INTERVIEW: The Greenloop
In the second installment of our series of interviews with green entrepreneurs, City Hippy spoke to Aysia Wright, owner of Greenloop.com, a boutique and online store based in the Portland, Oregon area.
The mission of Greenloop is “an alignment of style and sustainability, a fusion of aesthetics and ethics, by providing the opportunity for all of us to look fabulous, feel great, and do good.” Greenloop accomplishes this by selling clothing, accessories, cosmetics and body care products for the hip, yet environmentally and socially conscious shopper.
City Hippy: Hi Aysia, and thanks for making the time to speak with us. Can you tell us where you got your inspiration for Greenloop?
Aysia Wright: In high school, I worked for The Body Shop. They were more environmentally focused at the time, so I learned a lot about both retail and the market for environmentally friendly products. I went on to study environmental science in college, and eventually earned a J.D. in environmental law. For a while, I practiced estate law, but really felt like I wanted to get involved with advocacy in a more creative manner.
From there, I began looking into eco-fashion, and I found that there really was no one-stop, high fashion shopping experience for the environmentally conscious consumer. A lot of the clothing and fashions out there were too…for lack of a better word…”hippy” to appeal to people who wanted to be fashionable. People want to wear what’s hip, and I saw an opportunity to fuse sustainability with style through Greenloop.
City Hippy: Having visited both the store in Portland and the website, we think you definitely achieved the sustainable style vibe you were hoping to achieve. When did Greenloop open?
Aysia Wright: The store has been open since September 2004, and the web site went up this spring. Not all of our merchandise is available online yet, but we’re adding more and more every day.
City Hippy: We’ve seen the mission of Greenloop online, but can you describe the mission of the store in your own words for us?
Aysia Wright: I would say it’s to create an expanded awareness for options for living a sustainable lifestyle, and also to support companies that have made a clear commitment to utilize environmentally sustainable materials and fair trade practices. And of course the designs and products we offer should be cutting edge and fashionable.
City Hippy: Since launching Greenloop, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Aysia Wright: Sticking to a budget, and also choosing the right products and marketing them effectively. Figuring out the right marketing approach is interesting, because we’re trying to reach the consumer who is already environmentally and socially conscious, as well as educating consumers who don’t understand what organic fabrics are, or what sustainable style means.
For a while, people were kind of scared and skeptical of organic products, because they didn’t really understand what they were, or they thought it was just an excuse to sell certain products at a higher cost. People aren’t as skeptical as they used to be, but there’s still a learning curve that needs to be addressed through our marketing efforts.
I also want people to understand that I’m not asking them to make a radical lifestyle change. Whether it’s driving a little less or recycling newspapers or buying one article of organic clothing, every small step does make a difference.
City Hippy: What trends do you see for the future of sustainable style?
Aysia Wright: I think the biggest trend we’ll see is the increase in the availability and the use of organic cotton. There has already been a lot of education surrounding organic cotton, and once the fabric is more available, I think other people will jump on the bandwagon quickly. Of course, there’s always the fear that the term “organic” will become diluted. Hopefully it won’t become like the word “natural,” which really doesn’t mean anything anymore!
City Hippy: Right, we’ve noticed that, too. We’ve seen the term “organic” used a lot lately in quotations, where it’s used to describe a particular type of design, like “organic” dishes, instead of having anything to do with how the product was actually produced! On the other hand, maybe it’s a good sign – mainstream marketers are obviously using the term organic because people respond favorably to it, so perhaps it’s a sign that the time is coming when more and more environmentally friendly products will be available.
Speaking of times to come, what advice do you have for up and coming green entrepreneurs who are trying to get their own ventures started?
Aysia Wright: Well, first you should look for your own niche. Find a segment of the market that has not been addressed. For example, there is a VERY limited section of environmentally friendly swimwear out there….ideas anyone? Shoes is another area where there are a couple of great lines, but ample room for more, especially in the high fashion end.
Second, create and live by your core set of morals, but don’t have a completely hard line. For example, there will always be a more environmentally friendly company out there, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sell more of their products. Don’t compromise your values, but you also need to choose products that will sell. Support and inspire people to be the best they can be.
And finally – take the risk. Do something you feel passionate about, that is purposeful beyond earning a buck, and you will be successful in more ways than one.
City Hippy: Aysia, thanks for your time and best of luck with Greenloop!
City Hippy’s final thought:
We think Aysia is on to something big with Greenloop. Visit the online store at Greenloop.com and check it out for yourself!
City Hippy's green entrepreneur summary:
Learn to budget and stick to it!
Knowing your customers and selecting the right products
Help your customer solve a problem
Find a niche and fill it
Three words: committment, risk and passion.