Jessica Kelly, founder and CEO of THR3EFOLD, provides fashion brands with access to ethical supply chains and training to grow their business for people, planet and profit.
After a transformative trip to Zimbabwe, Jessica learned how many areas of the fashion industry are lacking sustainable jobs and the amazing effects this can have on the local community. Jessica was determined to create a platform that would provide clothing brands with access to ethical supply chains. To date, THR3EFOLD is the only platform that allows users to access an international database of ethically certified factories, product management software, and training to ensure clothing brands are up and running. able to make informed decisions.
We asked Jessica, the founder of THR3EFOLD, how she overcomes self-doubt and the accomplishments she’s most proud of.
Q: Tell us the story of the founding of THR3EFOLD: How and why did you start working on THR3EFOLD?
A: On a life-changing trip to Zimbabwe, I saw first-hand the devastating effects the lack of sustainable jobs has on a community. After speaking with a community matriarch who was forced to make the difficult decision of which grandchild should go to school, I made it my mission to create sustainable jobs for those in need in the world. world. I undertook a research and development trip to India where I encountered amazing factories, large and small, doing things like employing women who had been rescued from sex trafficking, providing child care for employees’ children, and using the solar energy and machines that tinted denim with a glass of water.
I was shocked that such factories existed given the stigma of “made in Asia”, but most of them had terrible websites, which made them impossible to find. They were basically hiding in plain sight. For decades, fashion brands have relied on an archaic system exclusive to who you know. It seemed obvious to me that there had to be a place that brands could go to find the factories with the right standards for people and the planet so that we could democratize the supply chain, create sustainable jobs and do business. fashion industry a safer place for everyone. Thus, THR3EFOLD was born.
Q: What problem does THR3EFOLD solve?
A: The problem is, the path to creating an ethical and sustainable fashion industry is not clear. Most production professionals are not educated on durability and labor standards in order to make the best decisions. Most factories have poor websites and are too busy competing on price in a low profit margin business model to change the way things are done. THR3EFOLD brings them together with a technology platform that provides clothing brands with access to an ethical supply chain, production management and sustainability training so they can grow their business for people, the planet and profits.
Q: What makes THR3EFOLD different from its competition?
A: In this newly innovative segment of the industry, we are the only platform offering unlimited access to a global database of approved ethical factories, production management software and training to enable our customers to make informed decisions.
Q: How has your education or past experiences contributed to the way you operate as an entrepreneur?
A: I have worked in quite a few toxic fashion work environments. I was punched on the head, called by my name, and crying back and forth to the bathroom a lot. Make no mistake, we have as much work to do here as we do overseas. These experiences made me passionate not only about creating safe and sustainable jobs in developing countries, but also about redefining the culture of leading fashion companies here in America. We have all the tools and talents to create an inclusive, supportive, respectful and empowering workplace. We just need to be honest enough about our shortcomings and get better at practicing grace and healthy communication in order to make the fashion industry a better place to be.
Q: What were the hardest and most powerful lessons you learned while starting and running a business?
A: Learning the world of venture capital / investing has been the longest and most difficult learning curve. When you’re not coming from wealth, accessing capital isn’t your biggest problem – it’s actually about learning to speak their language and being comfortable with numbers and trading. If someone gives you the tools but you don’t know how to use them, what’s the point? Priming is much more comfortable. It took me years to wish I could step up to be ready to approach investors. I’m so happy to see more and more investors focusing on marginalized founders, however, we still have a huge unidentified gap. It shows how many people in this community of marginalized founders don’t have the training to play in this sandbox. Even if you are invited, you don’t know how to get in or what to do.
Q: Did you find it hard to doubt yourself as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this? Did you want to give up? What made you persist?
A: All the time. Choosing to be an entrepreneur is voluntarily choosing not to know what you are doing on a daily basis. I launched THR3EFOLD because I saw an issue that needed to be resolved. But while I was a fashion expert, I started a technology company in the supply chain and production. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, let alone how to do taxes, secure investments, set sales goals, and navigate Instagram’s ever-evolving algorithm. I wanted to give up so many times. But I have been smart to surround myself with a tight circle of friends and family whom I can trust and who support me with prayer and encouragement. I also have a large community of founding friends who fully understand the struggle and can support with encouragement and connections, resources and wisdom the hard lessons learned. I wouldn’t be here without them yet.
Q: We dare to brag: what accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: It’s been a long road with so many ups and downs, and it’s too easy to just focus on the negative. But I did some pretty cool feats. I contributed $ 25,000 to start THR3EFOLD. I’m leading a global team and building a two-sided technology platform from scratch for just $ 15,000. I’ve been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Women’s Wear Daily, and more. I reached the final stages of the Business of Fashion, Tommy Hilfiger, $ 10,000 grant contests and most recently the Fashion Tech accelerator at Startup Bootcamp in Milan. I’ve been honored to work with and get sponsorship from some of the world’s biggest companies in and outside of fashion including Shopify, Google, Absolut Vodka, FIT, etc.
Q: What’s the next step for you and THR3EFOLD?
A: I’m currently working on securing investments and having conversations with big brands to secure so many members on our platform, as well as setting up like-minded strategic partners to help us grow. As we prepare for this next stage of growth, we are building a sustainability resource center to further educate and connect brands to sustainable resources, as well as expand the platform to include sustainable textile factories so that brands can source fabrics and factories in one place with standards they can trust.
Jessica is a member of Dreamers and doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial activities of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection and access. Learn more In regards to Dreamers and doers and subscribe to their monthly The digest for the best entrepreneurial and professional resources.
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