If you’ve followed our occasional sustainablog Approved series on green businesses, you may realize that Teagan and Mack isn’t the first organic line of baby clothes we’ve featured… last Summer, we also gave a nod to Funkoos. And if you look around just a little more, you’ll find that start-up companies focused on “green” apparel for the little ones are popping up all over the place.
This doesn’t surprise me for a couple of reasons:
- New moms are a pretty passionate market — they don’t want their babies exposed to anything that might harm them
- Moms also want time with their kids… and a start-up, while time-consuming, does provide the flexibility necessary to combine family and work.
Those are pretty powerful motivations… and they’re the foundation of Lisa Cratty’s venture into the world of baby clothes. Like many “mompreneurs,” Lisa realized her corporate gig in LA just wasn’t doing it for her… so she and husband Glenn left the hustle and bustle of big city and demanding jobs, and moved to Louisville, Colorado, to live more intentionally. For Lisa, making baby clothes from organic cotton, and running a conscious business, became a part of that intentional living, and she launched Teagan and Mack in the Summer of 2010.
As busy entrepreneurs, Lisa and I have exchanged email for quite some time now, but finally got it together enough to complete an interview about her work and the company. I appreciate her thoughtful responses to the questions I sent her, and hope you enjoy this insight into another entrepreneurial journey based on passion and conscience.
Our interview with Lisa Cratty, founder of organic baby clothing line Teagan and Mack
Jeff McIntire-Strasburg: Throughout your site and product descriptions, you use the phrase “certified organic cotton.” What kind(s) of certifications do you look for (I know there are a number of possibilities here)? Do certification systems for organic cotton adequately address all of the potential negative impacts of cotton cultivation: environmental, economic, and social? Why, or why not?
Lisa Cratty: Teagan and Mack organic products are certified using GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification. When the research was done about certification I felt it was important to choose a standard that was both widely accepted as well as one that had stringent regulations. GOTS has both as it is the worldwide accepted standard and their regulations are put into place by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in the US, The Soil Association in the UK, International Association Natural Textile Industry (IVN) in Germany, and the Japan Organic Cotton Association. Companies, manufacturers, and producers wishing to be licensed must comply with all compulsory criteria for their products to be labeled “Global Organic Textile Standard.”
As far as addressing all the potential negative impacts, they work very hard to do just that. It doesn’t mean that it is a perfect system, by any stretch, but the goals of GOTS is to not only address the environmental concerns but also those issues of social responsibility. To find out more about this you can visit the Organic Trade Association’s overview of the standard.
JM-S: What can you tell us about the manufacturing of the products you sell? Does Teagan and Mack buy from wholesalers, or do you work directly with factories to produce your own lines? What criteria do you apply to these suppliers?
LC: Teagan and Mack produces it’s own line of clothing. I design all the pieces and we work with a factory in India to manufacture the clothing. India is one of the largest suppliers of organic cotton but it’s important to note that you have to be very careful when working with overseas companies. I did a lot of work on this initially with two consultants to determine if we could manufacture domestically or if it would be necessary to use overseas suppliers. Sadly, it was impossible to stay domestic and stay in business.
I wound up working with an agent out of NY who is my liaison with the factory in India. He knew my long list of requirements (no child labor, certification a must, good working conditions, to name a few) and he found the right factory for me to work with. He was also physically present during my production to make sure all was as it was supposed to be. It’s my goal to go myself for our second production. I personally, as well as in my company, am very involved in working to help women in war torn and poverty stricken countries: it’s one of our core values and missions, so I feel like it’s a natural fit to be working with the women in India.
JM-S: There’s clearly a strong “social entrepreneurship” element to Teagan & Mack… I’m thinking specifically of the Recycling and Sisterhood programs. What motivated you to support these particular causes, and the plight of disadvantaged mothers in general? And how might you make the case to other entrepreneurs to include such “giving back” in their business plans?
LC: Thank you for noticing this! It’s one of the most important aspects of the business in my mind. Offering high quality organic clothing is technically what our business is, however, it is only one side of Teagan and Mack. When I was developing the company, I felt that there were two strong callings that needed to be included in the business. The first was to highlight how moms can green their lives and the lives of their families in a way that doesn’t add more stress but that actually makes life a little easier. I’m a mom and I care about the planet but I also know that life can be a juggling act sometimes. We are so busy all the time and so I always appreciate when someone offers me helpful tips and tricks that align with my priorities.
Secondly, raising awareness about what moms across the globe are dealing with, often enduring extreme hardships, was incredibly important to me. I have personally been involved with sponsoring sisters in various countries over the years, and know that there are a lot of women just like me that care very deeply about the suffering of others and want to support these women in various ways.
So I do this through our two give back programs (one for the planet and one for women in war torn areas) as well as through my blogging where I offer green tips and highlight issues of social responsibility.
The tide is starting to change: the public is not shopping unconsciously anymore. They want to support companies that support what they believe in. It’s for this reason that it’s really important to be authentic in your give back programs. If you’re doing it for marketing buzz or hype, it will fall flat because that’s not what it’s all about. I would say to entrepreneurs: find what is truly important to you and you will connect with your community in a much stronger way.
JM-S: You sell a green product… how does environmental and social responsibility work into less visible elements of your business?
LC: It affects everything I do. Again, it goes back to being authentic: you can sell a green product but then run your business in a really irresponsible way, environmentally speaking. There are a lot of things that I do that may cost me a little more and are not visible to my customers, but I still believe they are necessary because authenticity is important to me. Some examples of this would be printing my correspondence on recycled paper, shipping all my products with envelopes and labels that are made of 100% post consumer waste, bio-degradable bubble wrap for shipping our baby bracelets, our gift wrap is made from materials that are between 77% and 100% post consumer content. Making sure our gift wrap is very pretty, but minimalistic.
For social responsibility is a very individual thing. Different issues resonate differently for everyone. For me it’s about staying aware of what’s happening in the world and taking action where I am able to. I also try to practice gratitude on a daily basis. Even when times are tough, there is always something we can be thankful for. When you are grateful for and acknowledge your own blessings you are much more open to helping others.
JM-S: Organic cotton clothing has become immensely popular… so much so that many of the big retail chains now regularly sell such apparel. How do you compete with a Wal-Mart or a Target?
LC: I don’t!!! What do I mean by this? Well, at the beginning it was frustrating for me that they could sell their products so cheaply – how can a Mompreneur compete with such giants? I no longer feel that way because I did some investigating. I went to Target and I looked at the organic onesies that they were selling for $8.99 and it hit me….this is not even close to the same product that I sell! Cheap was exactly what it was. The fabric was half the thickness of mine (at least) and the touch and feel of it did not even compare.
I realized at that moment that yes, they can get their prices down because they purchase in such great volumes, but you are also getting exactly what you pay for. A very watered down version of what I had to offer. The challenge for me is not how to compete with them, but how to convey the differences of our products in an online world. I’m going to incorporate some video on my site which I think will really help with that and I have great testimonials from customers and reviews from Mommy Bloggers to back me up. Social media helps a lot with this because that’s where I can connect directly with moms. Moms like to talk to each other and share information on great products when they discover them. Word of mouth is a big asset to businesses that are working hard to get really great products made.
Many thanks to Lisa for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. Got a little one at home… or need a gift for someone who does? Make sure to take a look at Teagan and Mack’s impressive array of products.
Photos courtesy of Teagan and Mack