Kate Harvey, founder of BirdieBlue. (Credit: Courtesy of BirdieBlue)

Kate Harvey is a mom who “worries about the world we are leaving for our children.” She’s especially concerned by the tons of clothing waste that end up in our landfills every year – about 92 million tons, to be precise. So when a pair of ski pants she owned ripped, Harvey couldn’t bear to simply throw them away. Instead, she brainstormed ways to repurpose them – and wound up creating a durable fanny pack that would become the basis for her accessory brand, BirdieBlue. After two years of refining and testing that first product, BirdieBlue launched as a business in September 2022. Since then, the Stowe, Vermont-based mompreneur has added wallets, toiletry bags and sling bags to her offerings – all of them sold in her signature retro-inspired patterns.

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

How is your business different from others in your industry?

We are committed to using old clothes, particularly old ski and snowboarding gear, to make new BirdieBlue bags – instead of, say, plastic bottles. Our bags are made to last, and are made by women in the U.S.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

We just celebrated our first year in business, and are on track to double our revenue this year. We were named a 2023 Title Nine Pitchfest Semi-Finalist, and have been written about on multiple skiing and sustainability blogs. We were also featured in the Lake and Company Magazine’s “Meet the Maker” series. And, we have a partnership launching with British-based clothing company OOSC, in which we will be producing a line of co-branded fanny packs made from damaged OOSC ski and snowboarding suits.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Access to strong talent that can help us break down the old clothes, hand-cut the bag patterns, and sew the bags. By owning and controlling product operations through our own cut-and-sew network, we are able to drive stronger profit margins, keep operations in the U.S, and continue supporting our local community, while staying true to our sustainability mission.

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that affected your business decisions? 

Starting a business is not easy for many reasons, but it is especially hard to find start-up capital as a female entrepreneur. The stats speak for themselves: Women only receive 2% of VC funding, and women of color receive even less! Because of this, I have decided to bootstrap and self-finance. This means my growth will be slower, but it will also allow me to ensure that my vision and mission stay at the forefront of all business decisions.

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

Just keep going! Sometimes I have to muscle through hardships, and be scrappy to get the job done. Other days, I need to give myself a break and step away to clear my head. Just continue to put one foot in front of the other – even if, sometimes, it feels like you have no idea what you are doing.

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

My kids. They see their mom building something, and they also now understand the importance of showing love to Mother Earth. Even when it feels hard, their support keeps me going!

What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?

Anything by P!nk. I love her music, as well as her message – that it’s cool to be different and go against the grain. Her voice gives me the motivation I need, and can pull me right out of any funk.

Who is your most important role model?

My mom, who started her own business when I was 10. I remember doing my homework in her office while she was balancing her books or negotiating with suppliers. She taught me how to work hard and be gritty, while still building a community to help cheer her on. It’s hard to balance being a mom and a business owner, but I learned from the best. ◼

Instagram: @shopbirdieblue

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