Rowan: The Brand Piercing a Market Need

Rowan: The Innovative Brand Piercing a Market Need

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Piercings (ear, nose, tongue, and other unmentionable body parts) have existed for centuries. In fact, some of the earliest evidence of body piercing dates back 5300 years! You can be pretty sure that when the mummy had their ears pierced, the conditions were less-than-sterile.

Ear- and body-piercing studios are commonplace these days, as body modification (body mod) of all types has become mainstream.

Louisa Serene Schneider, the Founder and CEO of Rowan, saw a huge opportunity in the ear piercing space. She worked for 20+ years in investment banRowan: The Innovative Brand Piercing a Market Needking sales and trading with a focus on retail companies. She also ran the value investing program at Columbia Business School, focusing on entrepreneurship. She launched her own fashion brand in the early days of athleisure, so she was no stranger to future-forward trends.

The origin story of Rowan began when Schneider was talking to a friend involved in restructuring Claire’s accessory stores. Schneider had just had a baby girl and realized that the piercing category was focused primarily on fashion, with little thought given to sterile procedures and the healing process. Nursing professionals perform all Rowan piercings.

At first, VCs didn’t “get” the concept of health-conscious ear piercing and how people (men and women) now invest in multiple piercings and a variety of jewelry. But Schneider’s vision and persistence won out, and the company has raised more than $30 million to date.

Rowan now has 30 freestanding locations, with six more underway. The company expects to double its locations within the next year and ultimately expand to hundreds, including the possibility of global locations. The company briefly experimented with a “store-within-a-store” model at 300 Target locations but now focuses on its own locations, where it has greater control over the customer experience and culture. Earrings specifically for sports is a new category for Rowan.

The brand designs earrings specifically for needle piercing, which is a technique it offers along with the use of a special device, recently featured in Scrubs Magazine. Working with the company’s medical board, Rowan designed its own way of piercing. Instead of using spring-loaded “guns,” the locations employ single-use hand-pressurized devices. Those devices and needles are more sanitary and precise than traditional piercing techniques.” Rowan is the only piercing company that has its own medical board, including both a plastic surgeon (with a specialty in ears) and a pediatrician.

Schneider has focused on creating a fun and inclusive culture — for both customers and employees — at its multi-location (MULO) retail locations. Nurses will often reach out to her via LinkedIn to find out if new locations are opening in their areas and retention rates have been strong. Rather than being viewed as a high-anxiety or painful experience, Rowan’s customers find a celebratory and consultative environment.

Rowan has just completed a major study about the ear piercing category and has invested in local marketing (including hyper-local SEO). The company engaged a marketing and brand development leader from Soul Cycle (another MULO brand known for its sense of community).

By combining fashion and health-consciousness, Rowan has disrupted the piercing and ear jewelry space.

We’ve come a long way from ancient Egypt! 


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.