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EXCLUSIVE: Rothy’s Resets Leadership; Jenny Ming Named CEO

Rothy’s, the footwear and handbag brand, has formed a new management team to support ambitious growth initiatives, tapping retail veteran Jenny Ming as chief executive officer and promoting Dayna Quanbeck to president.

With those changes, Rothy’s cofounders Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin are stepping down from their roles as CEO and president, respectively, but Hawthornthwaite continues as chairman of the board, advising on key strategies, while Martin continues as chief creative and innovation officer, focusing on product innovation.

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“I didn’t think I would ever be stepping in again as a CEO,” Ming told WWD. “But Rothy’s is a very special brand, and this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Jenny Ming
Jenny Ming

In an exclusive interview with WWD, Ming and Hawthornthwaite outlined growth plans for the 10-year-old Rothy’s brand, which this year center on 10 store openings, including one on Fifth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets in New York City; launching wholesaling for the first time this year, and getting deeper into international distribution through e-commerce. The Fifth Avenue store is expected to open in summer 2024. At 2,000 square feet in size, it will be larger than the average Rothy’s store of 1,300 square feet.

The executives also indicated that Rothy’s now has an all-female-led management. “We feel we have the right team in place,” Ming said.

Aside from Ming and Quanbeck in the top slots, the leadership includes Jamie Gersch, chief marketing officer; Heather Archibald, chief merchandising and product officer; Heather Howard, chief supply chain officer; Marie Satterfield, chief legal officer and corporate secretary, and Michelle Velasquez Pulido, senior vice president of people.

Rothy’s cofounders Roth Martin and Stephen Hawthornthwaite.
Rothy’s cofounders Roth Martin and Stephen Hawthornthwaite.

Ming, who has been on the Rothy’s board since 2022, built her reputation at Gap Inc., which she joined in 1986 and where she held various executive roles, most notably as cofounder (along with Mickey Drexler) and president of Old Navy from 1993 through 2006. She was instrumental in the impressive national rollout of Old Navy in the U.S. and Canada. Ming later served as president and CEO of Charlotte Russe from 2010 to 2019. She currently serves on the boards of Levi Strauss & Co., Kendra Scott, and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan & Hospitals.

Asked why he decided to rebuild management, Hawthornthwaite replied, “It’s about where we are in the business and the opportunity to work with somebody as talented as Jenny Ming. It’s a very natural time to empower Jenny and the executives we have to address the next chapter of growth.”

“Stephen and Roth are going to be very closely involved,” Ming added.

Quanbeck joined Rothy’s in 2019 as chief financial officer and has overseen a diverse range of functions. She joined the board in April 2022, and expanded her role to include chief operating officer in November the same year.  Prior to Rothy’s, Quanbeck served as vice president of finance and CFO at Charlotte Russe. She also spent seven years at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the consumer & retail investment banking group, and she serves as chair of the audit committee on the board of GLO Pharma.

Dayna Quanbeck
Dayna Quanbeck

The Rothy’s company was launched a decade ago but it wasn’t until much later that the footwear was introduced. “It took us four years to design a product we would be proud of — beautiful, comfortable and sustainable footwear. I believe if we got that right, one day we would have a shot at building a global brand,” said Hawthornthwaite.

Rothy’s launched its first two silhouettes, a round toe flat and pointed toe flat, in 2016, which is what the company became “really famous for,” he said.

Currently, Rothy’s has a diverse product portfolio of footwear for women and men, as well as handbags; three million customers; 20 retail stores, and a small e-commerce distribution in about 19 countries. It’s a privately held, vertically integrated company with its own factory in China, which Hawthornthwaite said was key to creating sustainable products and meeting the demand. Net revenue in fiscal 2022 reached $183 million, and has exceeded $150 million annually in recent past years. The executives cited significant improvement in gross margin and overall profitability in 2023.

In December 2021, Alpargatas, the Brazilian owner of Havaianas, invested $200 million in cash, followed by a purchase of $275 million of shares, acquiring a 49.9 percent stake in the company and resulting in a valuation of $1 billion. Hawthornthwaite and Martin maintain a significant equity stake, and Lightspeed Ventures and other existing investors, including Goldman Sachs, continue to have a meaningful equity position. All corporate employees and some retail employees are stakeholders in the company.

“Rothy’s is special,” said Ming. “It’s a very optimistic brand where we can rally our team and our customers around our brand purpose which is ‘to create a life without compromise, where it’s all possible.’ It really guides everything we do and create — shoes that are totally sustainable, stylish and comfortable. We have a fiercely loyal customer base and we are now looking to scale the brand through continued product innovation and expanding to more diverse channels. There is still so much potential to grow women’s shoes and handbags” by rounding out the assortment in particular with additional occasion-oriented and seasonal styles.

“Category-wise, we are set,” Ming said, noting that apparel is not on the agenda.

“We need to invest in the core of the business and build a global business around that,” said Hawthornthwaite. “Innovation is central to the core.”

From Rothy’s holiday 2023 collection.
From Rothy’s holiday 2023 collection.

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