Rosanna Inc. | Founder and Art Director
For over three decades, Rosanna Bowles has been adding flair to our tables and our homes and enriching our communities. Her style and her social impact have not gone unnoticed. Her fanclub is vast and most notably includes Oprah Winfrey. Rosanna has been recognized as a woman of influence. She shares her journey and her advice with other aspiring women entrepreneurs.
What's your story?
After getting my Masters in Italian Language and Literature and originally coming from a tableware family, I struggled to find opportunities to combine my passions and knowledge. I went to a fair where I took a class about being an entrepreneur and that’s where the inspiration struck. From there, I imported my first collection of Italian ceramics and in 1982 started my business. I stumbled upon Starbucks when it was smaller, with my collection and they wiped the whole thing out. Then a few more years and Pottery Barn was my next big customer. Since then, we’ve partnered with countless stores and now we’re here.
What's Rosanna Inc. all about?
We’re about making connections and creating traditions within the family. Tea shared and moments spent around the table shape families, people and love and helping to make those beautiful moments is what Rosanna is all about.
More recently, we’ve looked to becoming a hub for women’s empowerment, education and support. That’s a big mission for my company right now.
How did the idea to create the brand arise?
When I finished graduate school there were no jobs that really allowed me to connect my passions of Italian culture with tableware and family tradition. There also weren’t many opportunities for women in any of those fields. So, I created my own opportunity with Rosanna.
What makes Rosanna products so special?
They draw from experiences and tradition. Our designs focus on the world around us and give people what they need - a way to connect, a way to be inspired, a way to tell someone you love them. Recently, we started making equality, women’s rights and LGBT rights a focus in our products, with new lines coming out this year that support those rights, educate the customers and a portion of the proceeds going to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. It’s not often a tableware company will find ways to take a stand like that.
What inspires your designs?
A lot of the designs are inspired by the world around us and how people in my every day life react to it. World events, fashion trends, causes and emotions all play a role in our designs which is why our collection, I think, brings so many people together.
What inspires you personally?
Personally, I’m inspired by young women and how they’re growing in with the world around them and how they’re making change. I’m inspired by my daughters and my employees every day. I like to think a lot about the opportunities we all have to make the world a better place and that inspires me as well as the kindness, generosity and love in the world.
How do you navigate working with family, and especially working with your husband?
Working with family is great. My daughters contribute to the company so much - Francesca is a talented artist which ties in quite often. Alessandra has her masters in writing and contributes to a lot of things we do. Their dad, (my ex now) has strengths and I have my own too, so when we all combine those talents and strengths it really just works well.
You have woven charity into the mission of your brand. Why is this meaningful to you?
A lot of what inspires me are changes happening in the world and the emotions around those changes. It’s so important to be active in the world around you and have your voice be heard - for us, there is no line between passion for work and passion for activism and change - you help and contribute everywhere you can to causes that are important, my company was no exception.
What experiences contributed to shaping you into a successful entrepreneur?
I grew up with an entrepreneur mother and father. I was always around people who were creating something from nothing and that became a part of me as well. I like the challenges that lifestyle offers; there’s a lot of freedom along and there’s a price you pay because it’s all on your shoulders. But, it’s the most satisfying work because at the end of the day, you and your team created it yourself and you didn’t have the weight or restraints of corporate culture.
The sky’s the limit. How much you work and dedicate yourself is how much your product will become, and that’s what it’s really all about.
What is the best advice you could offer to an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
If you have a passion, go for it. Usually, if you follow your passions as an entrepreneur, you can find successes big and small. One vital piece though is listening to people along the way. People who have a lot of strength where you have weakness is important. Lose your ego, ask for help, reach out. You can’t do it all, it’s a big mistake to think you can.
How are you making the world a better place for the women who will come after you?
We’re partnered with several charities that specifically support women and I’ll continue with those relationships for as long as I can because I know the work they do is vital. We’re also launching new women’s empowerment lines every year, starting with Ladies Choice, which was all about feminine and feminist power. This spring we’re launching You Go Girl which is about women’s history and the amazing women leaders of history and now. Many of the decisions in my office are focused on what it’ll do for women and young girls moving forward and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Name a woman who has changed your life.
My mother and my grandmother were both amazing women. They were self-made entrepreneurs, incredible mothers, well-rounded women, very giving and very dedicated to family. Two incredible business women, I couldn’t ask for better role models.