Audra Robinson is everywhere these days. In the past few months, she’s been featured in Essence, in Afrotech, and in Black Enterprise to tell the story of Rocky Robinson, the self-care brand she created to help Black girls see their full potential.
This is Rocky’s moment, but Audra has been building this brand, in some way, for her entire career. She sat down with us to talk about how her corporate marketing background inspired Rocky, what she’s most proud of with her new brand, and the challenges of being a CPG entrepreneur during COVID-19.
Can you explain, in your own words, what inspired you to start Rocky?
I have over 15 years of corporate marketing experience. And the first time I ever sent an email to myself with the an idea about Rocky was after being in those boardrooms and being the “only” at the table.
When I worked in corporate, I’d often go into schools and talk about marketing and careers, and show kids that this was a possible career for them. I wanted to show what could be a possibility for their life. Going into classrooms was one of my favorite things to do. When you can see it, you can be it. It seems a lot more possible when you see someone who looks like you making it.
During this same time, I worked on product development, launches and marketing. I’d often go to stores, walk down the aisles, look at the shelves, and realize there were no products designed for African American girls.
The CPG (consumer packaged good) industry is…billions of dollars. To see that gap where a customer is completely ignored even though they over-index in a category….that is not okay, and as a marketer, I saw that opportunity.
I originally thought that Rocky was going to be a hair care line. This was the time when you were seeing natural haircare products in indie brands and at farmer’s market. But as my career and knowledge evolved, I realized that I didn’t want the brand to ride on just one category. Starting with personal care products was more accessible.
What’s been the biggest learning curve for you running a CPG business?
All of it has been a learning curve because I’m working in a different side of the business than I was in corporate. Because I had so much experience with brand building, I came into this thinking there was not a lot I had to learn. But everything from the packaging, to making the label on the package look prettier, to the vendors, to pricing, was a learning opportunity. I really built this business from the ground up.
How did the Rocky brand react to Covid? What new challenges have you overcome?
Events were a huge part of my business plan. Rocky is headquartered in Minneapolis, and I had identified the need to travel to markets that have a bigger Black population to reach the Black moms and gift givers that were my target market. I had forecasted that events would be about 30% of the revenue. And, I knew how to socialize the brand and build buzz at events.
But the way that I pivoted was through influencer marketing, which happened very organically!
The support of Black moms on Instagram, and Black mom bloggers who have daughters who are influencers has been an amazing way to grow the brand.
My first social media reviews were all organic, I didn’t ask for it. When little girls saw the products, they insisted on giving it a review! One of my favorite reviews is when a girl named Kennedy started reading the self-love message that is on the back of every bottle. And I was almost in tears. You write all that stuff, but when you see the end user actually engaging with it, it’s just wonderful.
Since then, a lot of moms have approached me with a desire to collaborate on content.
What are you most proud of with Rocky?
That’s actually the part I’m most proud of – the natural receptivity to the Rocky brand, and the organic way it resonates with girls. Parents tell me that when their daughters see Rocky, they say, “That me!” And that’s exactly what I wanted the brand to do – exude love, peace, joy, and spark that positive self-identity in girls.
You know, I worked with an artist to create the Rocky brand in 2014. And the fact that she’s still relevant, even today, makes me really proud of what she means to little girls.