Jetting off to Richard Branson’s private island this past May, Sitka founder Jonathan Hart finally finds a quiet moment to fill us in on his fashion industry entrepreneurial success tips.
Jonathan is one of my husband’s mountain biking buddies. When he heard I was launching a sustainable children’s clothing line, he immediately offered to help. After all, just ten short years ago, he was learning how to navigate the crazy work of textile manufacturing, pattern making and marketing himself.
Q. You launched Sitka ten years ago. Taking that leap of faith to start a company is hard for many people. How did you know you were ready?
A. It’s like finding the right time to have a kids- there isn’t one, you just do it! I really had full conviction that the product I wanted to make solved a problem. I figured, why wait? If we don’t do it, someone else will, the time is now. There are lots of people with great ideas. There are very very few who actually do anything with those ideas though. That is what sets entrepreneurs apart. They are willing to try.
Q. We? You started out with a partner, but that relationship didn’t last. What advice would you offer new partners looking to start a venture?
A. The power of collaboration with the right person is amazing. You have to be aware of the needs of running a business and who’s going to fill which role; you have to compliment each other’s weaknesses. While having chemistry is critical, you have to be honest about your own skill set. Self awareness is a very powerful asset.
Q. You flew to Richard Branson’s private island with 30 other lucky entrepreneurs for a collaboration retreat. What’s one key takeaway from that event you can share?
A. Richard Branson’s tag line, “Screw it, let’s just do it” was the theme of the weekend. Anything you want to plan, make, dream- think big, then think bigger and go for it. My friend Blake, whom I traveled with to Necker, actually did an amazing job pulling together a more extended list of highlights.
Q. Sitka currently offers an impressive array of products; how did you start?
A. Our platform has always been to provide a system, where the sum of its parts is greater than the individual pieces. So, we started with one, very focused, system of layers for the mountain hunter- gloves, cap, jacket, pants, lightweight shirt, midweight shirt and a vest. The systems story hadn’t been told yet, so we pulled it all together. The impact of that platform really paved the way for everything we did going forward.
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