Starting an Upcycled Apparel Company
Interview with Alex Eaves, Owner and Founder of STAY VOCAL
Alex Eaves had a strong belief in making the world a better place, so he put his business where his mouth is. His company STAY VOCAL recycles t-shirts destined for the dump into stylish new apparel.
Interview with Alex Eaves, Owner and Founder of STAY VOCAL.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
STAY VOCAL is a Green America-certified ReUse apparel company. About half of SV's apparel line is made from t-shirts that were going to be destroyed. We simply cover the original design with a patch or screenprinted logo. The other half of our apparel is found at thrift stores and through donations, allowing us to offer more unique items to our customers.
When did you start the business?
While STAY VOCAL started small in 2003 and had many transformations over the years, it truly solidified as a ReUse apparel company in 2008.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before I started the company, I was a touring merchandiser for rock bands. I traveled the world selling t-shirts at concerts for the majority of the year.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I was driven to start STAY VOCAL by my work with the non profit group Anti-Racist Action, as well as merchandising for numerous bands who are devoted to positivity and making this world a better place. I really enjoyed seeing their impact on people and how fans were inspired to do good things. And as time went on, I really thought that I could do something similar.
At the same time, I saw the mass production of new merchandise being made and learned disturbing facts about the garment industry. I named my company STAY VOCAL because too many people sit around and let things happen or just complain about the way things are, without ever doing anything about it. I wanted to start a project that encourages people to use the most important tool that they have when it comes to making change: their voice. I'm here to encourage people to make an easy positive change in a fun way.
What outside resources were helpful for you -- Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, etc.?
Many of the bands that I sold merchandise for and toured with have been extremely helpful with STAY VOCAL. From co-branding products to promoting STAY VOCAL online to allowing me to sell merchandise at their concerts, a price really couldn't be put on their help.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes. The benefits were, of course, the money saved and commute time. The challenges were not getting distracted with other things going on in the house. I encourage anyone thinking about working in the home to set rigid time schedules and make sure that everyone in the house abides by them.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
Most definitely! That's what my company is all about. And after becoming Green America-certified in 2008, there is a lot more trust in what I am doing.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Honestly, look at reusing whenever you can. If you need office furniture, buy used. If you need computers, buy used. If you need mailing supplies, reuse packing materials. It really has saved me a lot of money. Just an example, buying a new box to send an order in would cost about 25¢. Instead, I reuse food packaging like cereal boxes to mail our orders in. Multiple that by thousands of orders over the past few years and that's a HUGE savings!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Pick a focus and go with it. Don't spread yourself too thin.
What a great idea to recycle those old T-shirts! Maybe I can donate some to you. Thanks for talking with me, Alex.
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