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Meet the sisters self-funding a sustainable footwear model, creating footwear that ‘rejoice each girl’s step’


That is an installment of Startup Year One, a particular sequence of interviews with founders in regards to the main classes they’ve discovered within the instant aftermath of their companies’ first yr of operation.

Julie Kuo is a second-generation Asian-American and cofounder of the Los Angeles-based, female-founded sustainable footwear model, Avre, alongside her sister, Connie. Each of the Kuo sisters discovered the ins and outs of the shoe enterprise early on, rising up of their household’s footwear firm, East Lion Corp., which produces the Qupid line of accessibly-priced vogue seems. They witnessed first-hand the sacrifices and battles their mother and father needed to encounter to develop their firm into the multi-million greenback enterprise it’s at this time.

With their very own model, which launched earlier this yr, the Kuos are additionally championing a number of social causes, striving to make their voices heard in terms of ladies’s empowerment. Even the model’s nam Avre—an acronym for “genuine, versatile, accountable, empowered”—embodies the model’s platforms. 

Fortune just lately spoke with Julie and Connie Kuo to study extra about their enterprise, the teachings discovered, the hurdles overcome, and plans for subsequent yr.

The next interview has been condensed and evenly edited for readability.

Avre cofounders and sisters Connie and Julie Kuo.
Images courtesy of AVRE

Fortune: What impressed the launch of Avre? Who’s your audience?

Julie: The need in desirous to assist girl from all walks of life and to have the ability to do that in a sustainable approach all whereas having the ability to give again to our neighborhood was what impressed my sister and I to launch Avre. The very footing of every Avre shoe is to acknowledge and rejoice each girl’s step. Our household has been within the footwear trade for over 35 years and we perceive ladies’s ardour and love for footwear.

Understanding how sure manufacturing practices have been damaging to our planet, and studying about recycled threads each Connie and I spotted there was a chance to indicate the world they may have stunning footwear that was additionally good for mom earth. We partnered with Repreve, one of many world’s main certifiable recycled fibers. All of our footwear are particularly made with these threads fabricated from recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalat) water bottles and in doing so we not solely scale back waste filling up our landfills, however emit fewer greenhouse gases and preserve water and vitality within the course of.

Our audience is empowered ladies who need to take a proactive method of dwelling and figuring out that the alternatives they makes as shoppers can have an effect on the world in a optimistic approach. Being aware and conscious and making the adjustments in life for a sustainable future to assist defend the earth for a lot of generations to return makes all of the distinction. 

Being a minority girl in enterprise isn’t simple and to be taken severely and earn the respect of friends in a male dominated trade has been a battle, Kuo shares.
Courtesy of Avre

Retailers have taken fairly a success throughout the pandemic, so it have to be formidable to launch an organization of any type, not to mention an attire or footwear model, proper now. What has it been like opening a direct-to-consumer enterprise throughout a pandemic?

Julie: We’re a business-to-consumer footwear enterprise, and having to function and run throughout a pandemic has positively had its challenges.  The traditional approach of promoting and creating model visibility has been very difficult for us as a brand new model as one among our main methods of introducing the model was by way of social occasions. 

With social gatherings not being allowed in addition to individuals limiting contact with a purpose to keep secure, a number of the actions we had deliberate to construct model visibility needed to be postponed. We’ve needed to rely closely on social media and natural development with audiences falling in love with the message and our designs as soon as they’ve acquired the footwear. 

What has it been prefer to work with provide chain companions and develop the preliminary assortment?

Connie: We’ve been very lucky with our provide companions in having a terrific relationship that has stemmed from years of working collectively from East Lion. We’ve at all times been pioneers in wanting to usher in new progressive methods to discover footwear. It’s what led us to Avre, and that mindset was established way back with our provide companions. 

Due to this fact, the transition to push our provide companions to open their minds to attempt newer applied sciences, strategies, and practices has been a a lot simpler course of than others. Don’t get me flawed—we nonetheless cope with hesitation and push again. However we’ve established our objective for the reason that starting, and having that clear and direct communication has helped us to proceed push Avre ahead.    

Based on the Nationwide Affiliation of Ladies Enterprise Homeowners, there are a complete of 12.3 million women-owned companies within the US. Of those companies, 64% of the companies began final yr by ladies have been began by ladies of coloration.
Courtesy of Avre

That mentioned, what has it been prefer to safe funding for Avre? Is it primarily self-funded, VC-backed, or some combination of each?  

Julie: Funding for Avre is all self-funded by my sister and I. 

Publish-pandemic and 5 years down the highway, the place do you see Avre out there? 

Connie: We need to create Avre into a life-style model through which we are able to incorporate not solely footwear and vogue, however different merchandise that must do with well being. We’d increase this line to be inclusive of everybody within the household—mother, dad, and little one. We’d additionally love to include and assist extra social applications that align with who Avre is.

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