That is an installment of Startup Year One, a particular collection of interviews with founders in regards to the main classes they’ve discovered within the rapid aftermath of their companies’ first yr of operation.
Julie Kuo is a second-generation Asian-American and cofounder of the Los Angeles-based, female-founded sustainable footwear model, Avre, alongside her sister, Connie. Each of the Kuo sisters discovered the ins and outs of the shoe enterprise early on, rising up of their household’s footwear firm, East Lion Corp., which produces the Qupid line of accessibly-priced style seems. They witnessed first-hand the sacrifices and battles their dad and mom needed to encounter to develop their firm into the multi-million greenback enterprise it’s immediately.
With their very own model, which launched earlier this yr, the Kuos are additionally championing a number of social causes, striving to make their voices heard in relation to girls’s empowerment. Even the model’s nam Avre—an acronym for “genuine, versatile, accountable, empowered”—embodies the model’s platforms.
Fortune lately spoke with Julie and Connie Kuo to study extra about their enterprise, the teachings discovered, the hurdles overcome, and plans for subsequent yr.
The next interview has been condensed and evenly edited for readability.
Fortune: What impressed the launch of Avre? Who’s your target market?
Julie: The will in eager to help girl from all walks of life and to have the ability to do that in a sustainable means all whereas with the ability to give again to our group was what impressed my sister and I to launch Avre. The very footing of every Avre shoe is to acknowledge and rejoice each girl’s step. Our household has been within the footwear trade for over 35 years and we perceive girls’s ardour and love for footwear.
Understanding how sure manufacturing practices have been damaging to our planet, and studying about recycled threads each Connie and I spotted there was a possibility to point out the world they might have lovely sneakers that was additionally good for mom earth. We partnered with Repreve, one of many world’s main certifiable recycled fibers. All of our sneakers are particularly made with these threads manufactured from recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalat) water bottles and in doing so we not solely scale back waste filling up our landfills, however emit fewer greenhouse gases and preserve water and power within the course of.
Our target market is empowered girls who wish to take a proactive strategy of residing and figuring out that the alternatives they makes as customers can have an effect on the world in a optimistic means. Being aware and conscious and making the modifications in life for a sustainable future to assist shield the earth for a lot of generations to come back makes all of the distinction.
Retailers have taken fairly a success in the course of the pandemic, so it should be formidable to launch an organization of any variety, not to mention an attire or footwear model, proper now. What has it been like opening a direct-to-consumer enterprise throughout a pandemic?
Julie: We’re a business-to-consumer footwear enterprise, and having to function and run throughout a pandemic has undoubtedly had its challenges. The conventional means of selling and creating model visibility has been very difficult for us as a brand new model as one in every of our main methods of introducing the model was by means of social occasions.
With social gatherings not being allowed in addition to individuals limiting contact with a view to keep secure, among the actions we had deliberate to construct model visibility needed to be postponed. We’ve needed to rely closely on social media and natural development with audiences falling in love with the message and our designs as soon as they’ve acquired the sneakers.
What has it been wish to work with provide chain companions and develop the preliminary assortment?
Connie: We’ve been very lucky with our provide companions in having an awesome relationship that has stemmed from years of working collectively from East Lion. We have now all the time been pioneers in wanting to herald new modern methods to discover footwear. It’s what led us to Avre, and that mindset was established way back with our provide companions.
Subsequently, the transition to push our provide companions to open their minds to strive newer applied sciences, strategies, and practices has been a a lot simpler course of than others. Don’t get me incorrect—we nonetheless take care of hesitation and push again. However we’ve established our aim because the starting, and having that clear and direct communication has helped us to proceed push Avre ahead.
That mentioned, what has it been wish to safe funding for Avre? Is it primarily self-funded, VC-backed, or some combination of each?
Julie: Funding for Avre is all self-funded by my sister and I.
Submit-pandemic and 5 years down the street, the place do you see Avre available in the market?
Connie: We wish to create Avre into a way of life model by which we are able to incorporate not solely footwear and style, however different merchandise that should do with well being. We’d broaden this line to be inclusive of everybody within the household—mother, dad, and little one. We’d additionally love to include and help extra social applications that align with who Avre is.
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