Rise’s Radical Renegade is a monthly series featuring interviews with trailblazing career mavens. Here is Cat Bradley, CEO of SewEthico – a company with a vision of growing the number of ethical fashion companies in the marketplace.
I realized the things I love about business are the things a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with, and that’s how SewEthico was born.
Why did you start your company and what motivates you every day?
My mom taught me how to sew when I was 8, and I’ve always had a love of design. But I’ve also always had a love of helping people. That’s why I built a career in mission based business (including the merger of 3 different masters degrees from the university of Oregon- MBA, arts admin, and nonprofit management). After moving to New York and working in Nonprofits, I eventually got poached into a tech firm on wall st. While that job paid the bills, it didn’t really get to the core of what I wanted in my life, so I went back to my roots and started an ethical fashion brand. As I started getting to know people in the ethical fashion community, they started getting to know me (and my business background) and asking for help on their foundation. Before I knew it… I had clients! I realized the things I love about business are the things a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with, and that’s how SewEthico was born. I work with designers and mission based businesses to get their foundation in order, build their marketing strategy, and move from survive to thrive.
What are some of the major lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Oh gosh, so many. How to solve a legitimate problem for clients, how to get to the root of an issue to create legitimate solutions instead of a million bandaids. How to avoid making decisions that solve short term problems, and how to make sure your decisions are long-term based. I’ve also learned a lot about taking care of myself… creating mental space for yourself as an entrepreneur, how to simplify in order to succeed, how to create essentialism.
Tell us about a setback you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
When I was getting ready to leave my full time job, I had a solid plan. I gave my office 6 months notice, and I knew that 6 months was enough time to implement my exit strategy and capitalize on the marketing I had been working on. I started picking up clients and things were going well. But of course, this is a setback story. I live in NYC, and one of the most stressful things to deal with here is your living situation. I had a great apartment that was a little expensive for me, but sort of manageable. I didn’t have a lease, I was month-to-month and had been for years. I thought I was being smart. Well, my landlord calls me… “I’m getting a divorce and I need you to move out because I’m going to live in your apartment.” Great. Well, this company I’ve started is just me, and finding an apartment in new york is a full time job in itself. I spent 2 months refocusing my energy on my life, and now my 6-month cushy timeline I’d planned to figure things out was gone. I really panicked. I was under major amounts of stress, and on top of it… I still had clients: 5 of them. I wasn’t prepared for the changes and I started beating myself up over being unprepared for this situation that I didn’t see coming. But that’s the nature of entrepreneurship, especially when you don’t have a trust fund. When you’re boot strapping and just really trying to build something for yourself from scratch, you really inject yourself into your biz, and your problems can be business problems too. Everything ended up ok, but for a few months there I really just felt like quitting everything because I thought I was going to fall apart.
What advice do you have for women who feel stuck in their careers?
Find something that really drives you. Don’t make it about money, make it something that energizes you. Then start to slowly see how it feels to work on it. Build RELATIONSHIPS in that space. There are 3 things you can’t fake: production, financials, and relationships. And what I always tell my clients: if you don’t have $100,000 to invest in going all out for your company, the relationships you build WILL make or break you.
Find something that really drives you. Don’t make it about money, make it something that energizes you.
We all know how difficult work/life balance is, how do you draw the line to create separation in these two spheres?
When I was first starting, I used my full time job to my advantage to feed two birds with one scone. I recognized the places my business needed help, and I started taking on responsibilities at work that mirrored those things. That way, when it came time to do the task for my own business, I could save a lot of time because I already knew how to complete it. That meant that I had more time for myself because I was spending my “learning curve” time on the clock and getting paid to make my mistakes.
We love to support women-founded ventures. Is there a company/product that you’ve come across recently that you think more people should know about?
YES! There’s one company I’ve been obsessed with. She’s just starting out, but I know it’s gonna be big because she’s solving a real problem for women and creating a real support system… she’s called Post Bump Mama. Ayanna’s the owner. Here’s the biz: When you give birth, your body has just gone through a major “trauma,” but we’re so socially trained to forget about moms that we don’t even realize how hard pregnancy and birth is on your body. The baby comes, and ALL of the focus is on them. Even mom focuses on them. Mom gets totally left behind. Well… when you can’t take care of yourself, your responsibilities suffer. But also mommy deserves care too. Enter Post Bump Mama: it’s a self-care box for new moms, packed with natural items for her body that are actually helpful. Things like healing vaginal pads and nipple creams that don’t contain harmful chemicals. You can even still breastfeed and know what you’re putting on your body can be ingested by your baby and still be safe. She’s still brand new, but I’m telling you… this is amazing. Ask any new mom you know about how she’s feeling, and you’re gonna see that this is a product that NEEDS to be out there because moms are left totally uncared for. Ayanna’s company is going to help create some caring solutions.