Who's That Gal: Amanda Yanchury, founder of Cause I Run
Name: Amanda Yanchury
Occupation: Founder, Cause I Run (also: communications for an environmental NGO)
Hometown: South St. Paul, MN
Current Hood: Somerville, MA
Currently Reading: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Favorite Place to Run around Boston: Out and back on the Minuteman Bike Path or around Fresh Pond
Tell us about Cause I Run. What inspired you to start the company?
In 2014, I was living in a sunny climate and running *all* the time – and I worked from home, meaning running clothes were 80% of my wardrobe. I was really interested in what TOMS and a few other companies were doing in terms of creating social change through commerce, so I started researching whether any running companies were doing a similar thing. At that time, I didn’t find any. My master’s coursework focused a lot on management and brand value development, and it gave me the confidence to start putting the feelers out there. One day I thought up the name, and I filed the registration the same day.
Why are sustainable fabrics so important to your brand?
As I started to build Cause I Run, I didn’t know it was even possible to make running gear from recycled or natural materials. But environmental stewardship is important to me personally and has always factored into my personal decision-making process, so I enrolled in Factory45 (a fashion startup accelerator) and learned all about sustainable fabrics and incorporating sustainability into my business model.
As consumers in the era of climate change, our personal choices will become more and more important. And as runners and athletes, our gear inevitably wears out after use – we’ll always need to buy more of it. So the question is, how can we do that in the most responsible way? It’s difficult to find sustainable fabrics that are suitable for workouts, but they do exist. I’m excited to help open up this possibility to consumers, and I’m seeing more and more companies trying it out. Once suppliers realize the demand is there, it’ll become easier to find fabrics that are better for the earth.
How are you ensuring that your pieces are produced in an ethical manner?
I love that because my manufacturing facility is here in Massachusetts, I can talk regularly with the owner, head sewer, and fabric cutter – I know exactly who is making my clothes. The open lines of communication are helpful for keeping up with production, and I can stop by at any time. I know that workers are treated well and work in good conditions, and that’s so important. So much of the clothing we wear is produced in foreign countries where these protections don’t exist and transparency isn’t a priority – and that’s how we end up with the tragedies like the one at Rana Plaza in 2013 where more than 1,100 garment factory workers were killed. We can do much better.
Last spring, you launched a successful kickstarter (Congrats!!!). Why crowdfunding? Would you crowdfund again?
Thank you! The best part about a Kickstarter is that you’re able to gauge the reaction to what you’re offering. And in this case, there was a positive response! The other benefit is that you’re able to start building an audience by offering pre-sales to customers – the idea being that they can “reserve” a piece and then the money raised from these pledges is used to produce the items. So the turnaround time is longer than normal, but I think consumers are starting to come around to this idea. It really helps a lot of smaller businesses who may not have venture capital to work with and can still launch on strong footing.
If we crowdfund again, I think we’d do a series of one-offs to test a specific product on either Kickstarter or a platform with a little more flexibility like Indiegogo. It’s a fun way to get consumers involved in the process!
We know that you’ve encountered some production challenges, and have referred to making clothes in America as a “marathon.” How do you stay inspired and motivated?
It’s been tough running into production obstacles with our fabrics and labels. Being a first timer in a very established and insider-friendly industry, it can be tough knowing that our customers are relying on us to deliver and in some ways, we’re learning as we go. But what keeps me going is the knowledge that this work will help people in a very real way. The partnerships we’ve established are with charities who we know personally are changing lives, and I look forward to telling those stories. It also helps when we bring up Cause I Run in conversation and we see people get excited about the idea after hearing about it the first time – it’s a reminder of the excitement I first felt when deciding to go for it.
Post-election, things have been tough. It’s easy to wake up in this new reality and question how and where you’re spending your precious time and energy. What I keep going back to is that this is an incredibly important time to be an American – and especially an important time to put one foot in front of the other, give back, and help others. I’m looking forward to being a brand that does that and isn’t shy about what we value – it’ll be more important than ever the next few years that consumers have brands they can really trust.
What’s the current timeline looking like - when can we look forward to your launch?
As of Jan. 4, we are just waiting on one last detail to be applied to our sports bras before we can ship all of our preorders! After that, our store will be live on causeirun.com, and over the course of the following months, we’ll run a few fun contests to spread the word. So, stay tuned! We are so excited about what’s ahead.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start an ethical apparel brand?
It can be very humbling doing a new thing. There are a million obstacles, because the apparel industry is well established and used to doing things in a very specific way. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be that way, and being part of the ethical and sustainable movement is exciting despite its challenges. At the end of the day, it’s worth it. Just remember #WhatMovesYou :)