Friday, September 19, 2008

Latest in Eco-Chic

We love to see small business embrace sustainability. Because as much impact as the Fortune 500's have, small businesses— from tech start ups to the dry cleaner around the corner— is where change happens fastest.

So while on vacation on Nantucket, I was excited to watch an eco-business taking off. It's one-part vacation activity, one-part sustainable product line and one-part eco-branding. Confused?

Meet Cheryl Fudge. Cheryl's background is in fashion design. After leaving Manhattan's runways for ACK (Nantucket's airport code), she started a company that salvages unique vintage clothing, patches, upholstery material and hip T-shirts, all with a local Nantucket connection (think whale prints and "Nantucket Reds"). She then turns them into fashionable, one-of-a-kind clothes. Everything from jeans to a formal gown made from drapes found in one of Nantucket's oldest Captain's Houses. No new materials, no waste. The poster-child for reuse, recycle. She also has a "Fashion Camp" where island visitors design their own wearable art, which Cheryl's staff then sews overnight. She's booked solid during the "high season."

But it doesn't stop there. Cheryl and partner Hays Westbrook, have trademarked the term "ACK Green" (I wasn't just sharing the airport code to be clever) and created a robust line of products under the brand. Water bottles, T-shirts, stickers, patches, etc. Everything is produced with sustainability in mind, and the brand has become an instant hit with islanders and tourists alike.

It goes to show that movements can be branded. And they can start small and local. After all, (Red) had mixed results, but ACK Green has something (Red) didn't— the big dreams of a small business entrepreneur.

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