Some Ex-Parade Employees Blame Founder Cami Téllez for Collapse

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  • Underwear brand Parade, once valued at $200 million, sold to a lingerie manufacturer for “peanuts.” 
  • Some former employees say founder Cami Téllez’s leadership style helped sink the company.
  • The ex-staffers took issue with some of leadership’s tactics, including announcing firings on Slack. 

In August, the Gen Z favorite underwear startup Parade sold to lingerie manufacturer Ariela & Associates International for what one former employee described as “peanuts.” Some former staffers said the way founder and ex-CEO Cami Téllez ran Parade contributed to its downfall. They described feeling severely burnt out and struggling to keep pace with Téllez’s drive for astronomical growth.

Staffers told Business Insider that some of leadership’s tactics were particularly harsh, such as announcing employee firings to the entire staff on Slack.

In one such message on February 7, 2022, Parade executive Kerry Steib wrote: “Hi all, I wanted to let you know that as of this afternoon, we’ve parted ways” with an employee, whom Steib named, adding that “in the spirit of transparency,” the employee “was not able to operate at the speed of Parade and the expectations of what we need in a social leader were not commensurate with her performance.”

Read Business Insider’s deep dive into what happened at Parade here.

Téllez said employees had asked for more insight as to why staffers left, so higher-ups started to “proactively message as people were leaving, often expressing our gratitude for their time at Parade.” She added, “I felt a responsibility to communicate these departures were not part of a larger layoff. Of course, I’m disappointed to hear that it had the opposite effect.”

Parade launched in 2019 with a handful of basics: the thong, the cheeky, and the boyshort in seven colors. In its first year Parade exploded, reaching nearly 100,000 customers and making nearly $9 million in sales, Téllez said.

The company offered free underwear, which typically ran from $8 to $30, to “micro-influencers” — people with several thousand but not tens of thousands of followers — in exchange for social-media posts. At its peak, Parade, which was valued at $200 million last year, was one of the fastest-growing direct-to-consumer apparel brands in history.

On August 11, Téllez informed 48 members of her team via Slack that Parade was in the “final hours” of closing a deal with AAI and that, as part of the deal, she would be forced to leave the company.

In a follow-up email to staffers on August 25, Téllez said she’d sold the company because of a “massive macro-economic shift” that made it difficult for brands like Parade to get funding. She added that she’d structured the company not to earn a profit until year five at the earliest — “not a mistake I’d make again.”

Read Business Insider’s deep dive into what happened at Parade here.

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