doesn’t know exactly what’s going on. This has allowed us to grow leaps and bounds in the past year because we’re learning so much about our customers every single day via osmosis. Being together at least a day a week means we’re forming real bonds that way. We still want to continue to embrace that technology and give folks the freedom to go take that trip to Antarctica, too.”