Interview with Susan Correa

Face2Face
Susan Correa
Susan Correa
Founder & CEO
Art & Eden
Art & Eden

How do you manage to compete with the many established childrenswear brands?

I studied detailed industry reports before I entered the market. Five major players in the US account for 64.2 per cent of the market share.

I recognised that I was entering the arena with not one but five Goliaths, every existing major player a veritable giant. The business that existed was all about competing for market share, by engaging in the battle of the tyranny of the lowest price - a world I wanted to move away from. If I wanted to enter the playing field with the giants, I had to reimagine a new way forward. I wanted Art & Eden to be a great brand and known for its beautiful product. I wanted the brands legacy to be that we built something that mattered, not just bought more products to market. We had the flair and the experience to design something worth paying for and the courage of conviction to say, "this isn't the cheapest, but it's worth it." Art & Eden is not a one-directional, single-axis choice; we are focused on building a brand of great value that's making a difference.

What is the USP of the brand?

We have embraced the stakeholder theory of business, and built Art & Eden to be a one-win model. Registered as a public benefit corporation, we have committed to triple bottom-line accountability. It is truly A Better Way forward: a children's business that cares for the planet by adopting sustainable practices, that cares for people in our value chain by treating them right, that cares about under-resourced kids in our local and global communities by meeting their needs. We have created a beautiful business that cares for our customers by bringing them sustainable, deeply considered and thoughtfully made products at prices that are affordable.

How are you promoting and advertising the brand? Are there exclusive outlets? Where is the brand retailed?

As of August 1, 2017, we will have engaged one of the top PR companies in the US to promote the brand's message and story. We were very strategic about launching the brand with the right partners. We launched the brand in the US with the topmost departmental store Nordstrom. It was an honour and privilege to also launch Art & Eden in Mexico exclusively with the most beautiful stores of El Palacio de Hierro. We already sell the brand to over 300 stores in the US. We currently retail in the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Kuwait and Colombia.

Who does the sales & marketing, and what are the different modes?

We have a VP of sales, Nichole Moss managing the business in the US. We also have five sales showrooms all across the US, a sales showroom in Canada as well as Mexico. I personally manage all the major meetings and was at every trade show when we launched the brand.

When will you sell in India?

Thrilled to be back in India with Art & Eden. Super excited to launch the brand for Spring 2018. Creative Garments will license the brand for apparel in India.

Who all have helped the brand?

It was July 24, 2015 when I visited Vermont for the first time to enjoy some quiet time. I had spent the year earlier studying the path of sustainability and was looking at better business models. I noticed a lot of Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlours there and looked them up on Google to understand why everywhere I turned I saw Ben & Jerry's. I learnt that they were headquartered in Vermont, but I also chanced upon their entire journey in sustainability in ice cream and the fact they lead in the journey of being a certified B-corp. I just had to find out more. I reached out to the CEO, Jostein Solheim and requested help to understand the business model. He was kind enough to respond and invite me to the Ben & Jerry's headquarters. It was an incredible and amazing experience. Rob Michalak, social missions director, walked me through the Ben and Jerry's story. I entered the headquarters in awe and left in delight. I knew this did not happen by chance. It was awesome. The Better Way did exist in ice cream and I was fired up to build it in fashion. Exactly seven days later I was in Boston to work with Melissa Mc Carthy on her Plus line. I got a chance to meet Michael Voligny, the vice dean of Harvard Public Health Division. It was in the 60-minute meeting with Voligny that Art & Eden was born.

What are the different modes of assistance that the brand undertakes?

Art & Eden launched in the US on January 25, 2017. 

The global impact: We paid it forward and commenced our impact programme, the "Clothes for Cure" campaign way back on November 4, 2016. We have committed to 1 million multivitamins and 7,000 doses of albendazole for children in much need in Central America. The programme runs in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. We were a team of 80 people that went to El Salvador to launch the programme and more than half of the people were from the medical field from all around the US who volunteered to join this community brigade. We had doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, laboratory technicians, and dental hygienists all contributing and connecting together to create a better world for all.

The local impact: About 25 minutes from the affluence of New York lies the Camden Street School in Newark, New Jersey. There are 627 children in the school; 90 per cent live below the poverty line, and 40 per cent are special needs kids. The children have to be cared for emotionally, psychologically and physically. As I began to build Art & Eden, I wanted to be responsible to meet needs of children in our local communities, and to allow my team to be enriched by the power of being other centred. The Art & Eden team plays an incredible role in creating a safe, collaborative, exploratory space for them, a place where they can discover and express themselves in artistic ways. We encourage and teach them through our mentorship programme that their attitude determines their altitude and that their destiny is shaped by what they decide it to be.

How will you enlarge the list of associations in the future? What are the plans for the brand?

We have big plans to take the Clothes for Cure programme around the world to countries where the brand will be retailed. We will launch the programme in Mexico later this year. We are also fired up to bring our Clothes for Cure programme to India in 2018. I truly believe that Art & Eden has the potential to become a billion dollar business. We have incredible strengths between our existing founding and investing teams. We are thrilled with the way the brand has been received thus far at retail, and the great sell throughs that we have enjoyed post-launch. We have some really exciting opportunities that are on the verge of opening up. We hope to build Art & Eden into a world-class business of sustainable products for children.

Published on: 16/08/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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