When it comes to entrepreneurship, we hear a lot about how y’all want to do good and give back. And we’ve talked about that before, from donating cash to creating private foundations to creating socially minded business. Today, we’re talking to an entrepreneur who has built a business designed around the concept of social good and we think you’re gonna love it.
Listeners, meet Stephanie Hepburn of Good Cloth.
This episode is really eye-opening, both from an entrepreneurial standpoint and from a consumer standpoint. We already know you’re gonna learn a lot, so make sure to listen along.
05:03 What purchasing power has to do with preventing human trafficking
07:21 How reader feedback led Stephanie into retail
09:43 Why Stephanie was resistant to B-Corp status at first
10:14 The importance of being honest about how you do business
12:02 The misconceptions of sustainable clothing
15:40 The spectrum of sustainable or socially minded businesses
16:58 Why Stephanie decided B-Corp status was right for her brand
18:05 What’s involved in choosing products with transparent supply chains
20:44 How Stephanie encourages retailers to improve their transparency
23:48 The importance of failure and learning
24:46 How it’s possible to bootstrap your passion project
26:48 Stephanie’s tips for making a difference AND a profit
27:54 How the sustainable and ethical fashion industry has changed
30:42 Why regulation and legislation are critical in transparent supply chains
32:06 How sustainability and ethical operations make every business better
35:00 Why Stephanie doesn’t think success and social good are separate
36:12 What’s on the horizon for Good Cloth
Stephanie, who is also a journalist, began her journey into the world of sustainable fashion after writing a book about human trafficking. During her research, she realized that a huge portion of the fashion industry is set up to make things like labor abuse and trafficking incredibly easy for those who want to take advantage. Stephanie also realized that it was nearly impossible to find a transparent supply chain, so that companies and consumers could know exactly what type of life their purchase was providing to clothing industry workers. This led her down the path to creating her own online retail store — Good Cloth — which focuses on only selling clothing, accessories, and products that are transparent, sustainable, and ethical.
As part of her business model, Stephanie really tries to bring in different audiences and different people, highlighting the issue of human trafficking and poor labor standards as they make contact with her products and/or brand. Each Good Cloth product gives a strong description of where it came from, who made it, and how it makes a difference. This alone helps consumers learn more about the process of ethical fashion and why it’s important. It also builds trust, which is the cornerstone of ethical fashion, according to Stephanie.
But it’s not always easy.
In this episode, Stephanie walks us through how she finds her retailers and what sort of “vetting process” she goes through to ensure her products are actually ethical. Doing the research and asking the right questions is critical to finding sustainable retailers, material sources, etc., she says. Thanks to her background in journalism, she is able to do this, but she also admits that it’s taken a long time. Her labor of love is clear if you’ve ever browsed Good Cloth’s online store, though, where each collection is curated so thoughtfully.
We also learned a lot about how most “sustainable” products out there are actually not as sustainable as they’re advertised to be. And in some cases, she told us, it’s a matter of choosing what is most important to you in the manufacturing and retail process. For example, some businesses may be able to process recycled products and use that for their materials, while others may be able to ensure fair wages and prices. There is a wide spectrum of sustainability that doesn’t make one better than the other; it’s supporting what’s most important to you.
“It’s nuance, understanding, and meeting with people where they are,” Stephanie said. And Good Cloth doesn’t just say “No” to every retailer who doesn’t meet their standards. Instead, the brand supports retailers and sources as they attempt to be fully sustainable, while holding them to a higher standard. This means that some may have to come back after they’ve improved certain areas of their operations, but that sort of feedback makes the industry as a whole better, and it gives other ethically driven brands a standard by which to measure themselves.
Of course, our favorite part of our chat with Stephanie was digging into the money. So often we hear “I want to make a difference, but I gotta make money.” Stephanie talks about how she’s been able to build a profitable business from Day One, which we think will calm a lot of your worries. Are you ready?
Pretty easy, right? We think so.
Last but not least, we talked about changing consumer attitudes toward fashion, as well as regulation and legislation, and how they’re helping to improve Stephanie’s industry. She believes that regulation and legislation are a good thing that will help all businesses improve and, as a result, the world. Part of her effort to shed light on poor labor practices and human trafficking is made more effective through regulation and laws. She believes that government involvement in industries like retail will keep people safe, ensure fair wages, and create a stronger economy. And fair wages and pollution aren’t a third-world problem, Stephanie says; these things happen in the U.S. too. Be aware and educate yourself when you buy something — it’s the best way to make sure you’re putting your money where your values are.
We were SO motivated by our chat with Stephanie, especially by the theme of elevating the standards of entrepreneurship. Even if you’re not a retail or clothing brand, the principles of sustainability and ethics transfer. What are you doing to make a difference? Who are you advocating for, and what are you protecting? And how will you do it WHILE making a profit?
Don’t miss this episode, y’all.
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