Ep. 001 | Scaling a Social Impact Business with Parker Clay

Mar 14, 2022

Where you won’t find trendy business tactics, but you will find truthful insights and timeless stories from leaders to look up to.


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Ep. 001 | Curate Conversations With Pia Beck

“You can’t necessarily be everything to everyone. And that can be a bit of a challenge. We are a manufacturer. We fulfill all of our orders out of our warehouse in Santa Barbara. We are quite literally from beginning to end and we’ve taken a really deep look at each segment of our business to ensure: Are we excellent at this? Can we scale?” — Ian Bentley

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It’s time that we challenge the business community: you don’t need to choose between beautiful products, and the people who make them. In this episode, Pia interviews Parker Clay co-founders Ian and Brittany Bentley about why, as a social impact company, they didn’t put any focus on their impact for the first 3 years of business; how they reversed the idea ‘if you build it they will come’ using data to open their third retail location; how they create rhythms with 5 kids at home, dual partnership at work and in life, and a company vision to help 10 million women in the next 10 years.

Parker Clay was voted “Best for the world” in the category of community, placing them in the top 5% of all B corps in the world.

You can shop Parker Clay at www.parkerclay.com and use our code CURATE15 for 15% off your order. Each purchase helps end exploitation of women in Ethiopia.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Special thanks to our sponsors, Parker Clay (code CURATE15) and SeaVees (code CURATE20). Music created by Queentide.



This episode features Ian and Brittany Bentley, husband, and wife co-founders of Parker Clay. A company that makes a better bag for a better world. Parker Clay exists to empower and every purchase contributes the end of exploitation in Ethiopia. In this conversation with Ian and Brittany, I really got to experience how they are raising the bar for both consumers and companies.

 They do everything both in their family and in their business from a place of how things should be versus what they could get away with. We talked about why as a social impact company, they didn’t put any focus on their impact for the first three years of their business. How they reversed the idea, if you build it they will come, using data to open their third retail location. How they create rhythms with five kids at home, dual partnership at work and in life and a company vision to help 10 million women In the next 10 years. I [00:02:00] look up to Ian and Brittany, as people, as leaders and as business owners. And I cannot wait for you to meet them.

 In celebration of international women’s day and women’s history month, we are thrilled to share about Parker Clay. Parker Clay makes better bags for a better world. As a certified B corporation, their goods are sustainably handcrafted in Ethiopia, creating ethical employment for at-risk women. It’s a bag you can buy for life while changing lives in the process.

There are 150,000 women in prostitution in the capital of Ethiopia. 26% of women are unemployed in the. And 4.6 million children are orphaned in Ethiopia. Parker, clay hires, at-risk women pays living wages and benefits and provides skills, training, career advancement, and financial literacy opportunities to all of their employees.

Every purchase you make from Parker, clay creates hours of empowerment for women in Ethiopia [00:03:00] to date Parker, clay has provided over 750,000 hours of. Stable jobs, living wages and protection against fluctuation in currency, help put the power back in the hands of women who will change the world. Parker, clay exists to empower, and every purchase contributes to the end of exploitation.

In Ethiopia, you can see how many hours of dignified employment your purchase will provide when you shop on. Find your better bag today at parkerclay.Com and use code CURATE15 to save 15% off on your first order.


A dusty old surplus shop in Tokyo filled with all vintage Americana well-worn clothes, scratched vinyl and faded photographs made founder, Stephen Tiller nostalgic for a time he’s never known. He saw his first pair of salt wash SeaVees with their signature license plate logo in a [00:04:00] glass. Through a deep dive of archives, journals and magazines.

 He discovered a birth in 1964 of a BF Goodrich brand that pioneered the coastal casual lifestyle that defined California in its golden age. After only seven years, the brand was abandoned without a trace and laid dormant buried for nearly 40 years. With a revolutionary campaign in the 1960s, SeaVees pioneered the transformation of the sneaker from gym shoe to casual shoe.

The goal show up in SeaVees, a comfortable sneaker with the sophistication of a dressier shoe to any social event. After discovering that first pair of SeaVees, Taylor moved his family across the country to set up shop in a Santa Barbara studio with open windows and cool breeze and to live between mountains and sea to breathe new life into something old, something long, lost and rediscovered.

Born in 1964, SeaVees is the original way to go casual. The SeaVees vision went on to influence the creative direction of many of the [00:05:00] top names in the footwear industry. Today. SeaVees is alive online in two flagship stores and carried in a store near you. Use our code CURATE20 for 20% off your order at SeaVees.com.


Brittany and Ian, welcome. Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited for this conversation. 

Yeah, thanks for having us. We’re excited to be part of the start of your podcast. 

No, this is our very first episode. So y’all are the inaugural guests. Um, and rightfully so, 

thank you so much. We’re so excited and so excited for what you’re sharing.

This thing is important for the world to hear. Yeah. 

Thank you. Okay. So the first question I always like to ask is in your own measure of success, tell us about something. You’re proud of something about, um, the success that you’ve seen, or the growth that growth that you’ve seen. So this could be. A number of hours of empowerment created, it could be number of bags sold.

It could be number of unique customers reached, or it could be an initiative or something someone said to you once anything you want. [00:06:00] Yeah. I think we probably each have a little bit different takes on it, but I definitely saw amazing growth during COVID for our factory in Ethiopia. We’re able to keep everyone employed during that time period, and we couldn’t travel.

So I loved coming back and seeing a stronger factory with amazing leadership. And that’s something that I’m really proud of. Not only did we, stay stable, but we were able to grow about 30 employees, and continue their impact, like path of success as well. 

How long was it that you weren’t able to go there?

 It was about a year, which is very unusual for us because we’re usually there about four times a year. And so we were, uh, you know, Lisa was there at March of 2020. As it all happened and yeah, it took a little while, but we communicate all the time over, all the channels, Skype, Facebook messenger, you know, all the fun channels.

Yeah. And I think that, [00:07:00] you know, as a growing business, there’s so many metrics that we look at, especially being digital and online. And there’s a lot that we focus on. But I think speaking from the heart, just kind of to start the conversation off with like, when we really now we’re just back in Ethiopia last month in January.

and we, uh, got to meet some new people to our team. And there’s this one woman in particular, her name’s Marta who, um, literally had an eye and eye problem. And we found out she couldn’t see, as the team were saying, Hey, I think the problems cause we had a quality issue. The problem is coming from this one team and Marta has an eye problem.

Took her to an eye doctor, found out that she can’t see more than five inches past her


And when we met her, she said, you know, really for the first time, she’s 20 years old for the first time in my life, I can see. But when we talk about measure of success, what she said next was it for us? It’s she said, but the first time in my life I feel seen.

 And I think that is such a [00:08:00] powerful piece of the work we get to do, where we could be working with another factory around the world. Never connected, not, not knowing what’s going on, how it’s made, who’s making it. And at Parker Clay,we get to invest deeply in who is behind the products as much as the products themselves.

So I think that, yeah, we have 230 employees all together from our headquarters in Santa Barbara and our headquarters in Ethiopia and almost every member of our team here on the US side speaks with Ethiopia on a daily basis. So we’re very connected. 

Wow. That’s, that’s incredible. and. I totally felt that sentiment.

When you said that she could see she’s, she feels seen for the first time. Like wow, what an incredible testament to all the work that you’re doing, right? Like, it’s so easy to look at social media and see the beautiful products that you create. And you’re obviously doing very well. All of which we’ll we’ll get into and [00:09:00] I like, I felt that. So I can only imagine how that felt for you all to hear someone say that about what you’re able to create through your work. 

And it means so much to our entire team here on the US side as well, because sometimes it feels like our focus is selling beautiful bags, which it is, but it is to create that impact.

And so if we don’t do our job well on this side of selling the bags and get them to the right customer, It can create as large of an impact as we want to make in Ethiopia. So it’s really, you know, our team here in the US our community behind this, but it’s not just artisans in Ethiopia. They’re very much contributing to the success of the whole process.

 Absolutely. So on that note, it’s really evident to me and has been since the very first time I interacted with your brand, that there’s a really strong set of values that drive everything you do. Both in the business and on your team and also in your personal lives too. And so, uh, for context, for everyone listening, Parker Clay makes a better bag for a better world.

And [00:10:00] first and foremost, like you said, Brittany, you exist to contribute to the end of exploitation in Ethiopia. So tell us a little bit about your story and how you landed in the social impact space. And I think correct me if I’m wrong, you had a career in real estate before y’all started Parker Clay. So how did you get here and why leather goods?

 Yeah, it’s I mean, it’s one of those things we look back and go, there’s not necessarily the most obvious c onnections to some of these things. It’s really kind of crazy. I mean, Brittany’s background is in design, which definitely applies towards a lot of this, but for me, it’s been primarily business and marketing sales.

so specifically in real estate, but what, what brought us to Ethiopia was actually our daughter Saila, that we adopted from Ethiopia. And before that it was our son’s Parker and Clay, where the name came from. Um, and for Brittany and I. We had strong careers. We had had our first two, uh, kids, Parker and Clay.

We had bought our first house and kind of starting to, you know, take [00:11:00] those steps of, of the dream of what you can do, uh, here in the U S and it felt like there was so much more that we wanted to be involved in. And, and we had talked about adopting when we were, I think, dating and younger. Um, it popped up as we started considering having a third child and Ethiopia, um, was, long story short Ethiopia was a place that we felt most connected to.

And so we went to Ethiopia for the first time in 2011, 11, 11, and so long ago. Now we, and we, uh, moved there less than a year later. And that was, I mean, there’s obviously a bigger story in that narrative where we just felt really connected and experienced a lot more through that adoption story that connected us there.

And I think that’s important part to mention though, because it started with adoption, but we saw it as how do we prevent, you know, [00:12:00] a mom from having to give up her child. And we saw that in Ethiopia, we can make a large difference by creating employment for her. And so we saw that as an opportunity. And after speaking with many, many Ethiopian leaders on the ground, that.

Um, don’t come here just to help with another orphanage or, you know, to give back. And one of those ways draw beneficial, but what they really needed was to create jobs. And so we partnered with a nonprofit that had a business, but we were challenged to help it become profitable and succeed so that they could transition women from their rehabilitation center and to a job training.

 Location and where are they going to pick up skills and everything else? Yeah. 

And we were looking for ways to like create more sustainable opportunities. And there’s a, huge history of textiles and handmade goods from Ethiopia, but they’re beautiful, but [00:13:00] there’s also Turkish, cotton and fabrics and, and a lot more from Asia that’s being developed.

And, we wanted to find some other opportunities and we just so happened to one year looking at. Birthday gift for Brittany found this leather bag. And we both, when we first saw it, when it kind of caught our attention, but we didn’t think it was made in Ethiopia. So we kind of were checking it out. And we found on the inside a tag that said made in Ethiopia and it just sparked a lot of ideas.

So we’re like where, you know, you see literally in Ethiopia, goats and cows and sheep everywhere. But you don’t realize what, what is the by-product of this? Um, and it turns out we went to a tannery. It turns out the leather is so exceptional that it’s actually being exported to Europe, to Italy, to other parts of the world.

Where if I say made in Italy, you can probably think of a handful of bags, but where was that leather Fort from? And so here we are working with these women who have come from very vulnerable places like trafficking and prostitution saying I will do whatever it takes to take care [00:14:00] of my family. Some of the most like potential filled, incredible women you’ll ever meet.

 And we just found that this raw material that’s being exported to other parts of the world, like Italy and Europe. And why can’t we create this bag? Why can’t we create something here in Etheopia.

Each byproduct of the meat industry there. So it’s available and we could create something beautiful with it. 

So that kicked us off to go. Let’s make some products. And so we literally just designed some stuff in our house and had some ideas and went to the tannery, went to the factory, and that’s where it started. 

Very, very cool. I saw a picture on social media when I was scrolling yesterday in preparation for our conversation of Brittany sitting like at a laptop in the dark in Ethiopia. And so I can only imagine all of the stories that you have over the past. 11 years now of, of building this. Um, so, so you mentioned something that, um, I want to say, oh, and, and build on a little bit, which is that the leather that you source is a by-product of the,[00:15:00] food and agricultural industry in Ethiopia.

And so Parker Clay is a certified B Corp, which means that, um, you have to meet pretty rigorous quality and, and impact standards among other things. And so tell us about some of the other company practices that you uphold that you’ve, you’ve built your company on and why they’re important to you. 

Yeah. I mean, we believe that our factory employees in Ethiopia should receive the same standards as we have here as well. So we created a basket of goods and, you know, it’s, it’s different in Ethiopia. So it is, you know, equivalent to what meets their needs there. but we have a basket of goods that we offer, um, anywhere from financial literacy training to. the center of excellence program where they can get skills training at a leather industry Institute in Adis and they can have that certification to carry on through any other job that they take within that official paper.

So, we have a cafe [00:16:00] that subsidizes meals for them, and we have paid maternity leave, which is very rare in Ethiopia as well. And in the US yeah, so that’s just like part of what we, we received a real award last year for B Corp best for the world, um, for community. And so that’s very important for us to just. To honor what they have, um, as well in their life and the family and the community that they’re building. 

The certification too, that we get from best in the world puts us in the top 5% of all the B Corps in the world, which is also a really, uh, You know, humbly and honorable piece of, being part of a B Corp, but really Parker Clay we’re about social impact. I mean, that’s first and foremost, what we, champion, uh, it’s making sure that, you know, when we talk about like sustainability and a living wage, those things are, are, are great. but there should be [00:17:00] standard, right? Those should be the things that we really build off of and make even better.

 Uh, I think for the last 10 years, Brittany and I have in the one big piece of it is we lived in Ethiopia. And I think that for us was a huge differentiator and advantage because these are not distant people. I mean, I talked to other companies that make things around the world. I was talking to somebody the other week.

 They have never even been to their factory in China. They have no idea who’s behind it. And how it’s, I mean, but I can tell you a story of Marta. I can tell you the story of Kibera. I can tell you the story sibling, like I can go down the list and we know these people, um, and they’re important to us. And so that being part of a B Corp, I think it, it gives some further degree of accountability.

 Um, and standards that we get to set around that. And so, you know, I hope it’s a challenge to the business community to say, you don’t need to choose between beautiful products and the people who make them. Right. I think that compromise is something [00:18:00] that we hope to show the world that you don’t need to compromise. You can really have both. 

Yeah, I think that’s a great sentiment and a really good call to just put out to people to humanity and especially to business leaders to, to just do better. Right. And, And I’m curious if you have any advice for I’m sure there were moments in your journey where it felt, uh, challenging to not have to sacrifice one or the other.

Right. There was some lever that you needed to pull in order to keep moving in the direction you needed to move, to do the work that you do. And how did you, how did you navigate those situations so that you didn’t have to choose? And what advice do you have around that? 

Yeah, there’s, there’s a lot in that for sure. Many, many layers over many years and creating products in Ethiopia to, you know, even the, the shape of our bags, maximizing the one piece of leather to, you know, reduce the amount of waste on the piece of leather, um, from choosing accessories, that [00:19:00] will be strong enough to last as long as our leather. So that someone, could carry the bag forever. We have a lifetime guarantee and we just believe that our products are strong enough where you’re not going to have to keep buying new ones. It should, you know, clean condition and keep wearing it. So I think that that’s, that’s very important as to just the strength of our, like how sustainable our factory is in Ethiopia as well.

 We the better we create our bags, the more sustainable that employment is there as well. Hmm.

I think there was a lot of conversation around, you know, 10 years ago, the leading model was really like Tom shoes, right? Buy one, give one. And we now know that that, model wasn’t the best, right? Put a lot of people out of business and local makers and things like that.

And so when we approached it, we didn’t want, and I think there was also a bit of an expectation that oh, it’s made in Africa. Oh, it’s made in Ethiopia. Isn’t that [00:20:00] where, you know, there’s problems and there’s poverty and maybe I’ll buy something, but it’s more of a philanthropic type gift. We looked at that and then when we realized this material was such high quality, we’re like this should put Ethiopia on the map for international fashion. Yeah, not just, you know, a trinket that’s meant to be discarded. And that’s why we’ve been so aggressive to put a lifetime guarantee around our products and make sure it’s made with the best materials and, and, production, you know, uh, uh, characteristics that make it last.

And focus on sharing our impact for the first three years, because we wanted the focus to be on, people desiring this high quality bag and then secondary seeing the impact after they purchased or after they dove in a little bit more. We didn’t want to market it based on guilt or someone’s story, but truly like they wanted that bag and they could have the impact.

 That is so cool. I didn’t know that and I find that so [00:21:00] fascinating. And I’m curious how you think that’s contributed to where the company is today, right? Because that’s kind of counterintuitive to be a social impact business and not talk about the social impact for the first couple of years. And your explanation makes total sense. did you see any like, repercussions to that along the way and, or like, What, how did that contribute to like what you think the company looks like today and 2022?

Yeah. My thought with that is, you know, when we lived in Ethiopia, we worked with a NGO, a non-profit and. In a way in certain places like Ethiopia being an NGO can be one of the best jobs you can find. So there’s a certain dependency on aid. And I, you know, I think Britney and I both see, and to be honest, the conversations we’re hearing from our friends in Ethiopia is don’t come and be a burden come and create opportunities.

And this migration from aid to trade. Right. How can we create business that actually, you know, the underlying [00:22:00] issues are economic opportunity and jobs and things like that. And so, you know, there’s a certain time where relief is important and some of this development work is critical, but can we bring really the best of both worlds, where you have profit and purpose and intersect them to create what we’re doing at Parker Clay?

We, I mean, we worked directly with this NGO, helping women out of prostitution, giving them skills training, and we hired, you know, we were able to help a number of women while we lived there under the NGO. But now we’ve employed hundreds over the last few years and we’re creating sustainable jobs where now these women have jobs have incomes.

They’re proud of. They’re contributing to their communities, women reinvest 90 plus percent of their incomes back into their families, into their communities. And that’s what’s happening with our team. Is that their kids are now going to school and they’re able to be proud of what they’re doing and have a sustainable job. 

And my sustainable too. I mean, [00:23:00] majority of our employees have never had a full-time job, you know, haven’t had a higher degree of education. And so this is really creating a different path for them in the future. 

What an incredible ripple effect to get to observe as you. You know, do the, do the business side of things, right?

Dig into the metrics and continue to create really beautiful products, to also get, to see how that really translates in real time into the families and into the communities. I’m sure that keeps you going on long days and long nights and meetings early in the morning because of time differences and everything in between.

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 I’m gonna switch gears just a little bit. So at the time of this interview, you’re about to open your third retail location. And that’s going to be, uh, in Denver, Colorado at the free market at the dairy block. And it’s your first storefront in, uh, another state. And so, congratulations, that’s super exciting.

And by the time this episode is, is being listened to, you’ll be open. Um, so it’s right around the corner, which is, which is great. How did you make the decision to expand into a new geographical market and, and why Denver specifically? 

 Yeah, I would say, you know, retail has changed a lot, during COVID and post COVID.

And so as a brand ourselves, we love storytelling and sharing about our impact in our store. When people come in and we have very, a very connected [00:26:00] customer base and a lot of those customers are in Denver. So that is one of the main reasons why we chose that location, but in the free market itself, it gives us such a good opportunity to share our story.

 And, create the, that opportunity within the other brands and businesses in the market to talk about sustainability and being a B Corp and being connected with the artisans and the product that we make. So, yeah, we’re really excited to be in that location. 

There’s an incredible restaurant in the market called Bruto. Right. And we were there. The whole time they’re talking about the food and it’s locally sourced and the chef actually went out and picked the grain. This was before we made a decision to, to move there and to open up the shop. But as soon as we started hearing that narrative, we knew that the community was just so intentional about where things are from and how they’re sourced.

And that’s so important to us. And we’re always saying who, who is our core customer, right. And [00:27:00] where are they? Um, and if money wasn’t an issue or an option, you know, as a concern.. I mean, there’s probably a lot of listeners that are around the US in that field, that exact same way. And we want to be in those neighborhoods.

 Uh, and, and that’s part of our plan is that we were able to then the beauty of doing business through e-commerce. Is that we know a lot of the trans we know who’s coming to our sites and, you know, kind of what geographics we’re shipping things out to and things like that. And so the beauty of that data is that we can also tell where our customers are.

So it’s not like a bit of a, if you build it, they will come. I mean, it’s, you actually know, what type of customers, uh, and in communities we are already popular and where we should go. So that’s a part of it as well. 

Yeah, that’s, that’s really powerful. Um, and yeah, it’s not, if you build it, they will come it’s there over there, let’s go there. so Brittany, you’re the creative lead for Parker Clay. And one of the things that I’m really impressed by is that y’all [00:28:00] launch new product skews. Like. All the time. Like, it seems like at least a couple of times a quarter you’re launching brand new products and collections, tell us a little bit more about your design process from concept and a new product all the way to it being shoppable on your site or in a store. And selfishly, I really want to know, like, how do you do that so often and in the volume that you’re doing it? 

Yeah, well, it kind of started in the very beginning of. What we wanted for ourselves, like what bags we love to carry, um, coming from California and especially like central coast of California, we’re not overly formal. And my, my designs really are like, what bag would I want to carry with a white shirt and jeans, you know, just daily carry, but I love that, you know, their colors that. Our lifetime colors that will age beautifully, that can go with almost any outfit and go from day to night. So that is my ideal type of bag.

[00:29:00] And we are, um, you know, as we expanded our product line, we are developing more and more and different aspects for travel or for evening outs or. you know what there’s there’s designs that don’t make it too. We did try to create like a family of seven passport holder that you’ll never see like a niche product that you guys would use more than most people.

Yeah. Um, but I just think I really. Clean minimalistic type of product is definitely my favorite. But where we learn a lot from the customer. So, you know, our customer loves pockets. They love zipper closures. They love just the natural colors. And, just being part of that, just creating a larger impact.

So I have a lot of fun designing the bags and creating them is, is a fun project. I would say. You’ll often find me like kind of creepy zooming in closely with my phone on someone’s back from far away, [00:30:00] getting inspiration and taking pictures for later. So I would say travel and just seeing, like getting around and seeing products on people and seeing how they carry them and, you know, identifying our core customers and what they want to carry as, the best way for me to design the bags.

And as we grow, we’re definitely learning more about. You know, the best price point for our customer, the best type of bag in the right age range, and that all factors into the designs, but we always want to create a product that. It definitely stretches our artisans in Ethiopia, but as something that is a skillset that they have and is an Ethiopian product. There there’s certain designs, in different parts of the country that we don’t necessarily do because we design for Ethiopia and for our customers.

So that that’s pretty much. but wraps it up. And I designed most of the women, like all the women’s products. Ian definitely helps with a lot of the men’s [00:31:00] products. It’s going to design the briefcase and he loves getting creative and working on some of the designs as well. So I it’s the best one. We can both be over there at the same time and not have to just send sketches over emails, but really like work with the pattern maker that we have at our factory. And I would say like last trip, how many products did I design? There’s a line, like, say like 25 ton. 

What do you do with the ones that they don’t make the cut?

 I do have a good pile of my office. I have a hard time getting rid of those, you know, I just, I hold those. 

Sometimes they also become motive like, you know, a little bit of an influence for future design. So it might be ahead of its time, or it might just not be the right time. Brittany was talking about a belt bag, Fanny pack, like probably a year before they became popular. And I think everybody was like, no, no, no, no. I’m pretty. Brittany’s like, yes, yes, yes. And then they, all of a sudden he blew up and Brittany’s like told you.

So, you know, I’ve learned to [00:32:00] listen really closely to Brittany on that stuff. Cause her, she has got a great eye for trends and style. 

But that’s the great thing too about owning our own factory is we can be really nimble and. Adjusting quickly and we’re working on feeder designs, farther down the line.

And, um, but we do have the ability to manufacture very quickly. 

Yeah, totally. It’s something that we’ve actually been playing around with a lot at Curate Well Co. We don’t have a physical supply chain or manufacturing process like y’all do, but the idea of a vertically integrated business model kind of adopted for the way that we support our clients is something that I’ve been kind of continuously working on, implementing in the business as we keep growing for exactly that.

Right. It allows you just the freedom. To do what you want to do to be ahead of the trend, to be really nimble and to stay really agile. So, um, that makes, that makes total sense. 

If I could, I would just add like business wisdom, peace in that, because I think that you also have to be really careful because you can’t [00:33:00] necessarily be everything to everyone.

And that, that can be a bit of a challenge. And so I think for us, I mean, we are a manufacturer. We fulfill all of our, all of our orders. Out of our warehouse here in Santa Barbara. Um, so we are quite literally from beginning to end and we’ve taken really deep looks at each segment of our business to ensure our, like, are we excellent at this?

Can we scale? Um, and you’d have to keep asking yourself those questions. I think, as you take on more of that vertically supplied, you know, aspect, whether it’s a service or a product. so, you know, I think that we,

I would say to each of those, different processes before it gets to the customer have strained us at different times. You know, it’s always a different one at different times. So for the first few years, we mostly focused on our Ethiopian manufacturing to really build that. And now we’re working more on the US side and turning towards more of our fulfillment side and perfecting that a bit more. So yeah, each one kind of [00:34:00] has its moments.

 I was talking to someone recently who said that in order to be really excellent at something, you have to decide what you’re not going to be good at. And, uh, that was really confronting for me because I don’t like to be bad at things. I don’t think anyone, no one likes to be bad at things. Right. So what, what is, something that y’all have chosen not to make a priority so that you can be really excellent at the things that you are excellent at?

I would say, I mean, one thing for me as a designer is, we don’t try to be overly trendy. S o we don’t try, you know, it’s fun to come out with these pop colors, but it’s not something that will necessarily be our, strongest product. So it’s fun for a moment, but that’s not a sustainable product. Um, there’s probably a lot of little examples like that and it, 

yeah, and it, I think it changes depending on the cycle of growth that you’re in for the business, but asking yourselves, and it’s one of our values is just really radical honesty about things.

And how do we be honest with each other? [00:35:00] And how do we be honest about how our businesses performing? you know, and there are things that you just have to kind of let go or adjust and change. so yeah, I mean, I feel like there has been. A number of pieces like that, that we

Especially like moments. Uh, do you want to bring an agency in how, or like from an agent work with an agency or do you want to bring them internally within the company that there’s lots of those types of conversations?

Well, yeah, for us, probably the marketing side of things has been one of the biggest, right. Especially even what we mentioned a little bit ago about. You know, we have impact of like an NGO or a non-profit it to some extent, but we are a for-profit business. And so, you know, how do you, how do you balance both those things well?, and I think there’s, you know, there’s certainly trade offs, but on the marketing side, which narrative are we saying? Right. And how are we communicating that message and what mix and what channels are we doing? Marketing? And, everybody says, Tik TOK, do we do tick-tock? I don’t know.

Right? It’s like, there’s just things like that, that you, you, [00:36:00] you, sometimes you can’t do it all. Otherwise you’re going to dilute your, your impact. 

Once a month, we like let’s focus on Tik TOK. We were like, nah. So 

Now we have that conversation too, every, every like six weeks or so my team is like, we need more video content and I’m like, I don’t think we do so y’all are not only, uh, business partners of a growing company, but you’re also partners in life.

You were high school sweethearts. You have five kids now. This just totally blows my mind. So I’ve been in a season of like a lot of life recently. I planned a wedding. We have been renovating a house we’re about to move into I’m running a business and, uh, without a, a business partner at the same level that I’m operating at and it’s, it’s really stretched me.

And I, I cannot possibly imagine having a child. Let alone five children, in addition to all of that, and you have, you know, a whole, a whole grouping of them. [00:37:00] And so, how do you do it? How do you do anything? 

Yeah, honestly, I have no idea one day at a time. And, I would say generally I have a high capacity to handle a lot of things. Um, I love that they’re my, our kids, our age seven to 18. So that wider age range that they do take care of each other quite a bit. And we have parents in town that can help with our kids, but we like to integrate them in the business, you know, help have them help us at the warehouse and absolutely

All above the age of course, right. 

We have three that are working age level. Um, our daughter, Abby, who we also adopted at an older age from Ethiopia often helps at our retail store and in our warehouse a little bit customer service sometimes. So it’s been really fun to watch. but it is, it is a lot for sure. And I think they hear us probably constantly talking about work and I’m hoping they [00:38:00] see that as an exciting part.

And I’m sure there’s. Hopefully one day, they don’t always have to talk about work all the time, but we love it. And I think that they’ll probably see that too. They love, they see us going to Ethiopia. Often we take them when we can and, make that part of our family adventure really. That is one of our goals was really to adventure with our family and, you know, being entrepreneurs, it’s definitely an adventure, let alone traveling to the other side of the world for this type of work.

But, um, Yeah, we love it, but definitely help from others. We love it. I’m glad you said that. Cause sometimes, sometimes, 

and I would say congratulations to you, like, look what you’ve done. Right. You’re doing it. You’re I mean, those are great things. And I think that’s important too, is to celebrate each other.

Um, because there’s a lot of hard moments in life. I mean, we were coming out of a pandemic. everything has been changed and shifted and it’s easy to just get twisted up and stressed out. I’m burned [00:39:00] out. And I think that that’s something that we have to remind ourselves, right? We can take a deep breath in beautiful Santa Barbara. You can go walk on the beach, right? There’s so many wonderful things, no matter where you are in the world.

I see too, when I had no kids, it felt as hard as now when I had one or two kids it felt as hard as now. So it is not like all of a sudden I’m the person that can take on five kids and work full time. It’s like, you know, somehow you just grow with it.

 But you do have to protect your time. I think you have to choose well, and I think you have to get more comfortable with saying no to certain things. And as more people want your time, I was really impressed reading about the late, creative director for Louis Vuitton, Virgil and I was reading some people’s responses and just, you think sometimes the busiest people on earth.

 And yet they’re willing to give of themselves and, you know, have a conversation or talk to someone. And I, I want to do that more. Like, I want to be someone who, even though we’re busy, we can make time for people. you know, and, and we do have to balance that, I [00:40:00] think for sure, but I think that we need each other, right. It’s why, it’s why at Parker Clay, we say we go together because that’s such a big piece of what we believe in. 

Well, I feel super lucky that that y’all chose to have this conversation today. So thank you for that. One of our values at Curate Well Co is generosity. And, uh, I think it’s what you’re saying is such a good reminder that there’s so many forms that that can come in.

Right. And it can look like having a conversation, right. It can look like. Choosing to spend time with people and connect people and celebrate each other. And, um, y’all are such a great example of that. So you have, um, Parker and Clay and Saila and Abby. And what’s your youngest daughter’s name? Kaya okay. Um, how do the, how do the boys feel about their, their names?

All over the world. 

Well, our son’s name is actually Clayton. Okay. So he’s always like, well, you didn’t put the last three letters of my name on, but I think they’re [00:41:00] going to grow into it. And Clayton is very much a mix of both of us. He’s creative and he asks very deep questions. And so it’s such a merge. P arker is just going to be probably an amazing salesman when he grows older. But I think all of our kids are leaning towards different aspects of, you know, it’s not that they didn’t necessarily have to go into Parker Clay in the future, but it’s really cool. Our Daughter, Kaya’s already an amazing little designer and always drawing things. So it’s, it’s wonderful to see. 

And they have fun. They’re like, you know, I think even just small little things like in their high school or junior high, you know, it comes time for teacher appreciation week and they bring in a little Parker Clay gift and they are like, oh, this is beautiful. And then again, my name’s on it, you know? Um, 

  1. And taking them back to Ethiopia. I mean, you took just the boys one trip and we’ve taken all at different times, but just the boys, like wearing little suits to that tannery and designing products together. It’s really special. Yeah. 

That’s so cool. So you [00:42:00] mentioned, uh, protecting your time, choosing how you spend your time. Well, what are some of the other commitments or practices that you have to each other to be able to maintain both your working relationship and your partnership? 

 That is a great question. And I think there are times where we have the work hat on, and then we have the husband, wife hat on and. 

I think we have both learned the longer you’ve had this, the business is to be able to turn off like looming issues after work and be able to save them a bit. There’s some that we talk about and there’s some like, oh, I’ve hit my capacity. Let’s just like, we’ll talk about that another time. I think. We both get a lot of energy from doing either like networking events together or traveling together, designing product together, um, just going on vacations and doing fun things together. So that definitely helps us as well. 

I mean, we do love what we do, and I think there is a certain aspect where we don’t mind doing a, [00:43:00] both kind of mixed together. So if it’s. trip, but traveling together or if we stay a day extra somewhere else, while we’re traveling, it’s kind of fun. you know, and then practically day to day at home, you know, it’s, uh, trying to be consistent with. W e’ve done, like whether we’re going on a walk or a date night and that, you know, please just give yourself a little bit of patience and grace. I mean, it’s, we’re, we would love to say every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:00 PM, it almost never is exactly that.

I think our seven year old gets more daddy dates than I get actually.

Cause every day when I come home, she’s got some, she’s got like a scarf rule, got on the floor by the door. I was like a red carpet and all dressed up. And it’s like, you have to say yes at that point, you can’t say that you can’t. 

Amazing. One of the things that I’ve experienced every time I’ve interacted with either of you is that. You’re so positive. You’re so energetic. You’re so genuinely happy. And, and you’re clearly just having so much fun, like in your business and in your [00:44:00] life and you know, to your point. And there’s, there’s so many things to be stressed about. There’s so many ways we can criticize ourselves or, or not give ourselves a break or get burnt out.

And it’s really a refreshing and contagious, that it’s, it’s clear to me that you prioritize, having fun. How do you continue to make that a pillar of your business, even in maybe some of the hard conversations or the looming issues or, or anything else that might come up? 

 It’s been definitely a growing process because I would say when we lived in Ethiopia and it was an all consuming business, kind of like it is now, but living there and we had very little control.

It’s like, you go to one place and they want you to not pick up a product until you, you know, submit a certain type of paperwork and you’re driving all the way across town to submit another paper. There’s just like, the processes were very difficult. And so. I remember a specific moment where I told Ian like, we can’t do this if every one of these cultural type of, just processes are gonna be extremely [00:45:00] frustrating. Like we cannot choose to continue that mindset. We just have to be flexible and roll with these things. And I would say the personal issues, like we did have challenges with. Someone that we started a factory with in the early days. And some of those personal things are the hardest for us because we, we love really connecting and investing with people. And so that definitely is harder point. 

To be honest. I have learned a lot from Brittany about the fun factor. I’m I tend to gravitate. I always like to have fun and I’m like, I’m like head down, get the work done, you know, and then move on to the next thing. and so that’s been something stretching for, for us both. And, you know, I remember there’s so much talk around work life balance, and I would really challenge people to replace balance with rhythm because I think it’s more about. Rhythm, right. There’s moments where you’re going to hustle and [00:46:00] focus and sprint on certain aspects. And it might not be imbalance, right? It might be unbalanced. 

We’re definitely not ever really balanced as far as like, you know, you want a meal prep and you want to exercise regularly and you want to work the right amount of hours. That’s never really on. So I think rhythm for sure. 

Has been, but Brittany brings in so much of the fun. I’m so grateful for that. And it’s fun because I see myself thinking like what, what Brittany do. And I was last, the other week, I was down at the Harbor here in Santa Barbara with a few of the kids. And there was like fresh uni on the pier and we would never have done that. And I was like, I would never have done that, but I was like, Brittany would do this. And so we go and do it. And the kids loved it. It was so fun. And then I think Brittany got upset. You have fun without me what’s happening. 

I was in Denver setting up our store and I was like, all these fun things happen without me there. 

It’s that seven. Right? You had the FOMO with me without you. Yeah Ian I’m like you, I’m a, I’m a head down kind of person. And I’m learning that [00:47:00] flexibility is something that. Has been one of, I think one of the areas of personal growth that I’ve changed the most since owning a business is just, you just have to get okay with being more flexible. I’m a super structured person. And, and so it was, I, I learned the hard way, right. Where it was like, everything felt like hard and friction. And I was like, all right, I can’t do this anymore. Like I have to just let it be okay. 

So I want to talk about the, the long game and the Parker Clay that, that we know today has been in the making for over a decade. And you, uh, started in your garage at one point before you have had the beautiful headquarters and warehouse that you have today.

And you’ve grown kind of one step at a time. And I think that there’s a lot of dialogue around overnight success and I’m doing air quotes overnight success. And, um, you know, my experience, even, even in the short time that I’ve been growing my business is that it’s like the endurance. Is [00:48:00] really. What it takes to, leave the legacy that you want to leave and to build the things that you want to build and to create the world that you want to live in, and that you want your kids to live in. And to really change culture.

Right. And set the standard that, that you want to see other people, uh, adopt. And so when you reflect back, what are some of the bigger learning lessons that you experienced along the way of building Parker growth? Parker Clay? 

I mean, We could have, we couldn’t have done each step of the way without a lot of help from others. And so that is one of the reasons that I always say we go together, even when we lived in Ethiopia getting product to the US to sell. I mean, it was in a friend that we met in Adis. We, he put items in his garage and he shipped them out, you know, during his lunch break of his other job. And when we were moving back to Santa Barbara and we weren’t you know, set up properly to even have products out of our own garage. A friend in San Diego [00:49:00] sold stuff out of his other warehouse for us. And so each step of the way has been relying on others as well. And building this together. I think Ian’s always had a better longterm vision for what Parker Clay could be.

Then I have had been very much like. wanting it to be great in the moment we are, we have, and the product and the branding and everything to be as I would like in that moment without kind of thinking of what it could be in the future. 

It’s yeah, definitely an overnight success and, and anybody who sells that crap. Totally lying. It is it’s, it’s, everything is always, it’s hard work, right? There’s creativity. There’s the people behind it. I mean, people are a huge component to it and you have to be really resilient. You do to have to overcome those obstacles. And, there’s a book by Ryan Holiday called, “The obstacles the way.” It’s one of my, one of my favorites and the conversation of really these obstacles illuminate the path, to the way right. To what’s [00:50:00] ahead. And they become the way. And I, you know, I think that that has at the, when you’re facing. It doesn’t always feel fun or clear. 

Um, it’s, it’s pretty much the worst. It can be milestone moments that were like, have directed us to where we’re now succeeding because of this moment.

But they have, they’ve led to those opportunities that have, have grown the business. And, you know, I think at the end of the day for us too, one of the things that gives us a little bit more of a fearless mentality is, even if Parker Clay didn’t exist, which we hope it doesn’t cause we do, we feel like we make a better world, but we have made the impact on hundreds of lives. And when you can walk away from something where, you know, you’ve had tremendous impact, you know, it encourages us to keep going and really our vision.

 Over these next, let’s say 10 years is to impact 10 million women’s lives in Ethiopia. and that’s like the long-term vision of where we’re going and what we want to do. And we believe we can do [00:51:00] that by bringing these other people to the table and showing them that, you know, women that have had these circumstances in Ethiopia, shouldn’t be discarded. They should be invested in because they are the future of the country.

And, uh, you know, I think that. you start to get people around you that have also faced those challenges and see the successes. you know, we’ve had to pull our compensation up and down to, you know, go with the tide or not take any for periods of time.

you know, we’ve had issues like in 2021 where. Paid advertising. Was it just total mess? Um, how do we adjust and adapt? And all those things are super important. So, but we believe in the purpose and the mission and what we’re doing, and we’re incredibly passionate about it. Eyes wide open and keep charging ahead. 

I n the interest of, uh, going together. What’s an ask that you have of our community?

 Just being intentional about what you’re investing in, because [00:52:00] everything, you know is a choice and. You can have both impact. You can have a business as well. So I know a lot of your listeners are business owners. And to know that they have a choice in where they’re buying their, you know, packaging from that’s going to go with their product, to how they are treating other people on who they can have mentor and advise them as well. That’s definitely been something we’ve always had as a top priority, and it makes a biggest impact. 

Yeah, and I would say two. Certainly be, be part of that movement. I think that there was a moment in time where ethical fashion and this conscious consumerism movement was more of a moment. And I think we’ve seen now that this is a movement, right? It’s something that’s here to stay. And, um, if you’re in that space, Don’t give up, keep going, but yeah, and you know, shameless plug, if you’re looking for a bag and you want to have an impact on the world, come to Parker Clay., And we’d love for you to be part of this [00:53:00] community. Right. But. Whether you can be a voice or you can be part of that in terms of owning a Parker Clay, we need both, um, and we’d love to be a supporter of your community too, and what you’re doing, because if we’re going to impact 10 million lives, we’re not going to do that alone. And he got together. We got to go together. 

That was amazing. Ian and Brittany, thank you so much for being here today. I know that you have a million things going on, and I really appreciate the time that you’re willing to spend having this conversation.

And I want to acknowledge you both for building a company that, that I really look up to that I know so many others look up to both because of your success and the way that you’ve scaled. And also just the impact that you are so thoroughly and so deeply. And so timelessly dedicated to, and especially for your attitude in how you go about doing that on a day-to-day basis. Y ou, in my opinion, really model what entrepreneurship can be and should be for yourselves as leaders for your family, for your team. And for your [00:54:00] community and for other business owners, looking to you as an example. And, I feel that way every time I interact with anyone on your team and your brand, and I know that everyone listening is going to feel the same way. So, um, y’all shameless. Buy a bag by bag, buy a bag, a better bag for a better world.

You can shop at parkerclay.com and you can find, Parker clay on Instagram @parkerclay, and you can use our code CURATE15 for 15% off your order. Every purchase creates hours of empowerment for women in Ethiopia, and you can actually see. How many hours your purchase is creating. When you check out online and stable jobs and living wages help put power back in the hands of women who will change the world.

 Love it. Thank you so much. Yeah. 

Thanks so much for being here. Y’all 

One of Parker Clay’s core mottos is we go together. This ethos shown through in this conversation when Brittany and Ian give a nod to all the people who [00:55:00] helped them and Parker Clay become what it is today. One of my favorite things about Brittany and Ian is how much fun they have. Fueled, at least in part by Brittany’s Enneagram seven, their ability to quite literally change the world while remaining approachable, generous, and lighthearted is something I admire so significantly.

 And I want to acknowledge them again. Parker, clay was voted best for the world in the category of community, placing them in the top 5% of all B Corps in the world. And I also wanted to echo what they said. It’s time that we challenged the business community. You don’t need to choose between beautiful products and the people who make them. 


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