While many businesses have languished during COVID-19, Yorkville University graduate Samantha Lightfoot has seen her sleepwear company not only survive, but thrive – a pandemic success story that all started with an Instagram shout-out from celebrity influencer Jillian Harris.
The Langley, BC-based Bachelor of Business Administration alumnus, who first launched Riot Theory just a few months after graduating in 2017, said the endorsement from the former Bachelorette and Love It or List It Vancouver host took her by surprise – albeit a pleasant one.
“Last year, Melanie made custom bridesmaid rings for Jillian’s bridal party, and she asked if I wanted to throw some of my pajamas into the package for Jillian. I was so thankful for the opportunity,” she said.
“I truly never thought anything would come of it, because Jillian gets a million things a day in the mail, but she ended up sharing them on her Instagram stories and tagging us.”
From there, Lightfoot said Riot Theory’s website and social media pages immediately ‘blew up’.
“Our site was flooded, our Instagram was flooded – and this was right when the pandemic started in late March/early April last year, so I was worrying, ‘What’s going to happen to my business?’” she laughed.
“It was really amazing, and I truly thought that was going to be it.”
A few months later, however, another unexpectedly pleasant surprise landed in Lightfoot’s inbox – an email from Harris’ agent, asking if she’d like to collaborate on a line of sleepwear to be featured in the style guru’s Spring 2021 Jilly Box.
“When I saw an email come through from her agent a couple of months later, I was, like, ‘Oh my God!’ The Jilly Box is something you dream about as a small business entrepreneur,” she said of Harris’ coveted quarterly subscription box, which filled with products handpicked by her and her ‘Team Jilly.’
Before that happened, though, Lightfoot and her partner, Amy, worked with Harris’ team to adapt two of their already existing designs into the Jilly Nightie and the Jilly Robe – “a super soft and oh-so-cozy” set made from 95 per cent Rayon and five per cent spandex.
Jilly collection designed with sleep in mind
Like all of her sleepwear, Lightfoot said the Jilly collection is likewise “thoughtfully designed with your sleep, the environment, and those who inhabit it in mind.”
Both sustainably and ethically made with inclusion top of mind, Riot Theory sleepwear’s pricing reflects the ethical wages paid by its manufacturing team (15 per cent more than the industry level), sustainable fabrics (rayon from bamboo, the fastest growing tree in the world), and quality that lasts.
“I think that’s what sets us apart from the competition – our deep-rooted desire to minimize our environmental impact,” she said. “Also, being Canadian and female-owned and -operated is are big ones, as well.”
In addition to those factors, Lightfoot attributes much of Riot Theory’s recent success – which, aside from the Harris collaboration, also included signing with two wholesale agencies – to the amount of hard work she’s put into the company since she first built out her business plan for it in her final year of her Bachelor of Business Administration program at Yorkville.
“I try to remember what my expectations were going into this – what possessed me to make this big, expensive leap into the world of entrepreneurship. I must’ve known somewhere in the back of my head that this was the direction for me, but I definitely didn’t foresee it happening this quickly,” she said, noting that Riot Theory sleepwear is now also available on Well.ca.
“This year has been a dream come true. It was very crazy to see all these great things happen, especially so early on. It was a big first year for us – a crazy amount of growth for what was technically year one.”
At the same time, Lightfoot isn’t super surprised at Riot Theory’s success, either – after all, she said, their sleepwear is amazing, and she and Amy have worked hard to make it all happen.
Loungewear line in the works for 2021
Up next, Lightfoot said she’s planning to expand Riot Theory beyond sleepwear into the wider world of loungewear towards the end of the year. They’ll also be introducing new fabrics soon and, after many requests, are toying with the idea of creating some bridal pieces – from matching bridesmaids’ robes to nighties for brides.
“I’m so proud of us and this brand, and I’m so excited to watch it keep growing over the next few years,” she said, noting that Riot Theory just successfully launched its Spring Collection.
“I mean, if this is what we can accomplish in year one, what do the next few years, five years, 10 years look like?”