Meet the sisters self-funding a sustainable footwear model, creating sneakers that ‘rejoice each lady’s step’


That is an installment of Startup Year One, a particular sequence of interviews with founders in regards to the main classes they’ve realized within the rapid aftermath of their companies’ first yr of operation.

Julie Kuo is a second-generation Asian-American and cofounder of the Los Angeles-based, female-founded sustainable footwear model, Avre, alongside her sister, Connie. Each of the Kuo sisters realized the ins and outs of the shoe enterprise early on, rising up of their household’s footwear firm, East Lion Corp., which produces the Qupid line of accessibly-priced style seems to be. They witnessed first-hand the sacrifices and battles their dad and mom needed to encounter to develop their firm into the multi-million greenback enterprise it’s right now.

With their very own model, which launched earlier this yr, the Kuos are additionally championing a number of social causes, striving to make their voices heard in the case of girls’s empowerment. Even the model’s nam Avre—an acronym for “genuine, versatile, accountable, empowered”—embodies the model’s platforms. 

Fortune just lately spoke with Julie and Connie Kuo to study extra about their enterprise, the teachings realized, the hurdles overcome, and plans for subsequent yr.

The next interview has been condensed and calmly edited for readability.

Avre cofounders and sisters Connie and Julie Kuo.
Pictures courtesy of AVRE

Fortune: What impressed the launch of Avre? Who’s your audience?

Julie: The will in eager to assist lady from all walks of life and to have the ability to do that in a sustainable manner all whereas having the ability to give again to our group was what impressed my sister and I to launch Avre. The very footing of every Avre shoe is to acknowledge and rejoice each lady’s step. Our household has been within the footwear trade for over 35 years and we perceive girls’s ardour and love for footwear.

Understanding how sure manufacturing practices had been damaging to our planet, and studying about recycled threads each Connie and I noticed there was a possibility to indicate the world they may have stunning sneakers that was additionally good for mom earth. We partnered with Repreve, one of many world’s main certifiable recycled fibers. All of our sneakers are particularly made with these threads fabricated from recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalat) water bottles and in doing so we not solely cut back waste filling up our landfills, however emit fewer greenhouse gases and preserve water and vitality within the course of.

Our audience is empowered girls who wish to take a proactive method of residing and realizing that the alternatives they makes as shoppers can have an effect on the world in a optimistic manner. Being aware and conscious and making the adjustments in life for a sustainable future to assist defend the earth for a lot of generations to come back makes all of the distinction. 

Being a minority lady in enterprise isn’t straightforward and to be taken severely and earn the respect of friends in a male dominated trade has been a battle, Kuo shares.
Courtesy of Avre

Retailers have taken fairly a success in the course of the pandemic, so it have to be formidable to launch an organization of any type, not to mention an attire or footwear model, proper now. What has it been like opening a direct-to-consumer enterprise throughout a pandemic?

Julie: We’re a business-to-consumer footwear enterprise, and having to function and run throughout a pandemic has undoubtedly had its challenges.  The traditional manner of selling and creating model visibility has been very difficult for us as a brand new model as one in all our main methods of introducing the model was via social occasions. 

With social gatherings not being allowed in addition to folks limiting contact to be able to keep secure, a few of the actions we had deliberate to construct model visibility needed to be postponed. We’ve needed to rely closely on social media and natural progress with audiences falling in love with the message and our designs as soon as they’ve acquired the sneakers. 

What has it been prefer to work with provide chain companions and develop the preliminary assortment?

Connie: We’ve been very lucky with our provide companions in having an excellent relationship that has stemmed from years of working collectively from East Lion. We have now all the time been pioneers in wanting to usher in new progressive methods to discover footwear. It’s what led us to Avre, and that mindset was established way back with our provide companions. 

Due to this fact, the transition to push our provide companions to open their minds to strive newer applied sciences, strategies, and practices has been a a lot simpler course of than others. Don’t get me fallacious—we nonetheless cope with hesitation and push again. However we’ve established our aim for the reason that starting, and having that clear and direct communication has helped us to proceed push Avre ahead.    

In line with the Nationwide Affiliation of Ladies Enterprise Homeowners, there are a complete of 12.3 million women-owned companies within the US. Of those companies, 64% of the companies began final yr by girls had been began by girls of colour.
Courtesy of Avre

That mentioned, what has it been prefer to safe funding for Avre? Is it primarily self-funded, VC-backed, or some combination of each?  

Julie: Funding for Avre is all self-funded by my sister and I. 

Publish-pandemic and 5 years down the street, the place do you see Avre available in the market? 

Connie: We wish to create Avre into a way of life model during which we will incorporate not solely footwear and style, however different merchandise that should do with well being. We’d increase this line to be inclusive of everybody within the household—mother, dad, and little one. We’d additionally love to include and assist extra social packages that align with who Avre is.

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