Founder of Maternity and Postpartum Brand Ready for Next Big Steps

Ingrid Carney, CEO of Ingrid + Isabel, needed financial insights to take her brand into the future. Finance and Accounting for the Nonfinancial Executive is helping her get there.

April 21, 2023

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Ingrid Carney

“Necessity is the mother of invention” has special meaning for Ingrid Carney. In 2001, Ingrid, pregnant with daughter Isabel, was headed to a meeting. She faced a wardrobe challenge common to expectant mothers: She couldn’t button her pants, and they wouldn’t stay up.

Figuring some sort of band that wraps around the waist would do the trick, she experimented with elastic bandages (too loose) and a pantyhose top (too rolly). Then, she tried a tube top, which held everything in place. After showing her fix to a few friends, Ingrid knew she was on to something.

“I love solving problems,” Ingrid says. “And, the experience of pregnancy and motherhood is a feeding ground for innovation.” In 2002, Ingrid patented the Bellaband — now an indispensable accessory and an entirely new apparel category for pregnant women.

A Texas native with a BS in communications, Ingrid had worked for global ad agencies on major brand accounts, as well as start-ups in Silicon Valley. Her invention of the Bellaband, however, changed her career trajectory. “Point-of-sale marketing in a retail environment was something I’d never done,” she says. “I had to figure it out as I went along and all of it required creativity at every level.”

In 2003, she founded Ingrid + Isabel, a maternity and postpartum brand focused on sustainability — helping women keep more clothes in their closets and out of landfills. Headquartered in San Francisco, Ingrid + Isabel and Isabel Maternity for Target together form a highly popular brand, much loved by mothers across the U.S.

Over 20-plus years, Ingrid grew her brand along with her business acumen. But to take the company into the future, Ingrid needed more expertise in financial management. “As CEO, it’s hard for me to make strategic decisions if I don’t deeply understand the numbers,” she shares. Then, a friend working in venture capital — who, like Ingrid, did not come from a finance background — told her about a course she was taking at Stanford. And Ingrid replied, “I’m in.”

Taking Care of Business (Her Baby!)

Ingrid enrolled in the one-week, in-person Finance and Accounting for the Nonfinancial Executive program at Stanford, which helps executives make better financial management decisions to increase the value of their companies. This is just what Ingrid was looking for, as she led her company through the COVID-19 pandemic and faced the possibility of future economic recession.

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The program gave me a greater understanding of financial operations. If I could do it again, I would.
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Ingrid Carney

“Right now, my business is less about marketing messages and sales opportunities, and more about safeguarding our core business, ” Ingrid explains. “That is directly related to finance and accounting. I need to fully understand and support our strategic decisions based on the numbers, not just the numbers themselves, or the balance sheet, or the [profit and loss]. I need to predict the future with our past. That’s why I did the course.”

The curriculum helps demystify data and clarify key concepts, while teaching participants important frameworks and fundamentals. It also studies the mapping between underlying economic events and financial statements, which helps participants understand the factors that may influence future profitability and cash flows.

“I was captivated the entire time, never once was I bored,” Ingrid reflects. She enjoyed learning from her professors and alongside other executives in a collegial, supportive environment. “I was so grateful that I felt safe among a set of brilliant executives. Most of the companies represented were bigger than mine. We’re a small business, and I was among re billion-dollar business executives with incredible experience and responsibility. But none from finance. We were equal in this room all there to learn. So many amazing people.”

Ready for the Next Big Steps

Ingrid says the executive program gave her the knowledge, insights, and confidence to lead her growing business into the future. “I went to a summit for CEOs and their teams,” she says. “I felt like I could have better conversations around the financial operations of the business, not just product development, marketing, sales and inventory. So yes, I know so much more, but I’m still learning. I’m still growing.”

The program prepared Ingrid for her next big step. “I’m starting another company, and I’m going into it differently having taken this course,” she says. “I’m considering our numbers first, whereas with Ingrid + Isabel, I didn’t think about books at all, only the invention. I’m better informed. And I’ll definitely be referencing my notes as we navigate this new business.”

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