Insured Spotlight: Mellivora Co.
| 1360 Words | 6-7 Min Read | D. Hiester |
I had the chance to speak with Chris Gerardi, founder of Mellivora Co. The company has experienced immediate success over the last year, and I wanted to hear about why he started this unique company. We also talked about the origin of the name, the biggest challenges he faced, and where he wants to go in the future. This is our interview:
What were you doing before starting Mellivora?
I was working as a buyer for another company; I won’t mention them by name. It was a food company, and I worked various jobs such as being a franchise opener and doing operations, things like that. I got to a point where I was just over the routine of dealing with the same types of situations, but I really had no clue what to do.
I went back to things that I really enjoyed doing. I was hiking, biking, you know, really just outdoorsmen stuff. I told my company when my last day was, and I knew I wouldn’t need to work for a bit because of money I saved up, so I started taking pictures. Some people thought my stuff was good, but I did it mostly for fun. I had no intent of starting a company, but I knew that at some point I would have to go back to working somewhere.
So I started framing the pictures I was taking, and I started a blog. I tried to put the stories behind the pictures, but I found that it was just really hard. Then, I was at Wholefoods ironically, and I saw this girl wearing a pair of really ugly leggings. That’s when I first had the thought to put my pictures on leggings.
That moment was about a year ago now, and then I started putting the wheels in motion; trying to figure out how to manufacture leggings, market them, etc. So I finally made a prototype of the Fearless Leggings and I had my girlfriend wear them. We were walking around with her in the leggings, and a lady in a boutique came out and asked where she got the leggings. I then told the woman that if I ever started making them, that I would have her buy some.
I took six months to get all of the details down after that. I wanted completely recycled and US milled materials. So all of the leggings come 100% from here in the US.
So why the name Mellivora?
Well… it comes from the Latin term for honey badger. My girlfriend used to call me honey badger, probably for the grey in my beard, and so we started using google to find other terms for honey badger, and we found Mellivora. We had pictures from hikes and other stuff and places we had been, so the name was around before we actually had any of the leggings.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced with the Business?
Our biggest challenge has been getting people who have been dead set on a brand for years to see something new and buy someone new.
The problem is that big companies are taking skilled labor down in the US, because they are simply going to produce a product of good quality to make 75% margin off of it. There is a reason we charge $69.99 all the time for our leggings, and we do not have the massive sales that other stores do. It is because we charge a fair price for the work we do. Our competitors are producing leggings for $7 a pair, then turning around and selling it for $70. What we want is skilled labor, with seamstresses and graphic designers, proving to people that how we are buying products should change.
What instilled you with this Ideal of Transparency?
Working at my previous company, I heard a lot of claims to be transparent and ethical, but they were definitely not in their practices. [Mellivora] doesn’t want to create a brand like Nike. What we want is for people to think when they see our brand, and know that you aren’t standing for Mellivora, but you are standing for buying something real from an ethical business.
We want in two to three years for people to be able to come to where we manufacture the leggings, and see every step of that process while drinking a cup of coffee. We want everyone to be able to track our mills so that there is no question about the origin of the product, with the goal of being employee owned at some point. I don’t want that to be a focus on profit, but simply about turning over the company to the people that helped me build it.
For example we just made it into Wholefoods. It is very hard for any company to make it into their stores, especially a clothing company, because they are unable to source track almost all of the potential clothing that they would sell. In the textile world there is a lot of lying and a lot of fluff when it comes to where the cloth came from, and we made it into Wholefoods because we are totally transparent and ethical with the source of our materials.
What other goals do you have for Mellivora in the Future?
I want to make the leggings local. We are starting to move on from leggings, though they will always be a part of the company, but I really just want people to be in touch with what they are buying. I want to be making other products and clothing with the same 100% US material and production. Transparency in the clothing business like I said just isn’t there, and I want to change that.
What else do you want people to know about your company, the clothing industry, or small business in general?
Do not ask for transparency in companies. DEMAND transparency in companies. I want to change the way people do business as a private or a public company. Everyone is always going to have a complaint about the way a company does business, and we have told ourselves that it is okay to be that way. But I want to be completely clear with everyone so that they will ask the same for other companies. I am sick of watching big companies make mass profit off of someone else’s misfortune. We backtrack and check what we do as a business, so I want to ultimately look for transparency.
It’s the same way with Union Colony. I called a bunch of insurance people, had weird requests and hard terms, but Kerry called me back, and he was so easy to deal with. His customer service was incredible, the best I had experienced, and that’s what drove me to Union Colony to represent my company. That seem minuscule, but in every part of our business we want people we can trust. And so when I think about who will insure my company, we will always stick with the people we’ve had from the beginning. Kerry is the best insurance agent I have dealt with by far.
People ask me all the time: “How the hell have you gotten so far with an unknown brand; Selling over a 1000 pairs in 6 months and growing so fast?” And it is because we are planting seeds in every partnership we make today, so that we can sustain for tomorrow. Everything we do is geared towards the future.
I never would have had a dream of apparel, and this is so far beyond the dreams that any of us involved could have had. But it is because we stand for our principles, and we love to have people know what we are doing. Some days are great and successful, but some says are just brutal, but it’s all worth it.
Chris has built such a great company from a simple start, and we are so proud to insure such an ethical and creative business. Good luck Chris and Mellivora! Click Here to view their website.