I love women who are not only starting their own businesses but creating a business with a strong mission behind it. Having a business that supports you financially is great, but having a business that also supports you soulfully is amazing. I wanted to share my Q&A with Bridget Flanagan, co-founder of NOVAA which is an ethical fashion brand that began when she decided she was tired of being uninspired and living a life that didn’t align with her values and beliefs.
TLC: So can you tell us a little more about how the journey to NOVAA began?
Bridget: My journey to create NOVAA started with me turning my life upside down. I quit my job, sold my apartment, and moved to Central America. At the time, I was working as the store manager of – dare I say it – a fast fashion retailer on Michigan Avenue. I had been there for nearly three years and was feeling utterly uninspired. Back then, I didn’t even know the difference between fast fashion and fair trade, but I did know that I wanted to use my love for fashion to impact the world positively.
TLC: I think its so wonderful that even early on you knew you wanted your love of fashion to have a greater purpose. Why was it so important for you to have a business that would make a positive impact?
Bridget: It is all of our responsibilities to raise the standards of the fashion industry. The fashion industry is very destructive. Ninety-seven percent of the clothes we wear are outsourced to factories in developing countries. Due to poor working conditions, tens of thousands of people have lost their lives making the clothes we wear. Additionally, every year 11 million tons of clothing is thrown away, making up 40 percent of US landfill waste.
These numbers disgusted my business partner and me, and because of that, we knew we needed to give consumers another option – one that the world can afford. So, that’s exactly what we did. We wanted to raise the standards of the fashion industry by giving people the option to shop ethically, while still looking good, and to join us on our journey to impact the world. We wanted our brand to be conscious of the impact it has on the world and those in it.
We know that 80 percent of garment workers in developing countries are women. These women deserve to be treated with respect and to earn a fair wage, which is exactly what we give them. We believe in quality over quantity. We provide people with timeless pieces that live in your closet, not in our landfills, and we partner with wholesalers who share our same values.
We believe that the clothes you wear should be made with someone’s heart and soul, not their sweat and tears.
TLC: I definitely think as women, we need to empower and build up other women, especially those who may not have access to the same resources and jobs we have here in the states. What advice would you share with other women who are looking to start a business or fulfill a dream of theirs?
Bridget: Just start. Big projects or life changes can be very intimidating if you let them. If you let your fear convince you that something is too hard, or too impossible, that’s exactly what it will be. But if you remove that fear and live in possibility, you will find that every project or life change starts by just taking one simple step. Just start.
That step doesn’t have to be as big as quitting your job and selling your apartment. It can be a small step and it can be taken in any direction. The important thing is that you’re moving. My first step was choosing to follow my dreams. My second step was googling “how to start a business.” Pretty soon all of these steps will add up and you’ll find yourself in a place you never imagined (like the coast of Nicaragua). Before you know it, your dream will be your reality and it will have all happened because you took one simple step.
The same thing applies to start a venture with a strong mission. If you don’t like the way something is done (say, how the fashion industry exploits workers in developing countries), you have the power to change it. In fact, it is your responsibility to change it. Change doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen if powerful women like you start stepping towards it. So, what are you waiting for?