How We Started a Sustainable Made-to-Order Hemp Clothing Brand

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folktribe clothing

Em & Kel
Sommerville

Co-owners
Folktribe Clothing

Team Size

3

Revenue

Not Disclosed

Location

Dunkeld, AUS

STart Date

Sept 2016

I am so excited to have Em and Kel Sommerville share their journey as female founders of the Folktribe Clothing. Folktribe Clothing is an Australian brand that makes sustainable, chic and made to order hemp clothing.

These two inspiring sisters make unique and creative designs and basically do wonders with fabrics. I feel so excited interviewing them and sharing their journey.

INTRODUCTION

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.

em&kel sommervilleWe’re both environmentalists at heart, growing up in the Grampians National Park allowed us plenty of time to wander the Australian bush and we developed a strong connection to nature from an early age. 

Kel had been dabbling in work in the textile industry and Em was studying Architecture when Folktribe began its incubation. The more that we learned about the environmental impact of the Fashion and textile industry, the more we wanted to contribute and build an opportunity for change and raise awareness. 

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?

We both work as well as running Folktribe so our routine changes day-to-day depending on what needs to be done. It can vary from getting up early to do computer work, emails, content etc.. to cutting patterns and sitting on the sewing machine. We’ve tried a few different programs or “tricks” to stay productive but for us, we’ve found it easiest to just keep it simple and have frequent catch-ups to make sure we’re prioritizing the right things and so everything is on track.

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THE JOURNEY SO FAR

PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.

Kel originally came up with the idea of starting the business, she had started working in the textile industry and knew she wanted to offer more sustainable fashion choices. 

Not long after Em came on board, with her background in Architecture she had a love of good design and a passion for sustainable projects. 

Our business name “Folktribe” came from wanting to create a collective where people felt like every time they wore one of our garments that they were a part of something that was truly making a difference. 

We started from scratch and everything we have done has been bootstrapped, and still is. Apart from support from family and friends we didn’t have any external help when starting our business. 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?

Biggest Achievement: We were featured in Vogue a few weeks ago, that was definitely a highlight for us! Recently we’ve bought our production back to Australia and moved to use 100% hemp fabric exclusively. We like to promote this achievement as much as possible because it really does mean a lot to us.  Although it’s not an award or external PR it’s something that we’re really proud of and we’ve worked really hard to make it a reality.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge, like many small business owners, is filling the role of photographer, accountant, marketing manager, PR, etc. We have begun to outsource what we can, however, we are still trying to be a jack of all trades! 

We are, first and foremost, environmentalists. Our dream and mission is to reverse the negative impact the fashion industry is having on our environment, every day we are asking ourselves how can we be better?

Em & Kel, Folktribeclothing.com ©

WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?

When we began we didn’t have a clear growth vision, we focused on our products and internal logistics. As the brand has grown organically and we’ve found our feet, we have found customer care is really important to us. Being a small business we can speak directly to our customers to ensure that we can help them through any issues or the buying process. 

Because we are made to order we have a lot of inquiries about our products and we love being able to interact with our customers. We also have a strong focus on our product development and marketing. 

Being a sustainable clothing label we’re always researching and ensuring we’re doing the best for our planet. We like to pass this information onto our audience so that they are involved with our process and the love that goes into our garments.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?

We have taken on many opportunities that have come our way but for the future we want to focus on our own retail. It’s a tricky situation with everything going on in the world at the moment but we want to keep bringing sustainable fashion to the forefront.

RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES AND TOOLS THAT YOU USE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS.

We use Shopify and it’s great. Shopify offers so many resources and technical help on the platform.
We use Google for our organization, emails, meetings, etc. We’ve found if you can keep most things in one area it saves so much time! 

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKS, BLOGS OR PODCASTS? 

Vogue Codes. I’m sure there’s more but I can’t think of any at the moment! 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

 

You cannot fail. You will learn so many things on the journey that it doesn’t matter what the outcome of the business is. It can be a challenging experience but it’s also so rewarding that it makes it all worth it! 

Violeta Semenova

Violeta Semenova
Founder
theBizLadies

Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!

If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.

By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.

If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!