It’s been a long journey since first starting this blog after graduating and taking a one-way ticket to Spain to embark on this entrepreneurial adventure. As with any entrepreneurial venture, the challenges are many: lack of funding, not having people with necessary skills, minimal exposure to the public, and sometimes, a world that’s not just ready for your big idea.
Luckily, and I really do emphasize the ‘luck’, these challenges became not burdens but opportunities in 2014. The experiences of last year have not only been inspiring to take COT to the next level, they are the very reason why production will be happening this year and you will be able to wear the first organic cotton apparel by Connect One Threads.
From Eco-Pioneer to TEDx Poet
Earlier in the year, Turkey’s “first and only green-living and sustainability network”, Yesilist named me the ‘Eco-Pioneer of the Month’ for “making way for a greener, healthier, more environmentally-conscious Turkey. The interview was featured by Yabangee, which means “foreigner” in Turkish and is the expat publication for Istanbul. Naming me as a “Yabangee making a difference“, the article was found by Ilham Kounda, who was organizing a local TEDx event and invited me to be a TEDx speaker.
The theme for TEDxModa was “Art and Innovation for Peace”, and after having nightmares about being unprepared for the talk (apparently the other speakers did too), I prepared my own art, a slam-style poem titled “No Strings Attached”, followed by my talk “Communicating a Global Conscious Through Clothing”, which connects how our clothing decisions ties to global issues around the world, and how we can turn those decisions into solutions.
COT’s first initial funding!
In the spring, Connect One Threads was selected as a finalist to receive a $2500 grant from AWEARNESS, the Kenneth Cole Foundation. The competition was for members and alumni of Compass Partners, a nation-wide social entrepreneurship program for university students for which I mentored 14 fellows at Indiana University. After much support on Facebook voting for COT (thank you for your vote if you did!), I was able to not only win the grant money but received recognition for the venture’s work on conscious consumption.
Connecting with artists from around the world
Thanks to the generosity of the Kenneth Cole Foundation, COT was able to start building a team of international artists to make designs for the first clothing line. Though the grant was not enough to start producing a clothing line, it was enough to find and connect with amazing artists spanning from Los Angeles to Boston, and Lisbon to Berlin. The trip provided us with countless insights and connections to inspiring people and organizations.
One of the best connections we made was with the Portuguese artist collective, Arte Viral. Centered in Lisbon, it is an initiative whose main goal is the promotion of art in Portugal through dynamic and original projects. I met with the founder Indias, by recommendation of someone at a local Entrepreneur meetup in Lisbon, and we’ve been good friends ever since. Now two artists from Arte Viral will be part of the international artists helping to make the first designs for Connect One Threads! The other artists will be kept as a surprise for now, but here’s a sneak peak:
The first Connect One Threads shirt was printed!
One of the challenges or an aspiring organic cotton clothing venture is finding a high quality non-toxic printer. Again by tremendous luck, it just so happened that the Federation of European Screen Printers Association (FESPA) EURASIA was hosting an international print exhibition here in Istanbul just when I needed to find one. It was there I found Kornit Digital, the Apple equivalent of the printing industry.
What makes them the Apple-equivalent? They not only make cutting-edge digital printers, a new technology in the clothing industry which is able to print higher quality images, they also make the non-toxic ink for the printers. In the same way Apple makes their own hardware and software to ensure the best processing, Kornit makes their own printer and ink to ensure the best outcome. The best part, they are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard because of their water-based inks, which means they fit perfectly with sustainable mindset of Connect One Threads.
This is just a small sample of some of the incredible things that have happened in 2014, and a small way to express gratitude to all those who’ve helped along the way so far. There is more yet to come, including a crowdfunding campaign to come soon to launch the first shirts made with a “Global Mind. Local Design.”! Until then, stay connected with us on your favorite social networks on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Feel free to give us a shout out or reach out if you want to be involved during these exciting times! Until then, Happy 2015!