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Victoria Staten of Famolare: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable

I’m a leader and a doer with high expectations for myself and others. Sometimes, at the start of a project, my energy and drive can be offsetting, but over time as people jump on board, they realize that they are on a train going to a good place.

As part of our series about how companies are becoming more sustainable, we had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Staten.

A fashion industry veteran, the former Group Vice President of Kenneth Cole started her company to bring the iconic Seventies fashion brand, Famolare, back to life. She’s always had a passion for popular lifestyle elements rooted in the ‘70’s, namely ecology, health food, civil rights, female empowerment, and of course fashion rooted in rock-n-roll and freedom of expression. She’s the kind of woman who drives her Thunderbird with the top down.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After many years at the helm of some big fashion houses and businesses, I wanted to execute my vision of a different kind of fashion company with a unique reverse engineered business model focused on how things should work in the future rather than how we’ve always done things in the past. I’ve always loved Famolare and the special DNA focused on sustainability and female empowerment.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

Our mission is to build products and operate our business as sustainably as possible, to provide products that inspire women to make waves in their community and to spread good vibes in everything we do.

Many, if not most, stylish “non-sneaker” shoes are uncomfortable. Our authentic seventies styled shoes also are a healthy aid to human movement. Feet weren’t designed to walk on city streets. Our soles serve as a mediator between feet and pavement. As we walk different parts of our feet absorb shock and move us forward. Our shoes naturalize that movement. The first wave absorbs shock to the heel and ankle, the second wave absorbs shock to the arch, the third wave rolls you forward and the fourth pushes you off. Walking on Famolare waves is better for our bodies, and therefore better for our mindset.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

We’re focused on three areas; waste reduction, low-carbon footprint, and cradle to cradle materials and production.

In our unique business model, we design uppers that fit on one of our four soles, and use the same leathers and buckles across the entire collection. We store these components at the factory and when they are about to be used up, we buy more and keep the cycle moving. This model reduces a lot of waste compared to typical footwear production.

We purchase our components from makers located within a few miles in the same city as our two factories, and the finished product is only trucked about 900 miles to our warehouse, located in the center of the country. These efforts keep our carbon footprint to a bare minimum for footwear production and sales through our website

Virtually all of our products are either made from recycled materials (packaging, padding), can be recycled, (sole, buckles, packaging) or are biodegradable (vegetable tanned leather, insoles) and many consider Famolares as prime upcycle candidates due to the high-quality materials and craftsmanship, not to mention timeless heritage design that has inspired women for decades to pass on their shoes as heirlooms to their daughters.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Reducing waste, saves the environment and increases the bottom line.

Fashion trends no longer change drastically season to season, so there is no need to ditch the old and in with new.

Buying more than you need just to meet factory MOQ’s creates enormous waste. We produce in factories with MOQ’s that work for our business, so we only need to buy what we know we can sell within our planned time frame. Every extra item that a business purchases beyond that will likely be sold at reduced prices, which is a significant drain on profit margins. Therefore, a business will make MORE money from their purchasing and production strategies (focusing on reducing waste and selling at full retail) than going the typical route.

If a company sold 1000 units for future delivery and based on a like item from the season before, they think they will sell 250 more units during the selling season. Therefore, their total need for the planned sales timeline is 1250 units. The total cost at $15 per unit is $18,750 and the selling price $30 per unit for a planned sales of $37,500, for a profit of $18,750.

However, if the factory has MOQ’s of 2000 units, this purchase example will result in a purchase cost of $30,000 and 750 unsold units/net position. Let’s assume that 1250 units will be sold at full price as planned, generating $37,500 in full price sales. We can also assume that of the remaining 750 units, 10% will be sold at 30% off (75 units sold for $21 per unit, totaling $1,500) another 25% will be sold at 50% off (188 units sold for $15 per unit, totaling $2,820) and the balance 487 units will be sold at 75% off/$7.50 per unit, totaling $3,653. Therefore, in the second scenario, the total sales generated off the $30,000 purchase order would be $37,500 + $1,500 + $2,820 + $3,653 = $45,473, the profit only $15,473, not to mention the money spent on the higher purchase order being out of commission depleting your cash flow.

Waste chews at the bottom line like rust on a classic car. If you want your business to run forever, eliminate waste.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion, what is something parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement?

Parents can teach their children to care about the environment through leading by example and by creating traditions that they will remember once they become adults.

My father taught me to “leave the world better than we found it” and he led by example nearly everywhere we went, whether it was grocery store parking lot where he’d pick up the trash blown by the wind, or when he made us clean up the woods around us after a weekend camping. I passed on that same value and philosophy to my daughters and started a tradition. We were one of the few families who showed up each year for “clean the roads” trash pick-up day. I also got my kids involved from time to time picking up trash on public beaches, lakes, and streets outside of our neighborhood, and even recently in neighborhoods across the city of Chicago. I believe that trash is a sign of lack of self-respect that manifests into lack of respect for others (crime) and the environment. When neighborhoods are clean, nature has room to take hold, people feel better about themselves, where they live, and treat others with respect. Cleaning up our neighborhoods, especially in blighted areas, is the first step toward a systemic shift to climate caring citizens, an appreciation of nature, and a deeper understanding of how we relate to our entire planet.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”?

  1. How long the runway would be without V.C. funding.
  2. How important it is to have a partner with opposite skill sets committed to the business.
  3. How everything with the startup will take longer than you are accustomed to when you had the power of a big company and team to aid in the execution.
  4. The importance of prioritizing different marketing strategies because you can’t do everything well at once.
  5. Don’t count on suppliers who aren’t emotionally and financially invested in moving forward toward building a bigger business.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Glen and Simran. Glen signed up to be my partner on Zerotie, another footwear innovation, and Famolare the first day I met him. I had just started the business a few months prior, and he agreed to fund the business for the first year. That funding enabled us to build the foundation we needed to develop and launch the new products and create the initial marketing assets. He continues to be a great sounding board, partner, and dear friend.

Simran Kathruia jumped in running Iconic Fashion Brands, the business responsible for the website and our entire direct-to-consumer approach. Her knowledge, strategies, and effort has made a tremendous difference. She is a beautiful soul and in addition to a perfect marketing partner, I found a best friend.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I touched on that earlier and it centers on ensuring we sustain Mother Earth as we know it today. I believe that when people feel more connected to the earth, animals, and nature, they are better citizens, kinder to those around them, and have more self-respect. Respect for others begins with self-respect. I’ve learned through a couple of studies that high crime areas usually are mostly void of nature. My movement would be to clean up the trash in blighted areas, with help from members of the community, (I’ve done some of this already) and then convince politicians to create incentives and put pressure on owners of empty land to be responsible for cleaning up their land and doing something productive with their vacant properties. Put them on a timeline and give them a deadline, and if they don’t make it, then the land takes on a different status. It could be “leased” to a non-profit for use as a public garden, tree growers and sellers could donate trees for tax incentives or free advertising. With my business acumen skills combined with a strong desire to always find the win-win, I know that me and my friend Shamica, who lives in the neighborhood we need to douse with Mother Earth’s love and natural elements, could dramatically improve the community, reduce crime, raise standards of behavior, feed the impoverished with their self-grown food, brighten the community and help people to become more connected to those around them and our planet.

What are some of your favorite life lesson quotes?

“Where there is a will, there is a way.”

“Do it right the first time, or don’t do it all.”

“We are only limited by our capacity to see

what no one else thinks exist,

and our personal beliefs that guide our actions”

“My dream is that

In my lifetime

Most leaders will be women,

Peace will prevail across the world,

Climate change will be healthy,

Inclusion will be normal,

Equality will be expected,

And love will reign supreme.

Instead of marching for a cause,

We will all be dancing

In our Famolares”

Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

I’m a leader and a doer with high expectations for myself and others. Sometimes, at the start of a project, my energy and drive can be offsetting, but over time as people jump on board, they realize that they are on a train going to a good place.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Readers can continue following our work online by visiting our website or by following Famolare on social media.

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



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