Having lived and worked in countries ranging from Haiti to El Salvador to New Zealand, Kyle, barley & birch’s founder, found herself wanting to continue to help the many organizations that she had worked with, all of which were working hard to improve their communities.
After earning her degree in environmental science, Kyle then also found herself wishing that the “organic” clothing that she was purchasing for the children of friends and family was a little cuter and a lot more environmentally and socially responsible. The solution soon became obvious: Kyle needed to create her own line, holding it to the highest social and environmental standards, and give the profits to organizations working to improve the lives of people all over the world.
How you doing Kyle, thanks for taking time to be with us on YHP
It’s my pleasure! Thank you for the opportunity!
Were you always a business person? What inspired you to start up your business?
No, I definitely wasn’t. My degrees are is philosophy and environmental science and I had only taken one course in economics! I was inspired to start the business after some scientific research into several different children’s products. I found that many of then, including children’s apparel, could be a lot better for the environment, the people making the clothing, and for the little ones wearing it! So I was determined to create a company with high standards across the board.
What were you doing before you start up your company?
I was in college. I started my company during my gap year between undergraduate studies and law school, which is what I am doing now.
I mean you’re still studying, and it’s law, and i know law students spend a lot of time reading, how do you cope, how do you balance your time?
It’s very difficult, because they both have highs and lows in terms of workload. When both are at a high, I just don’t sleep. Even when both are at a low, I am still swamped at all times, but I am just able to go to bed like a normal person.
Essentially, I am never done working. I am always frantically catching up doing something.
How did you finance your company?
I obtained a $10,000 business loan.
I’m sure they were days which you couldn’t sleep, what kept you focused and motivated?
Great question. I was motivated by my goals and mission of being able to donate money to organizations all over the world. But I think once you get to a certain point in your business timeline, all entrprenuers are really motivated by their idea and seeing it through, that giving up really isn’t an option. So it was a mix of both of those for me.
Do you ever think of taking a gap year to focus on your business for a while?
Yes—that is exactly what I did.
How many employees do you have?
We have 2 employees and 2 interns.
How has sales grown from the last year?
This is technically our very first year in business, which is wild and exciting!
How do you market your products or services?
We reach out to high-readership blogs and have been fortunate to have been featured in conventional and eco-focused magazines all over the world.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
Sending pieces to mom-bloggers to review! We have a very high quality product, so they always like it and first hand reviews are really the best kind of advertising we can do.
What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?
Great question. I give lots of advice, but only rarely receive it. I think the best advice I have ever received was from my father, an accountant. He told me to be realistic about my budget and that it is easy to spend all of your money on lots of little things but that that has the risk of actually totally killing your business. It is so true and really the most important thing to remember while starting a business.
Who is your favourite entrepreneur at the moment?
Paul Newman in general. He knew how to create a high-quality business that made a lot of money to give to groups that did a lot to help people with it. A current entrepreneur I am always impressed with Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, which gives a pair of shoes away for each pair you buy.
What do you do in your non-business hours?
I don’t really have any. But I do take my puppy (a German Shepherd mix) to a huge dog park along the shore every weekend. That is a great break from both school and work.
How does your business “give back” to the community or to society?
We donate at least 15% of our profits to environmental initiatives in order to make our line completely carbon neutral.
We donate at least another 15% of our profits to organizations all over the world improving the lives of others. We fund everything from girls schools in Haiti to sustainable agriculture education in El Salvador.
What should be expecting form you in the upcoming years?
A lot, I hope! We are introducing bedding, sweaters, and outerwear in our next few collections. We will also launch a new website and continue to add retailers!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
I would tell them that whatever they do, don’t give up! You will absolutely encounter obstacles, everyone does. Your success will be how you handle and overcome them.
Thanks for your time Kyle.
Again, my pleasure!
Website: Barley & Birch