By Chris Meehan | May 29, 2020
Colorado / California
"We tried to create a less wasteful model for baby clothing," says Davidson. "We do baby basics, we use all-natural organic fibers, and we're made in the USA."
Davidson explains that the less wasteful model includes not just using minimal and recycled packaging, but recycling and reusing the clothing. "We do a number of things actually, but they're all related to recapturing post-consumer textile waste."
After meeting as Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal, Davidson and her partner, Danny White, founded the company because they had lots of friends and family who are parents with young infants. "A lot of people get baby clothes and the baby barely wears them and a month later it's outgrown everything," she notes.
"Many parents wind up with piles of essentially really high-quality, barely used apparel products that we should try to find a way to reuse," Davidson says. "So essentially what we do is we provide prepaid return labels for our customers to send back used, outgrown baby clothes to us. And we also do collections within our community. For instance, we've got a drop box at a midwifery clinic down in Englewood. And we've had them set up at libraries and at schools before in the past too. So we try to collect wherever we can."
She continues, "Then we have two recycling programs. We have this amazing program that we developed as Peace Corps volunteers where we partner with five rural clinics in Senegal through connections that we had developed in working in the Peace Corps. And we also partner with three nonprofits here in Colorado."
The company bundles the reused clothing and textiles to ship to Senegal and to reuse locally. "Everything is stocked at five rural health posts, and given out to mothers who live in rural areas. We send about 300 to 400 of those bundles per year," Davidson says.
"As we grew and took in more donations, we also wanted to find the best way to reuse and recycle these items locally," Davidson explains. "So we also partner with three nonprofits here in Colorado that have received over 3,000 pounds of used quality infant and children's clothing that we've collected." These organizations include A Precious Child and WeeCycle.
Finally, "Things that aren't high-quality enough for rewear -- say they're really stained or they're just old and nobody's gonna wear them again -- we portion those out and those go directly to American Textile Recycling. That is essentially a safer way to recycle textiles than dumping them in the trash," Davidson states. "We're really trying to kind of hit all angles of how do we create a sustainable, almost circular model and really find a way to best reuse and recycle when applicable."
Despite its mission, the company isn't a B Corp -- yet. Davidson is in the process of establishing it as one. "But, it usually takes about a year to get certified and it's a hefty process," she says.
Though the company is headquartered in Denver, its clothes are manufactured in California. "We really wanted to manufacture, start to finish in Colorado, but we ran into so many roadblocks," Davidson asserts. "There's not really an apparel industry here for the types of products that we're making. Most of the apparel manufacturing out here is like outerwear and jackets and like technical gear, but there's not a lot of soft knitwear sewing that happens here."
Likewise, "We couldn't find anybody to do the printing. They are like a million screen printers in Colorado, but nobody does wide-format, roll-to-roll screen printing, Davidson continues. "We couldn't find anyone who could do it roll-to-roll, and we really wanted to do it all over the fabrics which wasn't going to work otherwise."
They found that they could find that supply and manufacturing chain in California, however. "We work with…a sewing factory that prioritizes sustainability," Davidson explains. The factory helps out with patterns for the clothes and blankets as well. "We really work on conceptualizing the styles that we want to develop. . . . That includes all of our different prints, sizes, and styles."
The company has more than 70 SKUs, representing different seasonal prints, which Davidson designs, and is developing more. "Ultimately, we want to create a pretty solid collection of baby basics that go up to one year," she says. "We're also working for the fall on doing, adult and children's matching, clothes."
Working with a domestic manufacturer also helps keep order numbers low. "We actually put in very short production orders, no more than a couple thousand units at a time, which for baby clothes doesn't take up that much space. So we don't like to keep in stock more than 2,000 units at any given time right now."
Bokk Baby is primarily a direct-to-consumer brand, and it also sells through online marketplaces, including J. Crew and Motherly. "We do about 100 to 200 orders a month, which is manageable for keeping our fulfillment internal," Davidson says.
The company isn't yet in retail stores. She says it's looking into getting into some boutique stores but concedes that the company would have to make much less selling products wholesale to them, even less than the typical 20 percent to 30 percent commission charged by online marketplaces.
Davidson was planning on going to at least one show this year to show its clothes to potential retailers. "It moves inventory. It will help us get our pricing down per unit because right now we're just hitting our minimums basically. So if I can do that and I can get our margins a little better, then wholesale becomes slightly more viable, in which case it might be a good way just to build the brand and bring in more revenue and move more inventory."
Despite all of the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus in 2020, May was a busy month for Bokk Baby. "We still did pretty well with Mother's Day," says Davidson, while acknowledging the pandemic has impacted growth.
Challenges: "Not having the capital resources to put into advertising, like digital advertising to drive traffic. The other thing would be more funds to put towards creative," Davidson explains.
Opportunities: "There's a large opportunity to make a dent organically with parents who are interested in sustainable options and closed-loop options," Davidson says. "I'm actually thinking about doing a 're-loved' section. It's a really good deal on hand-curated, used products. I think that's like a huge opportunity for us."
Needs: Resources to boost marketing on a limited budget. "We're trying to build out a blog," says Davidson. "Growing direct-to-consumer sales through our Shopify store. I'd really like to see those sales grow as much as possible this year."