Episode 153 - Building an On-Campus Eco-Fashion Business with Factory Green
GreenTalk host Sean Daily talks with Daniel Lyons and Jack Short of Factory Green, a purveyor of eco-friendly, fashion-forward apparel, accessories, and apartment wares, provides socially and environmentally aware consumers with an expressive way to live green.
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Sean Daily: Hey, everybody this is Sean Daily host of Green Talk Radio, if you haven’t already owned, I want to encourage you to greenlivingideas.com. Green ideals monthly news letter. Let me assure you the newsletter is packed full of tips and information to help you live a greener more sustainable life. Including topics like renewable energy, alternative fuel vehicles and transportation, simple living, natural foods and health, eco fashion, and seasonal on holiday tips. Signing up for the newsletter is quick and easy and only takes a few seconds. Just visit greenlivingideas.com/newsletter.
Hi and welcome to green talk. A podcast series from greenlivingideas.com. Green talk helps listeners in their efforts to live more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today and well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Hey everyone this is Sean Daily with Green Talk Radio and greenlivingideas.com. I’d really like to first say before we start with episode. I would like to thank everyone for voting for Green Talk Radio at the Podcast Awards at the Podcastawards.com. I’ m recording this before the voting is closed so I don’t know if we have won or not. But either way we really appreciate you guys taking the time to vote for us in your support of the show. On today’s episode we are gonna be talking about eco-fashion and new styles of business models out there, that are springing up across the country from young entrepreneurs or eco-preneurs as they are called. Fashion is big business and the business of eco-fashion is no exception. With everyone from the big brands to mum and paps shops getting into sustainable fashion. There is significant competition which reflect significant consumer demand from more eco conscious manufacturers and products from today’s younger generation.
One of the more interesting companies competing in this space was the brain child of two enterprising young college students who also happen to be pre-med students attending University of Missoura or Missouri depending on where you are in the country. The two have created a unique and interesting campus inspired green business model that has garnered national attention and is representative of the Avant Guard sustainable business models that is springing up across the nation. Daniel Lyons and Jack Short are the co- founders of facultygreen.com an online purveyor of eco-friendly apparel, accessories and apartment wears for the younger generation. Both Daniel and Jack are pre-med undergraduates at the University of Missouri, Colombia and will be attending the University Of Missouri School Of Medicine in the fall 2009. With their passion for sustainability and a green lifestyle the two see Factory Green as the future of the young casual fashion. Factory Greens curbing neutral apparel was designed by the University fashion students. And every aspect of the company is run by under graduate and graduate students from the University. Their Clothing is being embraced by environmental retailers and customer the world over and are currently found in numerous eco boutiques both in the US and abroad.
Gentlemen welcome to the program.
Jack Short: Hey Sean. great to be here. It’s great to be on the show Sean.
Sean Daily: It’s great to have you. So ultimately what most is interesting, to me at least, about businesses like factory green is the story that goes behind the business. So am curious if you would tell me about and our listeners about how you guys first met and when the idea of putting this business together was first conceived. How that happened?
Jack Short: Well sure, Daniel Lyons and I actually have known each other since we were about 8 years old. We have lived across the street from our houses in Kansas City and we really started Factory Green as a result of me spending time abroad in UK and Daniel spending time abroad in various European capitals. In 2007, I lived over there for five months and so really got to see kind of the green movement and eco-friendly aspects in a real living sense and it wasn’t just a fad or a trend. It was really a lifestyle that was being embraced and people were absolutely taking it by storm. And so our idea was to bring some of that enthusiasm back to Colombia Missouri. Well, then we figured out why can’t we just bring this to the country and to the world. Because we saw that the youth really needed an outlet for the eco-friendly movement and what better way to do that than through fashion something that people are already heavily involved with to begin with. And I would love to tell you that there was some kind of an epiphany light bulb moment, but it was probably the result of youthful high jigs and drunk and drunken debauchery that this idea came around.
Sean Daily: Well some of the best ideas I imagined are developed that way. So that is not necessarily a bad thing. So this wasn’t just a way to pay for med school. It was something that was personally motivated through your personal ethos and your experience then?
Jack Short: Yeah, absolutely, you know Jack and I, you have been environmentalist for a long time. We’re both science geeks here so you know the whole climate change and environmental problems really are of interest to us and you know as time abroad really got us excited about the possibilities of bringing the green movement to a younger generation and so that’s what we’ve been working on ever since we launched last May.
Sean Daily: Am interested about the climate there, no pun intended, at the University of Missoura with regards to the sustainability of the Green Movement on campus. Is that a very strong movement there or are you guys somewhat unique?
Jack Short: Yeah, in the last year it has just grown exponentially. Even a campus organization has called Sustain Missou that has over a hundred active members and there is even talk about of course creating sustainability, advisers, all kinds of things like that. however really at Missou it has taken off in the last year people are really thinking about their carbon foot print, university curators are really trying to emphasize conservation. So it is really a perfect environment for us to thrive in. And all the people we talk to, the students have been super enthusiastic about what we are doing.
Sean Daily: Now how have you gotten other students involved in this project?
Jack Short: Begging and borrowing. But you know people are excited here at the university. People want real world experience in terms of you know getting out there and really making a difference and so you know we bring on board the best and the brightest students from every department of the university, everything from fashion, to journalism to marketing to advertising, all over.
Sean Daily: Well and how many students are currently involved or how many employees do you have, in the business?
Jack Short: We have 15 students that are currently involved and everyone in our business is under the age of 23 with the exception of our old lawyers of course.
Sean Daily: Ok, and so then tell me about the day to day operations of the business, how are these various people and yourselves, what are you doing, are you working together in one large room somewhere on campus. Tell us, describe sort of the business and how it operates?
Jack Short: Well we have lots of beer meetings Sean. You know we meet weekly as a large group and usually individually almost every day. So, you know each person really is working on a different aspect. from you know getting our company name out there Factor Green [07.18] you know throughout Colombia and on campus, we got people who work on our blog, who are really, in terms of sales and getting our name out there online. And also we have people from the fashion school doing various designs for us. We have graphic designers; we have marketing professors doing, having their classes, do marketing profiles and networks for our company. So we have really gotten the entire campus involved and we have gotten a lot of people energized by the green movement. And hopefully that has a really trickled down effect in their daily lives.
Sean Daily: Interesting. So how is the school responding to these is the school itself acknowledging of this business and they are supportive of it?
Jack Short: Well they haven’t given us free tuition, so we are gonna assume that we are not quite interested yet.
Sean Daily: Well maybe that will come in year two.
Jack Short: Well the school really is, it’s really taking on board a lot of these initiatives and they have really been supportive of us. For example our university book store is carrying our line now and we are doing the whole University of Missouri apparel line to be featured in time for the home coming games. So it is really a thing where the university culture has embraced us and we are gonna be spreading that out to other big twelve schools in the country as well. And one of the great aspects is that being an online company, we can really reach anyone and everyone. So we are really enthusiastic about that and about getting other people on board as well.
Sean Daily: Have you seen an inspired effect with other students where other students having being inspired by this business model have either started similar businesses, either on University of Missouri Campus or at other school that you are aware of?
Jack Short: You know not that we are aware of, in terms of expecting people to start their own business. But you know to giving presentation on campus and in other universities. You know you really see some light bulbs going on in people’s heads, you know there are excited to know that there are people our there, there are students just like them, who are really really lashing on to the green movement and working towards spreading that out to the younger generation.
Sean Daily: Ok, well let’s talk about some of the specifics in the business and your products. I would like to hear more about that. First of all I was wondering about how you guys locate and evaluate suppliers you are working with.
Jack Short: Well, there is a whole lot of people doing green things out there and one of our paramount of Factory Green is that you can’t just slap a label on it and call it eco-friendly. So what we do is we actually through the blog community and through other means we just go through, and we find the stuff that’s interesting, we find what people are talking a bout and then we go through the process and talking with these manufacturers is your stuff is as good as you say it is. And if it passed all those mustard tests, well then we put it towards our friends and our colleagues here at the university. And we see if people like it and that’s the number one indicator because we are surrounded by our own demographic. And for example for our T-shirts we didn’t want to just do regular organic cotton, we wanted to take it a step further and so with our shirts they are all 100% low impact organic cotton. However they are also manufactured solely on wind and solar power all by fare trade workers. So it’s really the best the market can offer right now.
Sean Daily: Ok. So tell us about some of your major sustainable product lines. Maybe some of the ones that are more popular. And why you choose those particular products for inclusion?
Jack Short: Our most popular right now is our apparel. You know people love our shirts. You know it seems like everybody right now on campus has got our shirts. But we are branching out in terms of eco-boutiques all over the world. But you know also aside from our apparel lines, we offer some great accessories and house wares all of which are either recycled or sustainable in someway or another. But you know what’s really important, everything that is on the site is what you would see your average 28, 22 year old college student having either on their dorm, or their apartment or wearing. You know we are not a company that is trying to target the Hollywood elite, if you will, you know we are, we have those products, they are cool, that you can have and live and wear you know everyday.
Sean Daily: So the target market is really focused round the campus crowd or its equivalent. Is that accurate?
Jack Short: I would say the age is common as well absolutely; it is really stuff that we ourselves love and our friends love and that hopefully everyone else likes as well. And judging by what people have been saying on the blogs on our success, I would say is that people have been pretty big fans of our success.
Sean Daily: I know marketing is everything in business getting the word out. How is that been for you guys, you know what kind of marketing budget to you have to competing with some of these other companies that are in this space and has the internet been a big part of that?
Jack Short: Well, that’s just the thing, our marketing budget is so little its absolutely hilarious. But the great thing about the internet is that you don’t need to be the big guy in order to make a big difference. We are a small student run company and we are already just having a huge flash at the market here. And so what we have been really fortunate is a lot of the blogging community has gone absolutely nuts over Factory Green and also kind of the ideals that we are present. I think it is a company with a mission. That’s great, and it is a company with a mission that’s run by the young generation for the young generation. That’s just by the icing on the cake right there. So it’s really a combination of that bio and marketing, that blogosphere if you will. And also we of course have a little bit of ads on Facebook and Google you know like every online company has to do.
Sean Daily: Yeah. Yeah and I wonder has Facebook, am imaging that Facebook might be alittle bit more successful for you guys than it has been for your average Joe corporation Beacuse of the Facebook’s relevance to the target demographic bit that you have. I know alot of businesses haven’t sort of found their footing on Facebook. Has that been a successful platform for you?
Jack Short: Yeah,, absolutely. You get the bigger corporations and the older people who try to put their company on Facebook and they will always kind of seem like imposters a little bit. You know coz Facebook, it is for the younger generation so you know people really you know embrace our company because we are a student run company and so being able to market ourselves on Facebook has really, really being successful for us. We also have our Facebook group and Facebook page that has really helped to keep people informed as to what we are up to. Coz we can move a little bit first and like you said these other corporations have put ups ads on Facebook because they have heard about Facebook probably from their teenage daughter. Well we are kind of standing out from that crowd.
Sean Daily: Right, yeah I think they fail to be obligatory, they hire a young marketing intern and say hey we have to be on all of these different sites and then they sort of don’t keep it up and it just sort of sits there and it looks a little bit disingenuous as it were.
Jack Short: Exactly
Sean Daily: well, I have a few more questions for you guys, am fascinated by the discussion and hearing about the business. We will be right back after a short break. My guests today are Daniel Lyons and Jack Short, they are both pre-med students at the University of Missouri Colombia and they are the co-founders of Factory Green an online purveyor of eco-friendly apparel, accessories and apartment wares targeting towards the younger generation. We will be right back on Green Talk Radio. Thanks everybody.
Hey everybody we are back on Green Talk Radio, this is Sean Daily we are talking today on eco-fashion and new business models from young eco-preneurs. We are talking today with Daniel Lyons and Jack Short who are the co-founders of factorygreen.com and also two pre-med students at the University of Missouri, who are employing their knowledge from being on campus students as well as the actually university resources and students themselves to build a new style of business. They are an online purveyor of eco-friendly apparel, accessories and apartment wares for the younger generation. Gentlemen we were talking before the break about the business model and how you guys first met and came up about doing all of these. And sort of the structure of the business, picking suppliers and products. I would like to ask you a little bit about from your won campus vantage point. What is it the younger environmentally aware crowd wanting these days, both in terms of fashion as well as from the brands and their purchasing.
Jack Short: yeah, absolutely Sean, you know the younger generation. Our generation they wanna go green without having to sacrifice you know style and fashion for comfort. You know the whole Spartan idea doesn’t really fly with the young crowd. So the whole goal of Factory Green is brought by you know the apparel a little edgier, a little different you are not gonna see elsewhere that’s got a bit of an urban outdoors feel to it. And you know our company really is looking to break that stereo type that to go green means that you have to give things up. You have to sacrifice. You have to sort of live by that hippie stereo type lifestyle. So that’s, those are the stereo types we are trying to break in and I think that we are doing that very well with the clothing that we offer.
Daniel Lyons: Absolutely we have a focus on kind of the edgy, apparel that really tries to make a statement because no one is ever made a difference by doing the normal thing. So we are trying to really break down some of those boundaries, trade a new merchandize for people to express themselves. And so, hopefully services better for change.
Sean Daily: Yeah it seems that there has been several waves of these movements where we had the first wave was sort of I don’t know hippiest clothing and the people didnt, there wasnt as much consiouness to sorround the fashion element but rather that there was a sustainability manuafacturer and source...
Jack Short: right
Sean Daily: ... fair trade involved and things like that, which is good. But then there sort of been the hipper sort of Manhattan crowd and European and Paris crowd and people like that are starting to say ok will we get that too or there are too but we also wonna make sure that this stuff looks good and feels good and is something that people wonna wear and has you know fashion appeal.
Jack Short: Yeah
Sean Daily: ..and it seems like, but there is also obviously price currencies so it seems that is also room for something in the middle where its everyday ware. And I know you guys started with t-shirts which are a always worldly popular on campus. How much of your business is still the t-shirt business versus maybe some of the haute culture type items?
Jack Short: Well the majority of our business actually comes from the apparel and might be said that the biggest seller of that is the t-shirt. And as there’s a couple of reasons behind that is that one of them is incredibly soft, the organic cotton. Before I started on this I really didn’t know the difference. But now that I have seen it and worn it and I can tell you that it is just great. It is quite great to know that you are helping that out. You know make a difference and its all fair trade as well like you said. But also you know it is something that a little bit more Manhattan style like you might say. And so it’s sort of making an appeal to everyone.
Sean Daily: So am curious. In starting this from a business point. Why did you guys pick to focus specifically on this demograph creating the [18.54] crowd because, you know thats what you understand where you are coming from or did you feel that from a business stand point that that was really the best place to be?
Daniel Lyons: You know Sean, the answer is both. You know Jack and I know ourselves. We know our generation. So that really, that’s what we are all about. And also from a business stand point you know there is nobody else really doing this out there. there is other green companies out there that are, you know are either selling inferior products or are selling products that you know really target the older crowd, you know your mum and dad. That’s not what Factory Green is. We are not...
Sean Daily: or me in this case?
Daniel Lyons: ...We are not..
Sean Daily: I’m forty you know. I cant I’m that guy...
Daniel Lyons: we are not talking about you
Sean Daily: We do not hate. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Daniel Lyons: yeah, seriously. No, we get lots of business from the older crowd but, you know, everything that we do is targeted and geared towards. You know what our friends like,and the people around us. And that’s the younger crowd.
Sean Daily: Cool. Now I know that a portion of Factory Green profits are going to an United Nations charity called Water for Life. Which I understand works to provide safe drinking water and sanitation in developing countries. Can you tell us a little bit about that relationship?
Daniel Lyons: Well the relationship is Jay Zee is the spokesman and we just kind of fell in the line after he told us to. In all serious though, water is the number one necessity for life, and there is over a billion people on the planet that don’t have access to clean water. And we as a bunch of pre-med geeks think that’s absolutely ridiculous because it is one of the things that has greatly improved healthcare over the past century. And so we want to work to provide those clean water initiatives to the developing world and this UN Water for Life campaign has set an [20.36] 2005 to 2015 as the decade for life. so we really want to get onboard of that program so a portion of all our proceeds are going towards those initiatives.
Sean Daily: So how are things going so far? Are you guys doing well? Are you profitable?
Daniel Lyons: we’re kicking ass and taking names
Sean Daily: Great, that’s great. Are you releasing any figures or just of generically, you know just leaving it there for now.
Daniel Lyons: We gonna dance round that question.
Sean Daily: ok
Daniel Lyons: But we gonna say that we are doing a very well business wise. It’s been an excellent ride of us. We have been over a hundred thousand dollars. So for a student company and say you know, the first six months of business that's not too bad and we're hoping this to grow internationally as well.
Sean Daily: Well that's great. Well being in the black and in anyway shape or form in this economic climate and in the industry that you are in which is highly competitive as I said in the introduction is quite something. And you know there have been companies ,I'm curious you know there’s been companies like Now which, has been an interesting story to follow because they came on to the scene a bunch of people from Pandegonia and some of the other companies that.
Daniel Lyons: Right
Sean Daily: formerly there, started the company buns blazing no that would be guns blazing I don't know about their buns but their guns are blazing.
Daniel Lyons: What kind of a radio show is this?
Sean Daily: Yeah I'm sorry we changed or rating recently we’re mature audiences only now. So they came out on to the scene and they were getting all of the marketing hype and everything going and then they went out of business pretty quickly to many people's shock and dismay and then sort of as a phoenix from the ashes rose again and they are back in business. Seeing stories like that does that make you nervous or does that even affect you in any way?
Daniel Lyons: Well we kind of want to avoid the ashes part but we hope to just keep rising. And so you know as, hearing some of those stories yeah. But at the same time it shows kind of a shift in public thought towards this green and eco-friendly lifestyle and some people have been calling it a fad for like the last two years but it's still sticking around and gaining momentum. We think it's here to stay, and we're banking on that fact.
Sean Daily: Great well thank you both so much for coming to the program and talking with us today it's a fascinating story and we surely wish you much continued success in the future with factorgreen.com
Daniel Lyons: Thanks a lot Sean. Cheers.
Sean Daily: And for those of you listening today, who are interested in today's topic. I encourage you to go to the greenliving ideas.com website under the topics menu under both clothing and fashion as well as the business section to find more articles and other interviews that I've done with ecoprenuers on these topics. Thanks everyone as always for listening in to Green Talk Radio we'll see you next time. Thanks as always to everyone listening in today remember for more free on demand podcasts ,articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com.We'd also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions. Send us an e-mail at [email protected]
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