Meet Small Business Impact Initiative winner: Mive.
In May, in honor of Small Business Month, Klarna invited small businesses to apply to receive one free year of payment services and $40,000 worth of free media services. One hundred small businesses were selected from the applicant pool, focusing on those most impacted by the pandemic, including minority and female-led businesses. In mid-July, Klarna announced the first group of recipients and is excited to share a bit more about these entrepreneurs and their businesses.
Meet identical twins Maya and Mica Caine, co-founders of Mive, a curated, carbon-neutral marketplace of ethically and sustainably-made garments for all bodies.
What inspired you to start your business?
Fast fashion exploits both people and the planet. Fewer than 2% of garment workers worldwide make a living wage, in addition to suffering dangerous working conditions and 14-16 hour workdays. In addition to its harm to people, the industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. According to The Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report, the fashion industry produces 92 million tons of waste each year.
There are many fashion brands that have started to embody more ethical and sustainable practices. However, fewer than 20% of conscious fashion brands offer sizes 14 and up. 68% of women in the United States are a size 14 and up, making sustainable fashion inaccessible for most women in our country.
We started Mive to make slow fashion (eco-friendly, ethical, and long-lasting fashion) accessible to all folxs of all sizes by offering items made-to-measure with ease.
What are some challenges facing your business as a result of the pandemic?
One of our biggest challenges as a result of the pandemic is justifying our premium prices. When everyone in the fashion supply chain is paid a living wage, items are pricier. The $20 dress comes at a hidden cost to western consumers. With many people’s employment affected by the pandemic, cheap, fast fashion garments continued to be the status quo. Our demographic, mostly Black and Latina women are overmarketed to by fast fashion brands, so we initially found our message did not land well for price-sensitive folks. Before we opened our shop in February 2021, we launched a massive educational campaign to bring awareness to the ecological and ethical impacts of the western fashion industry. We co-authored the “Wake Up Your Wardrobe Guide” to help women begin to rethink their relationship with clothing and increase their awareness of how their clothes are made.
How might Klarna’s Small Business Impact Initiative grant help?
Klarna has been an excellent partner in allowing customers to invest in sustainable and ethically made garments in a way that works with their budget. Slow fashion tends to be more expensive because the supply chain champions fair wages for garment workers and high-quality, sustainable materials. Klarna helps us provide a payment solution that works for all types of customers.
How do you learn about who your customers are and what’s important to them? How does that impact how you run your business?
We are constantly in dialogue with our customers through our social media accounts, newsletter, and email. We had two featured videos on the @r29unbothered IG page, where we got over 100K views and 200 comments–we pulled many insights from this content as well. Our customers want budget-friendly options, high level of personalization, and white-glove service when ordering made-to-measure pieces. Because of this, these are the three key areas we’re constantly iterating on to make our customer experience better.
What have you recently read or listened to that has been an inspiration for your work?
“Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes” by Dana Thomas and “The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good” by Elizabeth L. Cline has been a major inspiration for our work. This book opened our eyes to the societal and environmental harm of fast fashion and helped ground us in slow fashion principles.
In addition, the Slow Factory’s Open Edu courses have educated us on the history of the fashion industry and exposed the exploitative practices influenced by colonialism and greed.
What lesson would you go back and teach yourself before starting your business?
It would be gathering iterative feedback quickly and figuring out how we can test our hypothesis using as few resources as possible. For example, we started building an app and decided 1.5 years in that a web store would have taken a fraction of the resources. These sunken costs could have been avoided way earlier.
To learn more about the Small Business Impact Initiative winners and their signature products, click here.