We sat down with the co-founders of zestt to find out more about how they created their mission centered company, why friendship is at the center of their business partnership and why the GOTS standard is so critical to the achievement of their long term vision for the brand.
Q: Your friendship and business partnership seems to be a huge part of the brand. How did you guys meet?
Benita: Jess and I have been friends since high school. I moved to her small town at fifteen and she was my tour guide of the new school. I mentioned that I was worried about making new friends and she said that I was now a part of their friend group. We’ve been best friends since.
Jess: We both had our own separate businesses in our late twenties and became a lifeline for each other in terms of running a company, hiring employees etc. Eventually we realized that it would be ideal to start a business together, which is how the idea of zestt was born.
Q: When did the concept of organic textiles come to you? Did you always want to be a mission centered company?
J: When we started our company, we had three organic cotton throw blankets in the line, which we chose because “organic” sounded like a good thing. As our customers asked more questions about why this mattered, we had to go out and do more research on why organic made a difference.
B: We found out that there was frequent greenwashing in the industry and that the Global Organic Textile Standard was the best way to align your entire supply chain to the highest ethical and organic considerations. We also learned how dirty and environmentally harmful traditional textile processing could be. We decided right there and then we had to shift to make all of our products GOTS certified and focus on creating a company that would lead to way in responsible textile production.
Q: You all started out as a home goods company, but now you have a lot of what could be defined as clothes or fashion. How did that evolution come about?
B: Our throw blankets have always been the foundation of our line and when we started traveling a lot for wholesale shows, we laughed about needing a way to bring our throw blankets with us on the plane. And that's how our travel wrap was born - a way to bring the comfort of our organic cotton with us on the road!
J: We realized that our customers needed comfort with them wherever they went and that there was a definite need for ethically produced multi-use pieces for the capsule wardrobe. Our wraps, sweaters, ponchos and scarves were meant to serve that purpose and have quickly become the best selling part of our brand!
Q: What has been the hardest part about building your company, and what have those challenges helped you learn about yourselves?
J: I lead the financial arm of the company, and as most small businesses can attest to, cash flow is always at the top of the challenge list. It's been really important to us to finance our own growth so that we can remain true to the values and ethics that our central to our company. As owners, they has meant skipping a paycheck so we can bring in a new round of product or making tough cuts to seasonal introductions. I think that both of us have learned what values in action look like and are really proud of the way that we've been able to grow our company, especially over the last year.
B: As a creative and designer, I am always looking at what is next. Trying to figure out the right balance of new seasonal pieces and colors, while balancing the importance of creating heirloom worthy pieces is always the top challenge on my list. Working through this has helped me become a more multi-faceted designer. I'm creating product that needs to take the consumer, environment and ethical production into account.
Q: What's next for zestt organics?
B: For us, the future is all about impact! We have a goal of keeping 10 million pounds of pesticides out of the environment and everything we do is accomplished with this end objective in mind!
J: We know that the impact we want to create can only happen through partnership with our customers, so the next few years are all about creating a community that not just educates others about the benefits of organic cotton, but also focuses on being a conscious consumer. We feel strongly that the future of our planet depends on it!