March 15, 2017
Ethical Textile Manufacturing: One Mom’s Mission to Make a Difference

My name is Lindsay. I am a stay at home mom and entrepreneur. Over the past 9 months, I have developed a headband company called HeadPeace. Why headbands, you ask? I love headbands. They have a nice profit margin and they are simple to manufacture. I’ve always considered myself to be a good person, but this is the first time I can actually say I am making a difference in the world. Though maybe on a small scale at the current moment, I know I have the power in my hands to grow HeadPeace, thus helping more and more people in need.

Ethical Garment Manufacturing in Nepal
Ethical Garment Manufacturing in Nepal

Purnaa’s mission is to empower individuals and communities to become whole and complete, free from the enslaving cycle of poverty. They do this by creating job opportunities for those whose marginalized status in society prevents them from getting work elsewhere. As a social enterprise, they make this mission their top priority, re-investing our profits to further Purnaa’s social impact.  Each day, in everything they do, they work towards their goal of creating ethical, dignified, and meaningful jobs for those in need. I absolutely cannot imagine what these women have been through, and it warms my heart to know places like Purnaa are out there helping them out—and I am very, very honored to be a part of that.

In the beginning, when I came up with the idea of starting a headband business, I really knew next to nothing about starting my own business. I did know my first step was finding someone to make them for me. I immediately began researching manufacturers overseas. I wasn’t too excited about working with the companies I discovered for a couple of reasons: broken English and unknown factory conditions. It simply didn’t sit well with me, not knowing how these factories operated and how they treated their employees. Not to say they weren’t great companies, I just wanted a more personal connection.

I am a firm believer of divine “coincidences.” A few days later, I was at a local gymnastics center, watching my little one in class. I had never seen the lady sitting next to me, so I introduced myself. I asked her if she was new to the area and she proceeded to tell me her family was back in Colorado visiting their family. Corban, Katrina and their kids live in Nepal and own a textile manufacturing company, called Purnaa. It was meant to be. We had them over, sat in our living room, and talked about product design.

 

The next few months were spent communicating back and forth via email and skype with my new business partners. Soon thereafter, the production process began. The first major hurtle was finding fabric, and it wasn’t an easy one to get over. Creating sound relationships with fabric suppliers outside of Nepal was a challenge. It took time to establish relationships with fabric manufacturers in Asia. After trial and error over many months, we were able to find a reliable and consistent source.

Honestly, I wouldn’t say any of the product and business development was easy, for I had never done anything like this in my life. I put myself to work by watching webinars on starting your own business, reading business plan books and designing websites.

I then created my company name, logo, product tag, LLC, purchased UPC labels, etc. It was easy to feel overwhelmed during this journey, but I think when you put yourself out of your comfort zone and learn something new, it keeps your brain young. Since virtually all of this business development was new to me, it took a lot of time and required a lot of research. Facebook and Instagram friends were a huge help with creating my company name and slogan, choosing my fabric options, and designing my logo. I’ve learned there is an endless number of free resources out there to help a new entrepreneur like myself. It’s all about taking one step at a time, and that alone kept me going.

In April, I received my first batch of 650 headbands. I was so very excited to finally see the finished product I had been working so hard on for months. I opened the box…and was in tears. The fabric was so inconsistent, that some of the headbands had no stretch-ablilty at all. I couldn’t sell them. Thank goodness my manufacturer is amazing, and we worked together to make it right. The trouble was, I had already launched by business.

It was back to the drawing board. Corban and I basically became the best of friends, for we seemed to talk via email and skype almost daily. He scrambled to find me some local fabrics, for it was much quicker and easier to find a fabric supply in Nepal. Unfortunately, the pattern options were limited and the fabric was too thin. Purnaa worked on finding new fabric suppliers for me over the next 3-4 weeks. Finally, we had found the perfect supplier that would custom print my pattern options for me! I received a sample headband in June, and I told Purnaa to pull the trigger. This time, we started with just 250 headbands in 4 different prints, just to be sure this new fabric supplier wasn’t going to give us the same problem as the last one, with inconsistent fabric. I received these headbands in early June, and they were great!

Purnaa Employees
Purnaa Employees

I needed more headbands, and quick! Since my original launch of HeadPeace, I had been able to land deals with a few dozen boutiques, gyms, yoga studios and grocery stores (including Natural Grocers) around the country. I was surprised to learn that wholesale costs are typically 50% of retail. My headbands retail at $16, with a wholesale cost of $8 (and this is before I pay Purnaa their manufacturing fees), so volume is where it’s at, if you want to come out ahead.

I have learned a lot about importing goods from foreign countries–it is a lengthy and expensive process. It can take a few weeks to receive the fabric ordered from our supplier in China. Purnaa then has to work my headbands into their production line and get them ready to ship. Once shipped, they need to clear customs and will arrive on my doorstep. From date of order to Purnaa, it takes approx. 6-8 weeks to receive my headbands in the states. My next big order of 650 arrived late August. The headbands were perfect, though the excitement I felt this time came from the photo and note from Purnaa Employees I found sitting on top of my headbands.

Purnaa’s newest member of the team cutting Headpeace headbands
Purnaa’s newest member of the team cutting Headpeace headbands

Though creating HeadPeace has been a very difficult process, I have grown significantly. It is the most amazing feeling to know I am not only helping support our family’s financial well-being, but I am making a difference in the world, by supporting a wonderful company in Nepal. I am so proud to now have fashionable, quality, socially-ethical headbands to sell you!

Check out HeadPeace:

Headpeace Website

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