Published on January 24th, 2014 | by Derek Markham0
Interview with Sustainable Clothing Eco-Entrepreneur Zach Bogoshian
We’re big advocates of the entrepreneurial spirit, especially when there’s an environmental or social good angle to it, and as part of our mission of trying to support and inform more eco-entrepreneurs, we feel that it’s important to try to get inside the head of other entrepreneurs and learn something from their journey.
[About Zach Bogoshian: Zach is the Founder of Teddy Rose. He graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a degree in political science and has since worked on various projects in politics, transparency, green building, and sustainable development. He currently lives in San Francisco, California, a global hub of innovation, style, and technology.]
What are the challenges you’ve come up against in your journey to launching a sustainable clothing startup?
One challenge has been simply creating a gritty and stylish sustainable brand for Teddy Rose. So many companies only brand around the how good their product is for the earth. This is totally kickass and honorable, but in fashion, nobody will wear it if it doesn’t look great. That’s the bottom line. I think my lack of a background in fashion, other than dressing myself for 26 years, allows me to apply a fresh set of eyes to a new type of lifestyle brand – one that really marries “cool” and “sustainability.”
Another challenge has been finding trustworthy partners in our supply chain. We want to vet every link in our supply chain to make sure Teddy Rose has partners that share similar values and do things the right way.
How have you managed to meet those challenges?
For the branding challenge, building around a badass fighter and conservationist like Teddy Roosevelt really gives our green product attitude. TR was a rare breed, unafraid to ruffle feathers and act with conviction.. To me it represents a real, progressive sentiment: that we face many challenges with saving the planet, and, it’s not going to be easy, but we are willing to battle for it. And like Teddy, we will do it with gusto, vitality, and flair.
As for the supply chain challenges, it’s taken time, that’s for sure. And it’s an ongoing challenge. But even before the design stage, I connected with quite a few manufacturers and other sustainable clothing companies to learn from them and talk about best practices. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t “greenwashing” Teddy Rose and bringing another product to market that takes advantage of customers who just want to do the right thing. I was really worried about that, so I was patient, and read and read and read.
At a certain point, when I was confident enough with the partners I had lined up, I jumped in and figured I would learn by doing, realizing I would make mistakes. But making mistakes is alright (I’m a slow learner of this). You just want to put your best foot forward and vow to always do better. And when it comes time to improve, research how and just do it. It’s not always going to be pretty. I always go back to the phrase “fall forward,” to describe my approach to life. Just try hard and learn from what works and doesn’t work. Things will progress.
What advice would you give to aspiring eco-entrepreneurs, especially those with an interest in sustainable apparel?
Trust your gut and do your research. You’re pretty damn cool for wanting to be in this space, and others are catching on.
Other than the obvious environmental advantages of bamboo as a fiber material, why did you choose bamboo viscose to make your shirts over other alternative fiber choices?
It’s versatile and adaptive, characteristics we humans share with it, that have allowed us both to thrive and evolve. We need to embrace these qualities in our society now and in the future, and I think we’re building momentum.
Now, to really answer your question, I was drawn to bamboo viscose because of its environmental advantages yes, but also the appeal of breaking from the status quo (cotton, polyester, etc.). If we are going to become an open and efficient global society, we need to challenge norms and try new ways of doing things. Bamboo, though very new to the world of textiles, seems to offer new advantages that other raw materials struggle to. From permaculture practices to quick growth and no replanting to limited water use, it seems like an opportunity missed to not try it and see if we can make clothes better and smarter.
How did you make the decision to use Indiegogo over other crowdfunding platforms?
I am so fired up by new business models that combine mission with the free market, and I wanted to be a part of that. The “green snowball effect” uses a cut of each Teddy Rose sale to assist other entrepreneurs using crowdfunding. We wanted to incorporate this even with the money we raise during our own crowdfunding campaign. Indiegogo has a very open platform and grants users the flexibility to appropriate funds as they wish. Because of this feature, we chose them over others.
What inspired you to include the “green snowball effect” of paying it forward to other sustainable crowdfunded entrepreneurs in your campaign?
The power of the people is immense. Collectively, we are wise, savvy, and very honest. We wanted to launch Teddy Rose via a crowdfunding campaign to really test our idea with the people. If it sucks, it won’t get funded. And either way, you learn a lot about business, market testing, and product development, which are all obviously valuable. We want to do a little to help other movers and shakers who aren’t afraid to put their ideas out there to the masses to test and build upon. And we target projects that innovate and help the environment as well.
We don’t aim to fund projects completely through our contributions. We trust the crowd to determine if a project is worthy of full funding or not. But we want to use our own experience and our following to highlight a few project we really feel are leading by example, and reward them with a bit of financial support and publicity.
Are you seeking placement of your shirts in brick-and-mortar retailers, or strictly online through your website?
It will be a combination. We’ll mostly focus on online sales at the beginning as we continue to build our brand and community, but we are already talking with a few boutique brick and mortar shops here in San Francisco that share some of our values. If our cultures overlap, it would be a shame not to work together to see what beautiful music we can make. But it’s got to be the right fit.
After the crowdfunding campaign, what’s next for Teddy Rose? Do you have any plans for expanding the line of clothing, or to branch out into other products?
Oh there are grand plans! I really want Teddy Rose to be about good ideas first and foremost. We are pushing that message through clothing now and will continue to do so with an expanded line. My dad really wants a bamboo necktie (we’ll see), and I think there is opportunity for bamboo in articles of clothing beyond tees. We’re not the only ones doing this, and that gives us more confidence.
But we are already breaking out other products (custom Nalgene bottles and plantable postcards). And these products highlight our commitment to all pieces of the sustainability puzzle – the value of water, materials, composting, etc.
Teddy Rose will be adaptive and get behind ideas that are strong, smart, and brave, so we can help make this a brilliant and beautiful world.
What other aspects of your life are inspiring or exciting to you?
An open-ended question! How’d you know I was a social science major?!
I am absolutely fascinated by urbanism. Cities are hubs of innovation and creativity and hustle, and I can’t help but feed off that energy. One area I’m particularly enthusiastic about is urban food production. Dickson Despommier had a very interesting and comprehensive take on how we can attack this challenge in his 2010 book, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century, I would highly recommend it.
Like most industries, we can approach urban agriculture from various angles: from simple rooftop gardens to commercial vertical farms to large-scale bug production (a resource-efficient protein). Again, changing cultural norms and habits is a challenge, but if people jump in with optimism and enthusiasm, we can gain a lot by shaking it up.