Entrepreneurs Flexing with the Times
Emily Neville and her company, Reborn Clothing Co, is not letting a global pandemic stop the growth of her textiles company. In fact, they are hiring.
Emily Neville just graduated from NC State with a political science degree just a few short months ago in December and like the rest of us had no idea a global pandemic like COVID-19 was around the corner. When the virus was spreading in China, she thought Reborn would be protected from the effects of the virus because Reborn uses local textile manufacturers in North Carolina and not in China. This changed as quickly as the virus spread and a stay at home order was issued in North Carolina.
But despite the unprecedented circumstances, Reborn has been able to react quickly – something Neville has been able to do since launching her business as a sophomore at NC State in the fall of 2017. The business has grown to 16 employees and is looking to bring on more sales reps to bring her licensed products to more universities across the country.
Transforming Garments Into New, Useful Items
After transforming thousands of surplus university branded apparel and promotional items into higher-value products, Reborn has expanded to work with other schools and companies through licensing agreements. Reborn keeps textile waste out of the landfill by designing and manufacturing accessories, totes and even dog beds. Neville has found that some universities now have the time to work on their agreements during this stay at home time. Just this week, Neville has secured a licensing deal with Columbia University, reaching their 50th university agreement.
Young Entrepreneurs First Experience with a Slowing Economy
After successfully completing 2 rounds of funding, one adjustment Neville has had to make is setting realistic expectations while in the middle of her current and third round of funding. She has leaned on her wide network of mentors for advice, especially those that have weathered the 2008 recession. One mentor, Bill Spruill of Global Data Consortium, recently said we can not think like an old oak tree that will break and fall during a storm but instead, like a bamboo tree that is flexible during a storm. That message really stuck with Neville and her willingness to be flexible.
Flexing with the Times
Neville reflected on whether she wants her company to be reactionary during these changing times or be an aggressive leader, finding ways to bring good to her community through her brand.
“We now have a contingency plan for our contingency plan,” said Neville. Some of the ways Reborn is flexing during this pandemic is partnering with other local brands, such as Fullsteam Brewery, Videri Chocolate, Counter Culture Coffee, Raleigh Denim, and Murphy’s Naturals. Neville is spearheading the Triangle Bundle Project, where North Carolinians can buy bundles of products to support local businesses.
In addition, Reborn is donating 15% of proceeds from each Reborn t-shirt to help their friends at the Carolina Textile District produce PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Neville recommends entrepreneurs and small business owners to get hyper-focused on their staff and customers.