Reborn Clothing Co. is an upcycling company based in North Carolina that was started by NC State alum Emily Neville. The company started with a business-to-consumer focus that transformed people’s old clothing into something new or more useful. Since they were filling this unique gap in the upcycling space, Reborn began to experience rapid growth which allowed them to transition to larger scale and establish numerous partnerships with different universities and corporations including NC State. The company prides itself on being able to provide sustainable solutions to these different organizations and help them reduce the amount of textiles they are wasting while turning them into revenue.
The Reborn SIF team began their journey by focusing their research on the relationship between Reborn and its consumers. They conducted a small focus group to learn more about values and decision-making factors that go into consumer purchasing from a sustainability-based company. The team’s main takeaway was that “[consumers] really like to see companies that were invested and committed to sustainability because they want to see the individual impact they have on the environment through purchasing directly from that company.”
Moving from this research, the team determined that there was a missing link in the reborn storytelling process. They identified an opportunity to bridge that disconnect between the intended brand story of reborn and the customer perception. The team then began looking into other companies that were leading the field of social innovation to try and figure out exactly how they could quantify and communicate Reborn’s positive impact on the environment.
With other companies, they noticed their numbers were front and center. They had an established metric system that held themselves accountable, communicated clear sustainability, and also allowed the consumer to see just what kind of an impact their purchase could have on the environment. The team felt that metrics are an especially important form of storytelling because they allow companies to build credibility and stay in constant communication.
The team’s theory of change and their two goals for this project were to positively influence consumer perceptions about Reborn Clothing Co.’s brand and to establish sustainability as a core company value from the eyes of the consumer. They decided to first identify the metrics to which their target consumer best relate as well as how to use those metrics to convey the value of Reborn products. They felt it was key to present statistics for consumers that showcase Reborn’s sustainability and provide satisfaction of contributing to a greater cause.
The fellows compiled all of their findings throughout the year into a final deliverable report stating how this version of metric based storytelling would qualitatively and quantitatively strengthen the brand value of reborn. By providing data, Reborn could support and reaffirm its credibility and enhance customer connections.
For the Reborn team, the Social Innovation Fellows program has been an incredible learning experience that has been filled with challenges, highlights, and obstacles along the way. Team member Jay Chen said that “while there seems to be so many different issues or problems that need to be solved, along the path I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone in trying to solve these problems…and that is why I’m so inspired by our collective force and the innovative mindsets of everyone here.”
Many of the students feel that these lessons will carry forward. Team member Sasha Pereira said that “no matter what career path [she] ends up choosing, there are elements of entrepreneurship that will help [her] achieve [her] professional goals”. Many problems in society today are multifaceted and interdisciplinary so in particular the team found that exercises like pain point identification and stakeholder mapping are really useful no matter the scope of the project.
- Sasha Pereira, junior, biological sciences
- Katie Yoon, sophomore, civil engineering
- Jay Chen, senior, business administration with minor in women’s and gender studies
- Pooja Lenin, sophomore, business administration, with a minor in nonprofit studies
- Senior Fellow (fall): Catherine Chirichillo, junior, industrial systems engineering
- Senior Fellow (spring): Meghana Subramaniuam, NC State ’19
- Team Mentor: Raj Narayan, Associate Director, William R. Kenan, Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science
- Venture Partner: Emily Neville, NC State ’19, entrepreneur