What’s in a Pitchfest Entrepreneur? Meet the Finalists
— Kind Apparel —
We caught up with Mallory Ottariano, founder of Kind Apparel, to learn about the company that combines fashion, function, and sustainability by creating technical outdoor/daily life clothing for women using recycled plastic water bottles.
What was the inspiration for starting your company, and how has it evolved?
Style as a form of self-expression has been a part of me since I was a young kid. I always wanted to wear things no one else had, which led me to make a lot of my own clothes. I started an Etsy shop with a $100 sewing machine in my parents’ basement on the day I graduated from college, where I made and sold a variety of wacky and colorful patchworked dance pants, skirts, and hoodies. Then I moved to Montana. And as my outdoor pursuits became more technical and demanding, I needed clothing that could hold up and keep me safe/focused. But every bit of technical clothing I was finding was lacking in creativity, and I didn’t want to step out of the backcountry in it. The fit was frumpy and unflattering, the colors were lame, and the patterns (if you can call stripes a pattern) were boring. My style wasn’t lame or boring and neither were the women I was getting after it with! So, I got serious about materials and colors and created my own clothing, so cute and functional, that you DO want to wear it outside of the backcountry. I maintain my childhood ethos — “wear something no one else has” — by designing all of our fabric prints with the loudest, boldest, and most beautiful shapes and colors.
What is the mission and vision of your company? What does the future trajectory look like?
To provide women with clothing that allows them to express themselves! I’m passionate about creating technical clothing for life and not specific activities, to minimize outfit changes and maximize joy. Kind Apparel is scaling significantly this year, so the future is full of excitement and also the unknown. Our future holds some meaningful retail partnerships and an increase in accessibility through wider size offerings. We want to be recognized as more than just a clothing company. We want to be a community partner, hosting and sponsoring events that promote health and fitness, outdoor education, and environmental clean-up efforts. We’re a new member of 1% For The Planet, and we’re excited to do meaningful work with them. We’re all about storytelling, and right now I (Mallory) do a lot of it. But I’m excited to continue to cultivate a community of women and share their stories even more.
Why did you apply for Pitchfest, and what are you hoping to get out of your experience?
Simply put, I applied because I know Kind Apparel has an incredible future, and I care so so much about it. I’m most excited about the mentorship opportunities because I’m at a point in my business where I don’t have a lot of resources for understanding how to maintain accuracy while rapidly growing. Through this experience, I’m hoping to receive guidance, inspiration, and gain longstanding partnerships.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, thus far, in founding your company?
Whew, I’ve learned everything. I went to art school and studied architecture/design, so everything about running a business has been new to me. Learning how to forecast/budget/manage has been the easy stuff, compared to what I’ve learned about myself and becoming an adult. I’ve grown up while building this business, and the most important lesson I’ve learned is to be my own cheerleader. No one is going to care about it in the way I do, and no one is truly going to understand it in the way I do. Building a business is hard, and you have to make sacrifices that most people don’t understand. Even those close to you, don’t totally get everything that’s involved, because it’s not their life. And because of that, they don’t know or envision success in the way that you can. They can’t motivate you and pick you up in only the way that you can. You have to love yourself and your ideas very deeply, and unwaveringly.
What did you not see coming, and how did you respond?
Surprises are all part of entrepreneurship—some are bigger than others, but they’re all a constant part of building a business.
I never envisioned Kind Apparel growing in the way that it has/is/will. I started this, fresh out of college, as a creative outlet to compliment my non-creative day job. It was simply a hobby that I thought I might as well make a few bucks off of, so I sold my creations on Etsy. I could never have predicted that Montana women would help me to grow and shape this business, and support me in the way that they have, nor could I have imagined that I would continue to show up every day, excited by challenge and inspired by the future. It’s pretty unreal to travel back inside the head of 22-year-old me, sewing away on her $100 machine in her parents’ basement closet. It makes me equally excited and nervous for what’s ahead.
What’s your superpower? I can smell EVERYTHING.
Outdoor adventure of choice for daily release? Trail running with my dog
What book would you recommend? In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney
Your number one outdoor hack? Moss as toilet paper
One word that you think of when we say outdoors? Ahhhhhhh!!!!
Pitchfest 2019 will commence on June 17 in Denver, CO. Register here.
I started this journey the day I graduated from college with a $100 sewing machine, running an Etsy shop out of my parents’ basement. Since childhood, I’ve been passionate about expressing my individuality through style and seeking out unique clothing, often making my own. As I grew up and started spending more time outside, I found a huge lack of technical clothing that was also fun to wear. I quickly realized I was not alone.
Today, I am proud to run a company that produces incredibly unique, boldly colorful wearables, serving gals who get after it. While I’m no longer sewing in my parents’ basement, we’re still a small company dedicated to intentionally manufacturing quality products that combine function and fashion.