I’m the founder and chief executive of Fashioning Change, a start-up that helps shoppers purchase stylish, money-saving, safe and sweatshop-free alternatives to top name brands.
We had our “Hello World” beta test on Cyber Monday in November 2011. Every brand we carry is vetted according to our five promises: be fashionable, be well made, protect health, protect the Earth and protect human rights (we call this our “Promise of 5″). We offer more than 18,000 shopping options, including our own line of organic clothing that is made in Los Angeles. Every garment we produce includes a scannable tag that helps connect shoppers to each of the steps in the supply chain. And when people purchase our suggested products, we save them an average of 27 percent over the name-brand options.
So far, along with me, the company consists of Kevin Ball, my technical co-founder; Kestrel Jenkins, who is in charge of product sourcing, and Steve Klebanoff, software engineer. We have an office in San Diego and a house in Santa Monica. Every other week, the two-bedroom house accommodates the four of us. We wake up to live, breathe and sleep Fashioning Change. Can you imagine living and working with your colleagues 24/7?
Our business model is built on the premise that by providing access to alternatives, we can encourage consumers to make purchases of brands that protect peoples’ health, the environment and human rights at every step in the supply chain. We believe that as we grow, we will have an impact on the bottom lines of mainstream corporations, motivating them to adopt similar practices in order to regain market share.
The ideas behind the company were instilled in me by my father. He grew up in Juarez, Mexico, a city that many consumer-goods companies use as an outsourcing location. He had friends and family who worked in many of the factories, and he saw the impact people could have when they chose to purchase one brand over another. With that in mind, he gave my brothers and me three rules we had to abide by when making purchases: One, we couldn’t buy anything made in Asia because he believed the manufacturing practices in many Asian countries were worse than they were in Mexico. Two, we weren’t allowed to buy clothing made of synthetic materials. And three, we weren’t allowed to wear dark clothing because he believed that children were the light of the world and should dress in bright colors.
As a result, when I was growing up in San Diego, I used to run around the children’s department at Nordstrom, flipping tags to find clothing that hadn’t been made in Asia. Then, I would flip all of the tags again to see which pieces were made of “father-approved” materials. Sometimes, when I was particularly frustrated that I couldn’t buy a dress I wanted, I would hide in a clothing rack and pout. But early on, I was taught to think about where products come from, how they were made, who made them and under what conditions. Little did I know that my father’s shopping rules — along with my post-college work experience with nonprofit, public relations and manufacturing organizations would end up inspiring me to create Fashioning Change.
Over the last year and a half, I have navigated my way through a technology accelerator, taught myself to code, recruited a team, raised a first round of financing, opened an office in another city, manufactured a own line of clothing in the United States and managed to avoid about a hundred landmines that could have crushed Fashioning Change. Through this blog, I hope to share my experiences as a Hispanic, single, woman founder building a tech start-up that intends to make money and do good. I plan to share our successes, our mistakes and our frustrations.
In my next post, I’ll tell you more about how the company works.