The world is changing. And in today’s ever-changing world, it can turn out to be extremely hard for business owners to stay true to their business mission and stick to their values.
We understand. That’s because we’ve been there.
That’s the reason we’ve brought back the founder of a revolutionary waste-free fashion brand to our podcast – Tonle.
Her name’s Rachel Faller and she’s been running Tonle for about 15 years – and throughout the course of her venture, she has seen the world change right in front of her eyes and faced many ups and downs. Despite that, she has never compromised her values and has been true to her brand – which is something most entrepreneurs should know about.
More About Rachel:
Rachel is a brilliant entrepreneur by day and an extremely talented individual at heart. While she allocates most of her time towards growing her eCommerce business, she believes in implementing a systematic approach – where she encourages people to identify and solve the root of a problem rather than just sticking to the symptoms.
She’s the co-creator of Tonle – it’s a zero-waste, sustainable and ethical fashion line that’s both a manufacturer and brand. At the same time, she’s the co-founder of Reclaim Collaborative and at the same time writes at Just Fashion.
We have Rachel with us on today’s episode and we’d love nothing more than to dive deep with her into the fashion eComm world.
Throughout the Episode, Adam & Rachel Discuss:
- Rachel shares details about her brand and explains how they are a zero-waste brand.
- How does Rachel ensure that everyone that works on her products and with her brand is paid fairly? Why is low wage in her industry still a BIG problem?
- How hard it is for a small business like Tonle to start a sustainable packaging or grow their business when compared with giants like Target, Amazon, Walmart?
- What kind of impact do folks at Tonle want to make? Rachel sheds light on their real mission.
- Rachel shares Tonle’s history
- Rachel shares challenges faced by folks at Tonle while trying to sell their products.
- How hard it is for Rachel & team to sell their sustainable products at a higher price when compared with their competitors?
- Rachel shares that they heavily rely on word of mouth marketing to promote her brand.
- Is there a point where Rachel & team loosen up their boundaries just to give a tough fight to their competitors?
- Adam asks Rachel whether her company is product-first or material-first.
- Rachel shares more about her working environment
- Is it possible for Rachel and team to be market-first with their already-existing model?
- Rachel’s discusses how their focus is on building sustainable clothes that their customers are proud to wear.
- What happens when their customers get past the emotional phase and get to the logical part – how do Rachel & team tackle that?
- Rachel’s focus on building a community
- Rachel sheds light on whether they can continue making their top-sellers.
- Rachel’s discusses her plans for the future
Rachel’s 15-years journey has been thrilling. And despite facing numerous challenges, she has always made sure to stick to her values and mission. And at Change Creator, we appreciate that!
Kudos to you, Rachel!
One of the core reasons Rachel has helped Tonle reach where it is today is by laser-focusing on branding – which is what most brands struggle with these days.
And at Change Creator, we’d love nothing more than to help you out.
Ready to Grow Your Brand Authority and Revenues?
Book a call to chat with Adam at: https://studio.changecreator.com
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Episode Transcript (unedited, will likely have typos):
Adam G. Force 0:00
How do social entrepreneurs and small businesses create an authentic brand people love so they can get the edge they need to stand out create Predictable Revenue and compete against the big guys that’s what we’re here to discuss. I’m Adam forest the founder of change creator and this is the authentic brand mastery Podcast?
Okay, shall we me the heat on no you,
Rachel, welcome to the authentic brand mastery podcast. How you doing today?
Rachel Faller 4:04
Nice to see you. And thanks for having me. I’m doing pretty well.
Adam G. Force 4:08
Yeah, it’s good to see you for anybody listening. Rachel is on the show. And in our magazine a few years ago, actually. So this is kind of like a follow up. You know, check in we like to bring some people back that were fun to have the first time and see what’s going on in their world. Rachel just got back from Cambodia. So that was the first time we were able to get there in a while. So tell us just a little bit about what your trip was about and what’s going on right now. With the brand.
Rachel Faller 4:38
Yeah, sure. Um, so we are a zero waste and sustainable fashion line for anybody who
hasn’t known about us before to lay. We take scraps and material that come from come to us as waste from larger manufacturers primarily in Cambodia, and we transform those into new garments. And we use every single scrap In the process, so not only is each individual product a zero waste product, but they’re also made in an entirely zero waste processing facility, we also make an effort to reduce our climate footprint in other ways, reducing packaging waste and shipping waste. And also, you know, endeavor to make sure that everybody who works on our products is paid fairly and, you know, makes a living wage while they’re working at home, which should be the norm, but is unfortunately, not
Adam G. Force 5:33
with a lot of why do you think it’s not? Why do you think it’s not the norm?
Rachel Faller 5:37
I think, Oh, it’s a lot of lot of complicated history, I think, going back to going back to the history of global trade, and how it originated out of really colonialism. And so I think trade policy across the world is is still set up in such a way that does not, is not equitable. And as a result of that, I think, you know, in the United States, as wages began to rise, and workers got more protections in the US, a lot of brands realized they could outsource their production overseas, and also separate the production from the brand, so that they didn’t have to take on the risk and responsibility of providing for their workers. So it’s not only about being able to access lower wages or conditions that are less, you know, that are, that are more favorable to companies that are bad for workers. But it’s also about the fact that they don’t have to take on the risk of having, you know, hundreds of 1000s of garment factory workers on their payroll on their books. And if anything goes wrong in those factories, the factories, owners, and the factory managers are the ones who take on that risk, not not the brand, right? So we now see a lot of brands going back and saying, Oh, well, this or this bad thing happened in the factory, but it’s not our fault, because we had a policy and, you know, they were supposed to do this, and they didn’t do it? Well, they want to acknowledge that because you know, they benefit from those conditions being in place, right. So it’s quite complicated. But I think that at the end of the day, American corporate law protects American companies and American workers, but not people who are working on products for those corporations, and other countries. And, and because of these various loopholes that companies have created alongside the government, you know, they can essentially get away with these things legally, that they would never be able to get away with in the US. So it’s, you know, has to change, I think there is an element of people needing to, you know, vote with their dollars and support companies that are trying to do things differently, especially small businesses who are trying new things, it really, but I think on a policy level, and even as on a cultural level, I think this America first mentality that only American workers and only American corporations are important, is something that that has an impact, you know, and in how these businesses can operate in other parts of the world.
Adam G. Force 8:12
It’s interesting, yes. So the cultural factor, and the policy factor, I think, are pretty big in Yes. Because, you know, relying on the people, as you probably, I mean, back me up, if I’m there, let me know if I’m wrong, but like, you know, we’ve restarted change creator to support, you know, businesses that are doing the right things. But what we have found is that even like when you read the data, and everyone’s like, Oh, I support sustainable brands, or I would pay more for this kind of product, or that kind of product, that the data says one thing, but people’s actions say another right meaning yet the purchasing trends are not the reality of what their what makes them feel good when they fill out a survey.
Rachel Faller 9:00
Right. And I think at the end of the day Q it’s like, and I’m really suggesting for you no systemic chip shifts, because at the end of the day, it would not be hard for target to pay a few cents more per item to have recycle, like fully recycled packaging, right? But if if a customer goes into Target and there’s no packaging that is recycled, well, then they don’t have a choice, okay, like the customer has a choice to go and do research and so forth. But that that’s really hard for a customer. It’s actually not that hard for target to change, right, but they are the ones who are choosing not to change that. On the other hand, for a small business like us, it’s really hard to start a sustainable packaging because it’s not accessible to small brands. Right? And that’s what’s so disappointing about it that brands like us, they’ll jump through hoops to try to make our production and our process of everything really like aboveboard and sustainable and ethical. And yet you have these huge corporations who could literally make the These changes in a drop of a hat if they wanted to, because they have the skill to do so. But they don’t have the will. Right. And so I think at the end of the day, there does have to be pressure on a corporate, like on a corporate and policy level to change because it and I think where like brands like us do come in as we kind of set that standard and say, hey, look, if we’re doing it, and it’s so much more of an uphill battle for us, and it’s so much more work to source the sustainable materials and all this stuff, because we can’t we’re not at scale, right. So it just makes it so much harder to access. If we’re doing it, then target should be able to Amazon should be able to Walmart should be able to write and they don’t even need to charge that much more for their products. Yeah, um, so yeah,
Adam G. Force 10:43
I find that and the sad part is though, like, and this is just now the past six years doing going knee deep into these businesses and stuff to myself is like, and I’ve worked with target, I’ve worked on projects with, you know, Microsoft and other big Walgreens, whatever it’s like, all great brands. But you know, we all know that at the end of the day, the bottom line is what puts food on everybody’s table and lines, the pockets, right? So if if it’s not a policy, like you said, and that policy would probably be shifted and created based on shifting the cultural perspective. So they kind of work together. But if it’s not a policy, it’s probably not going to happen, they’re not going to do it out of the goodness of their heart, unless there’s some value in it, because it’s just, I guess, the, you know, the way that a corporation is set up, the sole job is to earn money. And so yeah, it’s a really tough one to try to shift unless there’s a policy saying, This is how it has to be, right. There’s
Rachel Faller 11:45
a policy or if there’s enough pressure from customers, but that has to be It can’t just be individual people being like, well, I’ll just buy the slightly greener looking thing from the shelf, like, that’s not going to do it. But if there has been, you know, instances in the past, where mass boycotts and so forth have worked, but it has to be very collective action, right. And it’s taught me like, and again, that takes that cultural shift that we’re talking about. And that’s why I think that brands like us, you know, our impact is like, yes, we do reduce waste. And yes, we do reduce the carbon footprint, and we are, you know, employing people at higher wages, and all those things are valuable, but our real impact is helping to change the story and change the narrative. And show that there’s a different way of doing things. And if that gets customers thinking about it, and learning about it, right, and then turning around and putting that pressure on. But not even just putting pressure on but also just living by their values when you’re living in a values aligned way. And you’re let’s say you’re bringing your, you know, your recyclable, you know, silverware everywhere you go and not using the plastic fork, like that alone doesn’t make a big difference. But other people see that. And it normalizes it, right? And it makes it like, that’s where it starts to make that cultural shift. So I’m a really big proponent of both, you know, systemic change and culture. And that cultural shift needs to happen, but also, you know, supporting the brands that you want to see exist in the world, because the truth is, every single purchase does make a difference to totally right. And so it’s also equally important to do that. And but with your dollar, neither of those things can happen in a vacuum.
Adam G. Force 13:23
Yeah, and I do see more cultural shifts, it’s a very slow process, like, Oh, now we have paper straws, because of the whole straw movement, and not everybody, but some people, especially in more progressive areas. And as far as buying products and voting with the dollar, I think they’re kind of like goes back, you know, coming, you know, whether you’re ecommerce or anything and say well, I guess Yeah, ecommerce, basically, tangible products, it’s like, you can not like if there’s one thing I’ve learned about human behavior, relying on people to make these decisions versus making it a natural, like, this is just how we make products, period. That’s the only way you know, like, it just it makes it so much more difficult. Because when anyone gets to that register, and they’re in a pinch, it’s gonna be like, Wow, whatever, what’s my one purchase matter? Anyway, I’m going I got it, I can’t afford this today. Right. And that, that makes it so difficult. And I just see that uphill battle. You know, so to me, it’s almost like having a four way intersection where you say, well, we got to just make sure people make the right decision to slow down and stop instead of just putting a stoplight where we make them stop, right?
Rachel Faller 14:33
And that’s where it’s kind of like, okay, why not? Why can’t like XYZ Corporation instead of having like, a customer have to make that choice, like just put all the candy bars in sandable wrappers, you know, and then at the end of the day, like if they’re gonna buy a candy bars, they’re gonna get candy bars.
Adam G. Force 14:50
I know. I mean, and that could be top down policy where those changes could be made, but man, that’s tough. And I’m curious like Coming from your business perspective, I know, there’s been some major shifts to adapt to that we discussed just around like COVID and everything else. But let’s just put that aside for a second. As far as building your brand, you know, you’ve been doing it how many years you’ve been running tonight now?
Rachel Faller 15:17
I’m 15. So, yeah, yeah. Okay, well, the first iteration of the brand started in 2008. And that actually got rebranded in 2014 as online or at the end of 2013. Actually, yeah, yeah. So yeah, altogether at the end of this year, it’ll be 15 years. But yeah,
Adam G. Force 15:38
so I’m sure you’ve gone through some shifts and pivots. Oh, yeah. The evolution of the brand, if you will. So based on the stuff we’re talking about, which is all just really important consideration, because I think a lot of brands get into the markets today. And they’re like, Oh, we’re gonna do something good in the world, which is great. But they’re leveraging that as like, their selling point, which is great. It’s part of their brand story. And it could create brand loyalty, I think, because people really respect when brands like take a stand. I mean, they they do the right things. But when no one’s looking, and they have to make a purchase? Um, how have you have you seen an impact? Like, if you compare it to competitors, who are not doing, you know, waste free, and they don’t have the same obligations? That you hold yourself up to? Right? to do? Right? Do you find like, there’s, it’s, it’s, it’s more difficult to? Or is it a sales point for you? Like, I’m trying to, I want understand your perspective on this. Because here, we got to make money, otherwise, we’re not helping anybody. Right. So like, because you you go out of business? Like, what’s your perspective on the challenges for actually selling?
Rachel Faller 16:54
I would say that, you know, I, we started this business, you know, with an intention to be as sustainable and as ethical as possible from the get go. Yeah. And so that’s really different than a lot of, really, for me, it really started with the people behind it and saying, Hey, we, you know, I was living in Cambodia, I was doing research on sustainable and ethical fashion and working with a number of makers. And, you know, I identified an opportunity to start a business with people I met there. And the goal was, we have this group of people, and we want to figure out what’s, you know, what’s a way to build a business around them and their needs, right? And then how do we then create products that are also as sustainable as possible? And also are what we what our customers want? And then how do we sell those products, which is the complete opposite way of the way most people think about starting a business? Right? They think about their customers first, and they think about, okay, what do my customers want, and how, or maybe they’re a designer, and they’re like, I like making this kind of product. So I’m gonna, you know, make this thing. And then I’m gonna go find someone to make it and the people who are making it are kind of secondary. In some ways, I see our core product as actually being the business itself and the work that we’re doing, and the kind of recreating an environment, a new kind of workplace, in the fashion industry, where people are motivated and excited, and where, you know, they’re excited to come work and make things right. It’s an made maker centric brand that starts with the makers, and then goes to how do we take this amazing group of people this amazing workplace and create a product that also is going to help us facilitate that. So it’s really opposite way of thinking to most brands, and not something that although we’ve gone through a lot of shifts, that’s always been core to our business is the people. And so how that affects us. And how that makes us quite different is that we then our design process is also very different, because we’re basically saying, These are the materials we have. This is the waste that’s literally been thrown away by garment factories this week. And, you know, this is the capacity of our team, and how do we then create a collection out of that, that like, acknowledges all those limitations and all those capacities, and then also suits the needs of our customers? Oh, yeah. Yeah, it’s a different, it’s a different way of going about it. Um, I guess to answer your question, you know, we didn’t set out to say, how can we use sustainability as a selling point, we set out to say sustainability is a core value of our team, how do we most live out our values, and also make something that’s gonna sell to support those values, which is a really different way of a really different way of thinking than, like, how do I create a sustainable product that will sell? Yeah, so that so over time, we’ve seen shifts in terms of how the customers have reacted to that. Um, I think early days, you know, we were very early in this kind of sustainable zero waste movement. We were one of the first you know, zero waste brands out there. Um, and so, you know, also like social media and Google and all that has changed a lot. So we you see Get like incredible organic traffic for those search terms. And we would also get really good press, because we were one of the few brands who was kind of really doing those things on like a deeper level and not just marketing it. And so as more brands have come into the space and have tried to become more sustainable, or who are who are using sustainability as a marketing tactic to some level, it is kind of drowning our voice out in those organic channels. Yeah. And that’s the only reason I find that a bit frustrating is because I know a lot of them are not doing it to the level that we’re doing it. You know, if it was really like, hey, look, all these brands are actually getting more sustainable, that would be great. But the problem is that it’s typically more of the people who have just realized they need to start forming a sustainability strategy. And now they’re going to put all their marketing dollars into telling you how they’re being sustainable, and how they’re, instead of what they’re actually doing. Yeah. So you know, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse, I would say, because I think we have more integrity. And because we’ve always been aligned in that way. We do have much better loyalty from customers. But nowadays, it’s like I think it’s for new customers who are wanting to shop sustainably. The market is so flooded with like greenwashing effectively. Yeah, that it’s hard for people to find, you know, the brands, like us, I believe, who are real? Yeah.
Adam G. Force 21:22
Yeah. And for anybody listening that doesn’t know, greenwashing that is using sustainability or otherwise, you know, to make money and create, you know, customer trust, but not actually backing away the back end. Yeah. Yeah. You know,
Rachel Faller 21:42
getting into a lot of difficult I mean, that’s a lot of, you know, point. And that’s that’s a lot of challenging topics. But
Adam G. Force 21:49
oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. No,
Rachel Faller 21:52
I think I think what sustainability does for us, or what, what I think living, operating our company in a way that’s aligned with our values as a team, what it does for us from a marketing perspective, is it draws the people to us who really want to find people who are doing it. And because we have that integrity, and we had that long track record, and we are very transparent, we’re very open. I think the people who really get it, really get it and they’re really bought in. So it does really create a lot of loyalty. But in the day, that’s not why we’re doing it. It’s just, we’re doing it, because it’s the right thing to do. And the people who also want that are gonna find us.
Adam G. Force 22:30
Yeah, and you know, but I guess, as you say,
Unknown Speaker 22:34
as you say that, it’s tricky. Yeah, it is tricky.
Adam G. Force 22:37
It is tricky, because you do want to stand by your principles and values and run a business the right way. And you know, getting those loyal loyalists on board is good, because today, every screen is a word of mouth machine, right? So that word of mouth, like even Apple and big players like that. Steve Jobs focus wasn’t mass marketing, it was finding people who just were like insanely obsessed with what they do at Apple loving that product, because they become these word of mouth like machines. So, you know, that’s a really powerful marketing channel, probably the most powerful because it’s a referral, basically, from one person to another, which is going to reduce the trust barrier, it’s gonna, it’s gonna create a bond faster of trust for two words, a brand from a new person, right. So I think it’s great to go after those loyalists. That definitely is helpful. So I, you know, yeah, there’s I was thinking of that picture of like, I don’t drink dairy milk, but they see the pictures of like a cow and a green pasture on the carton. And you’re like, Yeah, right. It’s like these. That’s like the just, that was the greenwashing example. It’s like, you see these pictures as if it’s some beautiful dairy farm at some family owns, but it’s really this awful like a faux factory?
Rachel Faller 23:58
Yeah, definitely. I don’t I don’t drink milk either. And I haven’t even thought about one of those. Those in a long time. But that’s such a good example. Because it is so it is so like, overt, and people don’t question it. They don’t want to believe the story, right? And that’s exactly what it is. It’s like, you want to believe that there’s like these happy cows or feel just like living in the mountains with the sun shining down on them. And that’s what they are selling to you. They’re selling to you this story that you can drink milk and believe that these animals are happy. That’s
Adam G. Force 24:31
and people believe is a good example. People believe it, you know? And, you know, I think that like what point though, for a business like yours, like it’s kind of like, you know, you got everybody out there who is playing a certain game, right? And, you know, we may not agree with how they play it, but they’re playing within very loose, loose rules, right? Like New polls, different things, or they’re just doing this where it’s like, I’m gonna get products that sell, I don’t care about the environmental care, I’m just selling and you know, so yeah, to compete there like at what point for you? Do you have to back off on because like you came into it with a lot of new boundaries almost in a sense like this is how we’re playing the game based on we want to we want to live run the business according to these values which you know, I’m all about to I love it. But do you feel that there’s ever a point where you have to loosen that up in order to? Because we want business owners like you to continue? Right? So it’s like, when do we loosen that up in order to make sure you can continue forward? And then you can always reel it back in? Or you know what I’m saying? Like? Is there a point where you think like that sometimes?
Rachel Faller 25:53
I would say I used to think like that. And I also I think that there’s an idea to that businesses should continue at all costs. And for me, and a business, just continuing for the sake of continuing is not necessarily good if it can’t retain its principles. So in terms of loosening, I would say rather than loosening, I would say changing. And I think there is adapting right. And there is changing your mind about things like there are definitely things that I did early days in my business that I have now, like looked back and been like, oh, we could have done that differently. Or we could have done that. Yeah. So there’s definitely those kinds of things. And there were things that it was like maybe I didn’t have the capacity or the access to you know, certain things, or certain tools or certain ways of thinking and ways of doing things better. And now I’m like, I don’t blame myself for that. But I do think oh, there would have been things I could have done differently. But now I’m learning and I’m growing, I’m changing. So there’s that. But then there’s also, um, I think there are times when, you know, there are like, over the last few years, right? There have been these all these unforeseen factors in the world. And yeah, and there are things that like we’re running a business, it’s really hard to run ads in a normal time, right, because we’re essentially paying like way higher rates for our products, we’re doing things in a much slower, more conscientious manner. And it’s gonna cost a lot more to do that our profit margins are smaller, we have way less cushion. That’s the reality, right, and our product prices are still higher than what you could get from, you know, a traditional factory or, or whatnot. Right? So it is harder to run a business like that already. And then if you throw on a global pandemic, supply chain disruptions and shipping disruptions and a climate crisis, and, you know, wars and all kinds of other stuff, right, like, authoritarian, yeah. Rulers. Fantasy. You know, all of that, right? Like, how, if you’re trying to run a business, and also increasing monopolies? Like, I think that’s a real, like increasing monopolies of like, large corporations is a real threat. Yeah, you know, and that has only gotten worse over the pandemic, and especially in the fashion industry, as well, there’s massive consolidation going on, which is making it even harder for smaller businesses to compete. So given all that, right, like, if, if, if I had to decide to do something that was incredibly against my values in order to keep this business alive, I wouldn’t do it. Because for me, like the success of Tony, is what we’ve been able to accomplish, while we’re still keeping true to our values. If I didn’t, if someone said, Hey, you have to, you can keep your business alive, but you have to pay your workers half as much for example, like, to me, that would not be a success, right? So it’s a little bit about changing our definition of success. If a business like ours cannot, cannot succeed, because we tried to stay true to our principles, that is more a reflection of society failing than it is us failing, right. And I would rather I would rather shut down, then like massively compromise on my principles. And I’ve seen, you know, people take investment money, for example, and radically change and really become diluted on their values and so forth. And I’ve had to pass up money from investors because I again, I would rather be smaller or grow slower than take capital from an investor who’s going to pressure me to change in a way, because the beauty of tonight is our values. Yeah, right. Yeah. So without that, like, we aren’t successful. Um, so I guess that’s my perspective on it. I think I think as a society, part of it is, is about Yes, I want businesses like us to survive and thrive as well. But if society creates an empire MIT in which we cannot thrive. That is society that is politics that is people failing us. Not us failing.
Adam G. Force 30:09
That’s interesting. Yeah. And I mean, compromising on values. Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s, there’s always it’s like the temptation of the devil on your shoulder, right? Like, man. We can cut some costs over here. All you got to do is this right? And, but I mean, companies, like there’s companies have what was this company to a billion dollar company. I remember I was back. This is several years ago, I was reading a book. And he’s like, they had to get people to work for him for the first like year with no pay. And then, you know, once they really got a foothold, it’s now became this massive company, but they had to believe in that person, and also take that hit. The only reason I thought about that is because he talked about cutting pay and stuff, but like, sometimes there could be short term hits in order to get back on track for long term wins. Right. So now you gotta Yeah,
Rachel Faller 31:05
I mean, I think that’s somewhat true. But I think it also really depends on okay. So like, if you have investors, or people who are massively privileged, who can take a whole year and not get paid, then sure that sounds great. But like that, what that also says to me is this company is obviously either serving or working with a demographic of people who are very privileged, who can afford to literally take a year off work, like I can’t do that. No, no, no. You know, to me, that says a lot about and you know, there of course, there are startups, right? Where if the founders say, Okay, we’re going to invest our time in exchange for equity, that’s very different to me then using an entire year of somebody’s labor without compensating them. I know, I know. So that that sounds really, I don’t know that I don’t know what the specific
Adam G. Force 31:54
sound was. It might have been six months, I don’t remember. But it was pretty, pretty crazy. Because the reason I was reading about it, because when I first started change creator, I was the guy trying to run this magazine and stuff, which had crazy overhead. And I was trying to get writers and designers and people I was like, Oh, well, here’s the deal, we’ll do that. I was wheeling and dealing. And I was seeing how these other people dance things in the beginning to get going, you know, and that stood out to me. So yeah, it’s interesting, people come up with all kinds of crazy creative ideas. But I kind of have knowing in the back of my brain, something you mentioned, about your reverse model, almost like, you know, normally it’s market first, right? Not like a product first, meaning you’re not product first, but you’re kind of like materials first. Right?
Rachel Faller 32:41
That was first and I would say it’s about the product, in a way is the work environment and the company culture that we want to create. And creating this environment for our team, like our customer is actually kind of our team, right? We’re trying to create a work environment in the garment space that actually honors and uphold these people. To do so we need to make clothes and we need to say, yeah,
Adam G. Force 33:04
yeah, right. Well, in the clothes, I mean, hey, that’s yes. Okay. But the clothes are a product that you produce to provide living wages to all these amazing people that design them. So we do need to, we do need to sell them and close. Yep, yeah. Otherwise, nobody does. Nobody gets paid. If not, right. So you know. Now the interesting thing, though, is, there must be like, I still feel like even with that model, you could be market first meaning Hey, what are the trends? What’s really hot? Like? What’s different? What’s unique? And then, can we back into it with the materials we have? No? Well,
Rachel Faller 33:47
it’s a little bit of both. Like, I would say that, of course, like to succeed in the fashion industry, like you have to design products that people want to buy. And, you know, and going back to your question about how much does sustainability motivate people, you know, what I’ve seen is that the sustainability and the ethics and all of that is what gets people to your brand. But once they’ve landed on your website, and however, they came to your website, and they’re seeing all your beautiful products, what’s gonna actually make them buy is whether or not they bought that product? Do they need that product? Does it fit them? Is it their style? And is the price right for them? Right? So at the end of the day, it’s like the sustainability isn’t what’s going to make that final sale, it might help create loyal customers, it might help bring people to you through PR and marketing and so forth. But ultimately, clothing is a very personal thing. And it’s ultimately comes down to like comfort style fit. Price. And that’s the end of it. Right? And so if you don’t watch
Adam G. Force 34:45
television making, right Right, yeah. Which is all such a cool, brand sustainable ways for you. But then once they get past that emotional, it’s like alright, now let me do my logical checklist as a fit. Is it my style that right
Rachel Faller 34:59
And even that is emotional to because for a lot of people, especially women, where it’s like, it’s about how clearly makes them feel, and, you know, fit is a very emotional thing as well, you know, and it’s also tied up so much in how we view, gender and bodies and ability to, you know, class and all of this stuff. Right? So it’s, it’s actually way more emotional and self. You know, it’s a process that could create self reflection, but typically doesn’t. So it is it’s a complicated, it’s a complicated thing. But yeah, it’s, at the end of the day, you know, navigating all of that and figuring out how to produce a product that is also going to make our customers. For us, it’s not so much about looking good, but it’s, it’s actually how does this garment make you feel? Is it something that you want to put on your body? does it align with who you want to be as a person? And so there’s this kind of customer satisfaction, I think that comes from not just like, it’s cute, it makes me look good. But it actually makes me feel like I put this on and I feel like aligned with who I want to be in the
Adam G. Force 36:09
world. Yeah, and I love that. Yeah. So it’s
Rachel Faller 36:13
something that does serve our customers as well, right. It’s not just that they’re, they’re helping us, but we’re also helping them because we’re providing them a product or a service that allows them to live out their values.
Adam G. Force 36:24
That’s That’s exactly it. I mean, it feels good to buy something that, you know, comes from a good place. Right, right. I mean, every time someone buys one of Jake’s bags, because it’s sourced, and they’re like, so excited about it, I mean, literally, the bag is twice as much as anything on the market. But when they buy it, they’re like, This is amazing. And I’m so excited to be part of this thing.
Rachel Faller 36:47
And you’re proud to wear it and you tell your friends about it. And it’s like, and that’s where kind of that loyalty comes in, as repeat customers. But it’s like, you’re making people, you’re creating your community. And I know that’s kind of marketing buzzwords or whatever. But like people are part of making that work possible. And they’re part of that community and supporting that, like, yeah, and people buy these clothes, like, not only does it feel good for them, but they like they can feel like they’re supporting this, you know, different vision.
Adam G. Force 37:14
Yeah, I like that. Now, if you’re creating things from materials that you have, are you if you have a top seller, are you able to continue making that top seller or does it fade away?
Rachel Faller 37:28
Well, sometimes it really depends, because a lot of the materials so we go to these, like secondhand markets, where there’s just like, piles and piles of scrap fabrics that are leftover from the factories. And a lot of the fabrics that we see, it’ll be the similar types of fabrics, like you know, the gap is always going to be making black T shirts, and navy blue T shirts and gray T shirts. So there’s always going to be those fabrics, right. But then there’s also some more unique colors. And you know, it also is very seasonal. Like a lot of times we’ll see, like last season’s trend colors will be like in the piles of waste. So it’s and there’s some stuff that I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that we wouldn’t use. So we can kind of select, like what we want out of these, and then we buy it by the kilogram. And so um, you know, we pull out all these cracks and these bolts of fabric and then they wait for us and so forth. And they’re like kind of these remnant dealers who go through what the garment factories are throwing away and select what they think they can resolve. Interesting. Yeah, so if there’s a fabric that, so So certain certain times we design products around fabrics that we know, we’re always gonna find, that’s why we use a lot of Jersey, like T shirts, fabric, because that a lot of clothes are now made out of those types of fabrics. And then we also sometimes will have limited edition fabrics where we’re like, Okay, this style, we’re gonna make this fabric when it’s gone, it’s gone. And then maybe, you know, if it was really popular, we might rerun it in another color, or fabric. Right? Okay. Yeah. Yeah,
Adam G. Force 39:02
I mean, because yeah, I mean, that just came to mind because as I think like when we work with people, I’m like, What’s your top seller? What’s your, you know, I can ask certain questions about things. And I was like, geez, I wonder if you could have that consistently for people or not. So it sounds like there are certain things that could be consistent, right? In some cases, colors could change and stuff like
Rachel Faller 39:24
that. Right. Exactly. Okay.
Adam G. Force 39:28
That’s, that’s interesting. Okay. So I guess, you know, we’ll, we’ll wrap up here and I’m curious, just where, I mean, what’s the I know we talked about some stuff like and I know like, there’s a lot going on in the world and everything. So where are you? Where’s your head at now? With tone lay as far as just getting through 2020? Well, you know, next steps like how are we adapting to everything thing like, we’re What do you think in at this point?
Rachel Faller 40:03
Oh, gosh. Um, so there’s a lot of different ideas. I mean, the thing, that’s, I think the thing that’s been hard over the last few years is like, everything has changed so much in the world. And even like business modes and structures. And, you know, like, I’ve said this a few times, but if you pick up a business textbook from before, 2020, basically, you throw it out the window, because it’s completely irrelevant, like everything is like completely different, no advice that anyone can give you, it’s gonna help you. So it’s really kind of taking it day by day, like, a big part of it is just really, like, we can’t forecast like a year in advance, we can’t even work we can’t forecast five years in advance, let alone like, you know, six months in advance, right. So really building a lot of I think on a bigger picture is building a lot of flexibility into our business and building more space for things to go wrong, essentially. And, um, you know, part of an, you know, we’ve been hit with a supply chain issues, and we’ve been hit with closures of our workshops, and, you know, having to be really flexible with people taking off work, and all of that affects our production capacity. And then when we can’t produce we don’t have enough price. So we’re still paying the same rates, you know, I’m the cost of shipping went up. And there’s and then you know, with every, there’s, there’s so much uncertainty. So I think the biggest thing for me right now is really thinking about, like, how do we structure this business in a way that there is a lot of flexibility, not only as a business, not only financially, but also for all the people that work at Tony, who also need flexibility, because there’s just a lot of stress going on in the world. And then, you know, I’d say on a, on another level, like, we have a couple of like, you know, we’re just exploring a lot of different options for new ways to pivot and new strategies to test and there’s a couple of like, exciting potential projects coming up, but I can’t quite say what they are right now. But there are like things in the works. But it’s just like, at the moment, I’m also just like, you know, what, we’re humans, we’re trying to all do the best we can, things are gonna keep going wrong, because that is how the world is right now. And we kind of have to be okay with that, and just kind of ride with it and just do our best. So that’s, that’s kind of where my head’s at. I’m, I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished as a business. And regardless of, you know, if, like, we can’t sustain in the, in this future world, because it’s a really hard world to operate in, I’m still gonna be really proud of what we’ve accomplished.
Adam G. Force 42:30
So you guys will you guys will sustain very well, because you’ll find ways to adapt with the the changes and stuff. And you know, honestly, marketing is nothing more than a game of perception. So when you can just kind of position this thing the right way and find the right hook, you’ll, you’ll get back on track, after all the crazy COVID and everything else we talked about that’s going on in the world. But you know, if you made it 15 years so far with all the other ups and downs, I’m sure you guys will navigate your way.
Rachel Faller 43:05
I started my business in 2008. And everybody was like, why are you crazy? Yeah, right. But, you know, at that point, I was like, it couldn’t. It could only go up from here, right? I guess we’re going through another round of that. But yeah.
Adam G. Force 43:24
Oh, no, no, the pendulum always swings both ways. So just hang
Rachel Faller 43:28
tight. Yeah. Thank you so much. Well, great chatting with you.
Adam G. Force 43:32
It’s great chatting with you, too. I appreciate you coming back on and kind of just talking about everything that you have going on today. And I just like sharing your I love your strong stance on, you know, your beliefs and values. You know, so I’ve always found it a struggle in the social entrepreneurship world of sticking to your values and being money minded and things like that and trying to find that balance. You know what I mean? Because you do need both right, and one way shape or form. So, I appreciate you sharing today. And yeah, it was just good to see
Rachel Faller 44:05
you too. Thank you so much.
Adam G. Force 44:07
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai