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Tuesday, Jun 25, 2024

WPO Lauds Women for ‘Vital’ Leadership Role

ENTREPRENEURS: 2 Local Female-Led Firms Among ‘Fastest Growing’

Two San Diego County-based businesses, Bitchin’ Sauce, a top-selling refrigerated almond-based dip found in 12,000 stores across the U.S., and Fresh Clean Threads, a direct-to-consumer line of affordable, premium well-fitting apparel, continue to grow and impress.

Both businesses recently made it into the top 30 of Women Presidents Organization’s (WPO) 16th Annual Ranking of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies. WPO is a nonprofit membership organization that provides support, insight and executive education to women business leaders around the globe.

Thelma Ferguson
Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
JPMorgan Chase

Women-owned businesses represent nearly 21% of employers, accounting for thousands of jobs and trillions in revenue, according to the National Women’s Business Council.

WPO’s ranking, done in collaboration with JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking, celebrates privately held companies that are women-owned or women-led, and that have achieved annual revenues of at least $500,000 in each of the past five years.

WPO used a sales growth formula combining percentage and absolute growth to rank all eligible companies, with the top 50 securing a spot.

“Women entrepreneurs are vital players in our local and national economies,” said Thelma Ferguson, global head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase. “Their success is inextricably linked to the well-being of our families and success of the places we call home.”

La Jolla-headquartered Fresh Clean Threads, co-founded in 2015 by Melissa Parvis, first as a subscription-based endeavor, and known for its premium quality basics that help to empower men to look and feel their best, took the No. 2 spot as ranked by WPO.

Carlsbad-based Bitchin’ Sauce, which started in co-founder Starr Edwards’ kitchen as a way to settle her cravings for something that was plant-based and “creamy and delicious” and first launched at a North County farmers market in 2010, captured the 30th spot.

Successful Rebrand

Once only a t-shirt company, Fresh Clean Threads rebranded itself last year, expanding to men’s shorts and socks, and recently starting a line of women’s t-shirts.

During the past two years, the company has experienced exceptional growth – its revenue has more than tripled, reporting earnings of more than $60 million in 2022. Parvis, Fresh Clean Threads’ president, says the company’s ability for listen closely to customers’ needs and forge relationships has been key to scaling.

Melissa Parvis
Fresh Clean Threads

“Winning the award, I was so excited and humbled,” Parvis said. “I’m so proud to see where we are. I know we’ve grown fast but because I’m so busy going, going, going, I didn’t realize how aggressive our growth has been during a short period of time.

“We are constantly innovating our product to make our customers’ lives better. Our big goals are to continue to innovate on fabrics, fits and styles and become a household name in fashion.”

Parvis, a San Diego State graduate, said having her husband and Fresh Clean Threads co-founder, Matthew Parvis, by her side from the start has made things smoother. Bootstrapped from the beginning out of the couple’s Pacific Beach home, at the end of 2019, the company was introduced to a venture capital fund that has proven to be important in its growth, Melissa Parvis said.

Thanks in part to outside investment, Fresh Clean Threads now has a “a very strong leadership team.” She said 60 percent of its workforce of three dozen employees is women.

Hippies’ Daughter

Edwards said she is the “daughter of a couple of hippies” and grew up with unconventional ingredients like nutritional yeast and Bragg’s liquid aminos in the family’s pantry.

Starr Edwards
Bitchin’ Sauce

She met her husband, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Luke “L.A.” Edwards, when both attended Palomar College, and a few years after they were married and had a baby, she said she initially tried to find her way in business as a personal chef.

In 2010, Starr Edwards set up a booth to sell at a farmers’ market in San Marcos, armed with dozens of cupcakes, cookies and pies she had baked the day before, as well as the “bitchin’” sauce – before it had its official name.

“I sold out of the sauce at the farmers market,” Edwards recalled. “And I was eating pie all the next week!”

She said she quickly shifted gears and decided the sauce would be the best way to go. After receiving a gently used second-hand blender from her husband and a $200 gift from her cousin to use as a downpayment to rent a space inside a commercial kitchen, by 2011 she was off, and Bitchin’ Sauce was selling strong in 26 local farmers markets.

The business commercialized very slowly, she said, looking to smaller stores in North County like Seaside Market in Cardiff, then began moving into some Whole Foods stores in Southern California in 2013, and by 2014 Bitchin’ Sauce was in a major hotspot Edwards had been eyeing in Denver.

At that point the company was able to invest in high pressure pasteurization in 2015 which opened the doors for it to shop nationwide. Costco found and started offering the chipotle Bitchin’ Sauce at that time, and from there, Edwards said, “everything snowballed.”

Since the start alone in her kitchen 13 years ago, the company now has 86 employees and Bitchin’ Sauce has expanded from one flavor to several, including pesto, chipotle and cilantro chili. There are organic and sweet varieties like chocolate and apple pie also, with more flavors to come, Edwards said.

Fresh Clean Threads

FOUNDED:  2015
Co-founder/ PRESIDENT:  Melissa  Parvis
BUSINESS:  Fresh Clean Threads is a direct-to-consumer apparel brand that empowers men and women to look and feel their  best in premium quality basics at an affordable price point.
REVENUE:  $61.3 million
WEBSITE:  https://freshcleantees.com
CONTACT:  Melissa@freshcleanthreads.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: Path toward more  sustainable materials, recyclable and/or biodegradable packaging, and no single-use plastic elements. Partnership with Coral Reef Alliance.
NOTABLE: Fresh Clean Threads was recently named #2 on the WPO’s 2023 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies ranking.

Bitchin’ Sauce

FOUNDER AND CEO: Starr Edwards
BUSINESS: Consumer packaged goods
REVENUE: $50 million
WEBSITE: bitchinsauce.com
CONTACT: starr@bitchinsauce.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: Onsite childcare program called Bitchin Kids and is part of Kids for Peace and Kindness Certified.
NOTABLE: Founders started the innovative “Bitchin’ Giving” volunteer time off: For four hours per week per employee, every employee can donate 10 percent of their work time to volunteer.



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