Kyle Smitley is on a mission – albeit a big one – to lead the pack in environmentally friendly clothing and improve the global community. Generally, when a passionate vision fuels such an inspired entrepreneur success is right around the corner. By the end of her first year in business, barley & birch was carried by over 30 stores worldwide and had funded schools and clinics all over the world. Kyle’s philanthropic and ‘can do’ attitude contributes to the rapid expansion of her brand to retailers and customers around the globe.
Likely the most impressive tidbit about Kyle’s company, barley & birch, is that she proves that giving is chic and completely stylish. Barley & birch donates 15% of their profits to world organizations that seek to improve the lives of others … funding everything from rural farmer education to abuse victim shelters.
Company: barley & birch
Founder/Age: Kyle Smitley, 25
Location: San Francisco, CA
Start-up Year: 2009
Start-up Costs: $10,000
How I Got Started: I started barley & birch after being hired (as a scientist) to do research about eco-friendly materials and brands. I found that all of the major organic children’s clothing companies were either lying outright or misleading the consumers about how, where, and with what their products were made. So I started barley & birch to give parents a truly healthy choice for the planet and for their children.
Best Success Story: I am also a full time law student. So stepping out of class to answer phone calls from the publicists of celebrities that loved our collection were moments that I will never forget.
Biggest Start-up Challenge: Finding domestic suppliers that wouldn’t try to take advantage of me because I was new to the apparel industry. You just have to persevere and keep learning more every day!
#1 Tip for Newbies: Be very realistic with your budget. Don’t just think of the cost of your base materials, but also consider basic operating costs as the business gets on its feet. So many people borrow too little and have to close up shop before they’ve given their business/idea a fair shot.