April Femrite, CEO of Naturally Bamboo, says inspiration for her business appeared in the form of a news story she read one evening, which heralded the qualities of bamboo as a clothing material.
Bambooâ€™s silky fibers echo the feel of soft cotton, while the cellulose materialâ€™s micro-gap structure makes clothing breathable and wicks moisture away from the skin.
The material is naturally antibacterial, allowing clothing to be worn multiple times before needing a wash. Bamboo needs no pesticides or chemicals to grow, making it a certified organic material.
And because bamboo grows quickly, shooting up about 75 feet in four months, it is also extremely renewable.
One news article later, Femrite
had decided that bamboo clothing was her
entrepreneurial calling. â€œThat evening I bought my domain name for my Web site and decided that I was going to start my own bamboo clothing line,â€ she
says. â€œAfter researching it for six months, I had my own six-piece line that was for sale in the fall of 2007.â€
In addition to being environmentally sustainable, creating ethically made clothing also shaped Naturally Bambooâ€™s mission. â€œI knew from the beginning that if I was going to do this company, it had to have equal emphasis on both social and environmental responsibility,â€ Femrite says. â€œIf I was going to run a company, it was going to be ethical in all respectsâ€"from our raw materials to using recycled packaging to overseeing that our sewers are getting paid a fair wage.â€ While many large brand-name clothing lines pay just pennies an hour to sewers overseas, Naturally Bambooâ€™s sewers in Prior Lake earn $10 to $12 per hour to make shirts, skirts, hats and dresses for the clothing line.
Since founding her
business in 2007, Femrite
has successfully sold her
active and outdoor clothing line in retail shops across the country, with popular consumer bases in Minnesota and Hawaii.
Between 2007 and 2008, sales grew by 100 percent.
Last year, the company also became a top five finalist out of some 1,500 applicants in Forbesâ€™ â€œBoost Your Business 2009â€ competition, which awards a $100,000 prize to the best entrepreneurial business plan.
While Naturally Bamboo
did not win the grand prize, exposure from the competition has helped Naturally Bamboo
establish its brand name as a producer of sustainable and ethically made clothing.
True to the companyâ€™s mission of sustainability, Femrite
is working to move her
companyâ€™s entire seed-to-shirt supply chain to the United States.