Maaike Groen

In between competitions, we'd like to explore some ways to easily incorporate sustainability into our daily life. We can't all be brilliant game changing entrepreneurs, but we can certainly be interested in ways to green up our lives. And read about inspriring entrepreneurs in the mean time. Miss Green is a collection of organic timeless basic items that are always available via the internet.The company was founded in November 2008.

Miss Green – a social and sustainable entrepreneur

Looking good starts with the right basics. It sounds simple, but it’s not really…You know how hard it is to find those beautiful basics for your wardrobe that really flatter you, but that also keep their form, stay beautiful and that will forever be in stock so you can always fall back on your favourite colour. And since 1kg of cotton takes 10,000 litres of water to produce, it would be even better if those basics are produced sustainably.

Why Miss Green?

Miss Green is a collection of organic timeless basic items that are always available via the internet. Miss Green was founded by Maaike Groen (Groen means green in English, so the name was easily found) 5 years ago, in November 2008. After she had her first child, she noticed she got these beautifully wrapped packages of baby outfits in the mail, ordered by her family and friends over the internet. Why didn't this exist yet for women like her? Perfect basics in a number of gorgeous colours that will never go out of style and can be combined with everything. But if she was going to do this, all clothes should be organically produced. She wanted to leave the world a better place for her children, and it was also just common sense. The clothing industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. There had to be another better way.

How to start?

So, not hindered by any previous entrepreneurial experience except her husband’s, or any former knowledge of the fashion industry, she and her husband Taco founded Miss Green. Within six months their ideas were more or less on paper and she had thoroughly researched her objective. She had made a shopping list of all the knowledge she needed and wanted, and doggedly persistent, set about the task of 6 months of thorough networking and phone calls to people who might know something she didn’t yet and could help her. She and her husband did have online knowledge, so it was clear from the beginning it should be an online business model and shop. The first collection consisted of 6 t-shirts, 3 dresses, 1 trousers and 2 tank tops.

In the beginning, their focus was young mothers, advertising with shirts that are typically longer than the usual shirts, wrap dresses that stay wrapped, just qualitatively good basics. Because of her marketing background she knew instinctively that quality, comfort and easy to order would be their primary selling points. Beautiful basics. A crisp and clean website. Only after a while, when the label was properly on the market and getting better known, did they started to push stories on how the clothes were produced. Luckily around that time, they noticed a massive shift in consumer behavior towards the organic market.

 

Beeld

Organic fabric

Their fabrics and clothes are made in a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard - highest social and sustainable certification) certified producer and workshop in Turkey. They’ve also found a certified knitting studio in Lithuania, where they knit the Miss Green cardigans and sweaters with certified non-mulesed merino wool.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

We started in November 2008, exactly when the entire economy collapsed. We managed to build a profitable business in five years’ time despite all the setbacks. Now still, the retail sector and clothing markets are shrinking 20-30% every year, but we are still growing rapidly. So we’re definitely not sorry that we ever started, rather the opposite. We’re just very glad that we’ve got such a great story to tell, that we’re sustainable and that we can make a difference. We did however underestimate it. The fashion sector is something quite different than what we were used to, plus we did it differently than everyone else: We only sold our items online and had an online business model. Our first winter collection for example wasn’t delivered to us until November, pure beginners mistakes. We would never do it the same way now, knowing what we know. We learned the hard way, but we’re doing ok, and I think our advantage is the sustainable aspect even if it’s not the easiest way.

Growth

By now, she is no longer doing it from home with just the help of her husband and mother anymore. Miss Green now has a real office in Haarlem, and all the clothes are being shipped from their magazine elsewhere in the country. Last year they were so busy, they noticed they forgot to tell their story. Something was going wrong. “We became too introverted, so we had to get out there, tell people what we’re about.” Finally, they hired some fulltime staff members. Now there is more room to grow, to develop and to think. “And now that we’re out in the world again, and talking about it, people and new ideas are getting on our path automatically. Which helps us grow even further.”

Any good advice?

Just do it! You can do so much with so little means. Use your network, inform your friends and family, combine good ideas. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to people, get some ideas and knowledge. Don’t be afraid, don’t see too many obstacles. If you’ve got a good idea, you can tackle those or work around them. An idea on paper is something different than an idea in reality. You need a clear vision, and work steadily towards that.

And always keep asking to change the market. Do you have recycled wool? Do you have recycled cotton? We have to keep asking, otherwise the market will never change.


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