Q: Tell us about your organization/social enterprise. What is your purpose or mission? What services or products do you offer? Who do you offer your services to? How long have you been running?
A: My sister (Bree Hollinsworth) and I (Hailey Hollinsworth) started Ungalli together six years ago. We are fiercely committed to creating a new style standard. We want to raise awareness of the negative impact the mainstream clothing industry has on people, wildlife and the planet. We think your clothes should express who you are and what you stand for, but never to the detriment of others. This is why Ungalli brings you superior style, quality, and design, made with integrity every step of the way.
We have a full line of sustainable casual clothing that includes t-shirts, long sleeves, hoodies, joggers, shorts, hats and more. Everything is made ethically in Canada from sustainable materials such as recycled plastic bottles, re-used cotton, organic cotton and hemp. We carry sizes for women, men, and youth. We also do custom logo t-shirts for like-minded businesses and organizations.
Q: Tell us about scaling up your organization/social enterprise. Why are you looking to increase your business? Why are you doing this now? How are you scaling up? (More employees, more products/services, more locations, etc.?) How are you reaching your preferred market?
A: The fashion/clothing industry is one of the most polluting and unethical industries that exist today. The more conventional clothing that’s hurting people and the environment that we can replace with sustainable + conscious clothing the better!
We’re scaling up in two different ways. We recently opened up a new store in the downtown core of our hometown of Thunder Bay. We’ve always wanted to help other entrepreneurs get on their feet. When we opened the new store, we saw sharing our space with other entrepreneurs as the perfect opportunity to do so. Our store is now called Ungalli Clothing Co. + Local Collective.
Along with our products, we brought in about 20 other local entrepreneurs and creatives and gave them a space to sell their products. Most of them don’t have a permanent location to sell their products, so it gives them space to do so on a commission basis. The collaborative environment brings a lot of people into the store. It’s been really busy since we opened in March!
We’re also scaling up our custom t-shirt program. Custom logo t-shirts for business, sports teams, charities, etc. has been the busiest area of our business for the past 2 years and it’s growing quickly! This year we have started to purchase fabric and manufacture products in bulk to reduce costs. We’re also working on our custom t-shirt ordering process to make it easier for customers and easier for us to keep organized.
Q: Tell us about the challenges you face while scaling up. What kind of challenges are you facing and how are you overcoming them? What advice would you have for other social enterprises who may wish to scale up?
A: Cash flow is always a challenge. It’s extremely tough. We have to carry a lot of inventory to be able to fulfil custom orders within 2 weeks and keep our store and website stocked with our own brand. When cash is tied up in inventory it can be stressful, but it’s a reality we have to deal with in our business. Working with business mentors and people who have been in our shoes has helped us a lot this past year. We’ve really learned to be strategic with our inventory planning by using different software and programs to help us keep track of everything.
Some advice to others would be to make sure you consult mentors before jumping into anything too quickly. It can be extremely beneficial to hear someone else’s perspective on things.
Q: What advice do you wish you could give to yourself as a start-up?
A: 1. Embauchez un comptable aussitôt que possible.
2. Ne vous laissez pas prendre à penser qu’être entrepreneur sera chic. Vous découvrirez rapidement que la quantité incroyable de travail et de sacrifices requis définit réellement l’esprit d’entreprise.
Q: What is your personal or professional background? Do you have previous experience in business or your sector?
A: I went to York University to study kinesiology and left in my third year to start my business. During the summers in university, I was a sales rep at a uniform manufacturing company and saw first hand the extreme negative environmental and social impacts the clothing industry is having on the world. It really shocked my sister (my business partner) and I, which pushed us to commit to doing something about it.
Q: Raconte-nous une histoire ou un fait intéressant au sujet de ton entreprise sociale.
A: My sister and I do some public speaking about Ungalli and how it came to be. Mostly at environmental, entrepreneurial, or youth conferences. We’ve been able to travel to some really cool places. Two years ago, we were hired to speak in Gaspe, Quebec to speak at a conference where David Suzuki was the keynote speaker. We spoke directly after him!!!! Talk about nervous! We spent 3 days with him at the conference. We went hiking with him and even got a selfie.
What inspired you to start the ArtSpeaks Project?
The inspiration came from 20+years of community work I’ve been doing since returning to Sault Ste. Marie after graduate school in the ’90s. I trained as an art therapist and saw a great need to make art part of everyday life and not just for the privileged or elite. I believe that making art a part of everyday life will lead to healthier individuals and healthier communities.