Meet the sisters self-funding a sustainable footwear model, creating sneakers that ‘rejoice each girl’s step’

That is an installment of Startup Year One, a particular collection of interviews with founders in regards to the main classes they’ve realized within the speedy aftermath of their companies’ first 12 months 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 realized 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 vogue appears to be like. 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 in the present day.

With their very own model, which launched earlier this 12 months, the Kuos are additionally championing a number of social causes, striving to make their voices heard in terms of 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 be taught extra about their enterprise, the teachings realized, the hurdles overcome, and plans for subsequent 12 months.

The next interview has been condensed and evenly edited for readability.

Avre cofounders and sisters Connie and Julie Kuo.
Pictures courtesy of AVRE

Fortune: What impressed the launch of Avre? Who’s your target market?

Julie: The will in desirous to assist girl from all walks of life and to have the ability to do that in a sustainable method all whereas with the ability to give again to our neighborhood 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 business for over 35 years and we perceive girls’s ardour and love for footwear.

Understanding how sure manufacturing practices had been damaging to our planet, and studying about recycled threads each Connie and I spotted there was a possibility to indicate the world they may 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 product of recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalat) water bottles and in doing so we not solely cut back waste filling up our landfills, however emit fewer greenhouse gases and preserve water and vitality within the course of.

Our target market is empowered girls who wish to take a proactive method of residing and realizing that the alternatives they makes as shoppers can have an effect on the world in a constructive method. 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 return makes all of the distinction. 

Being a minority girl in enterprise isn’t straightforward and to be taken significantly and earn the respect of friends in a male dominated business has been a battle, Kuo shares.
Courtesy of Avre

Retailers have taken fairly successful through 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 method 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 way of social occasions. 

With social gatherings not being allowed in addition to folks limiting contact in an effort to keep protected, 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 obtained the sneakers. 

What has it been prefer to work with provide chain companions and develop the preliminary assortment?

Connie: We’ve been very lucky with our provide companions in having a fantastic relationship that has stemmed from years of working collectively from East Lion. We’ve got all the time been pioneers in wanting to usher in 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 attempt newer applied sciences, strategies, and practices has been a a lot simpler course of than others. Don’t get me fallacious—we nonetheless take care of hesitation and push again. However we’ve established our aim for the reason that starting, and having that clear and direct communication has helped us to proceed push Avre ahead.    

In response to the Nationwide Affiliation of Girls Enterprise House owners, there are a complete of 12.3 million women-owned companies within the US. Of those companies, 64% of the companies began final 12 months by girls had been began by girls of shade.
Courtesy of Avre

That stated, what has it been prefer 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 highway, the place do you see Avre out there? 

Connie: We wish to create Avre into a life-style model wherein we will incorporate not solely footwear and vogue, however different merchandise that should do with well being. We might broaden this line to be inclusive of everybody within the household—mother, dad, and baby. We might additionally love to include and assist extra social applications that align with who Avre is.

Extra must-read lifestyle and entertainment protection from Fortune:

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