Entrepreneurs, they’re just like us!
Approximately 100 percent of us have at one point realized that the seemingly simple product or service we’re looking for doesn’t exist — a microwave-safe food container that’s also leakproof and lightweight, for example, or consistent sizing on women’s clothing. While most of the time we just brush off the inconvenience and move on, sometimes your ingeniously simple idea is too hard to ignore. And while we won’t say that starting your own business is easy, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Platforms like Shopify exist for the purpose of bringing business ideas to life even on a small scale, and millions of people have started businesses since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Who says you can’t join their ranks?
One of our favorite aspects of Katie’s Shop — and frankly, one of the reasons we started it in the first place — is highlighting amazing founders. We’re consistently blown away by their willingness to think big and tackle large social issues like climate change or racial justice while coming up with innovative solutions to our much smaller, everyday challenges. The best part? Many of our businesses are born out of their founders’ own searches for safe and affordable skincare, or a swimsuit they can wear with confidence, or long-lasting apparel that won’t end up in the landfill. It’s problem-solving that goes above and beyond.
This Labor Day, we’re celebrating some of our Katie’s Shop founders and the businesses they built to solve the puzzles in front of them and make a positive difference in others’ lives, no matter how large or small. Whether you’re looking for your next go-to underwear brand or you need some inspiration to make your own entrepreneurial move, we spoke to five founders about what drove them to take the plunge.
Creating Better Sustainable Options
Stacy Anderson – KENT
For Stacy Anderson, working in fashion was a lifelong dream that led her from small-town Canada to London, Copenhagen, and Los Angeles. By the time she’d worked in the industry for a few years, she’d discovered what she describes as “a dirty little secret”: The majority of our clothes are made from plastic-based fabrics like spandex, polyester, and nylon.
“At the same time, I couldn’t find underwear made without these synthetic materials,” Anderson tells KCM. “I wanted briefs made from 100 percent natural fibers, which I knew was not only better for my body, but better for the earth, too — over 11 million pounds of underwear end up in a landfill every single day in the US!” Anderson’s solution was simply to make her own.
“I spent 3+ years on research and development and speaking with women about their underwear to make the most natural briefs on earth: 100 percent organic, plant-based, and plastic-free undies that are actually compostable at the end of their lives,” she says. “They are softer and stronger than conventional alternatives and will return back to earth in only 90 days, capturing carbon and helping reverse climate change. Win for us, win for mother earth!”
Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum – Thousand Fell
Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum started Thousand Fell after seeing the scale of waste creation that happens during apparel manufacturing.
“In its effort to grow and innovate, the textile industry has placed enormous strain on lower-income areas within and outside of the US: Exposing communities and ecosystems to pollution, capitalizing on low wages, and fueling ‘not my problem’ shopping behavior,” Songer and Ahlum tell KCM. “Thousand Fell is our attempt to reverse that.”
The pair started with footwear, which is one of the most widely disposed of and hardest to resell product categories in fashion, and made the world’s first recyclable sneaker.
“We created a classic sneaker made of materials we can recycle, by people who are paid and treated fairly, and for customers who want to take control of their consumer impact,” they tell KCM. “We constantly strive to create great products at accessible prices that are made to last and deliver value at the end of their life to both customers and the world.”
Angie Tran and Bernard Law – Kind Laundry
Business and life partners Angie Tran and Bernard Law launched Kind Laundry in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, featuring mess-free laundry detergent sheets made with gentle, yet effective ingredients.
“If we look at every single aisle in the grocery store, there is a more sustainable and ‘better for you’ alternative,” Tran tells KCM. “On the other hand, the laundry category has lacked innovation over the last decade. It’s packed with large, bulky single-use plastic jugs filled with chemically laden ingredients.”
Beyond the eco-friendly, chemical-free aspect of Kind Laundry’s detergent sheets, they’re also just convenient.
“Most people dread doing laundry because it’s such a mundane and time-consuming chore, so we saw an opportunity to create innovative and sustainable laundry that simplifies your routine,” Tran says.
“Our goal is to bring excitement to the laundry room while being kinder to the planet and to people. It was important that Kind Laundry was a purpose-driven company and we kept sustainability at the forefront of our business while constantly seeking ways to create safer and more effective formulations.”
Making High-Quality More Accessible
Dr. Courtney Rubin, Kimmy Scotti, and Lizzy Trelstad – Fig.1
Skincare is becoming a splurge purchase for many people, and high quality often comes with an even higher price tag. The founders of Fig.1 — entrepreneur Kimmy Scotti, dermatologist Courtney Rubin, MD, and cosmetic chemist Lizzy Trelstad — set out to change that with a core collection of products that cost between $14 and $38.
“As a practicing dermatologist, I’m a steward of my patient’s skin health,” Dr. Rubin tells KCM. “I struggled to recommend the high-performance, yet high-priced, products often carried in dermatology offices, as most of my patients weren’t — and aren’t — able to afford their medical co-pays. Skincare is healthcare, and I’m dedicated to removing barriers to skin health.”
Beyond reasonable pricing, Fig.1 is working to make personalized care more accessible to its customers, Dr. Rubin said.
“Fig.1 connects you with our in-house estheticians for ongoing dialogue and personalized regimen development – for free.”
Amy Errett – Madison Reed
For Amy Errett, business inspiration struck in the drugstore, where she was picking up hair dye for her spouse, Clare. When she brought a few options home, she realized they all contained harsh ingredients and offered little to no customer support for women attempting to color their own hair. Errett recognized an opportunity to make something better than your standard box dye but less expensive or time-consuming than a visit to the salon, and founded Madison Reed to fill that space.
Nine years on, Madison Reed has more than 55 multi-dimensional and natural-looking permanent hair colors, as well as kits for touching up your roots, preserving your color for longer, and even doing your own balayage. It’s making quality hair color more accessible and easier for women of any age, while keeping those formulas free of the irritating chemicals found in most at-home dyes.
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