Kent State Student’s Passion for Sustainable Fashion Inspires Her to Launch Eco-Conscious Clothing Business
Kent State University student Symone Baskerville is passionate about sustainability. A senior fashion design student, Ms. Baskerville’s love for sustainable fashion began after taking an environmental science course during her freshman year of high school. There she learned about Project Greenway, a green fashion runway competition. Her involvement in the competition led her to discover how everyday items, such as plastic bags and tissue paper, could be reused and repurposed into designs.
After her experience with Project Greenway, Ms. Baskerville felt inspired to use her love of fashion for good and combine it with her newfound love for sustainability. She created KiwiNation. Rooted in sustainability and working to make the fashion industry more environmentally conscious, KiwiNation’s mission lies in practicing sustainable techniques, such as upcycling and zero waste, in its garment creation process.
“KiwiNation strives to create designs with the earth in mind, meaning designs are created using a variety of sustainable fashion processes,” Ms. Baskerville says. “I’ve always loved how fashion is a way of expressing yourself and the way sustainability seeks to preserve and slow down the process. Combining them for me was a way to preserve the art design so the craft of fashion design could be appreciated.”
KiwiNation’s online store currently consists of dresses made of denim, jewelry constructed from beads and safety pins, and a backpack created with faux fur and repurposed denim. In addition to upholding sustainable practices in her designs, Ms. Baskerville also tries to keep costs in mind, with prices ranging from $6 to $80.
KiwiNation sells through an online shop, which presented some challenges to Ms. Baskerville.
“Shipping has been a big obstacle for me from the beginning, especially with me being an out-of-state student,” she says. “I started off having my products at home in Chicago and would have my mom send them out while I ran the online portion of things.”
Ms. Baskerville was able to conquer this obstacle by moving the entire operation to the Kent Campus in order to have more control over how and when products get shipped out.
For Ms. Baskerville, doing her small part to preserve the environment was a worthwhile aspect of creating and managing KiwiNation. She was not expecting the added bonus of overwhelmingly positive customer feedback.
“The most rewarding part is being able to interact with my customers and see their wonderful reviews of my products,” Ms. Baskerville says. “I’ve even done a few custom orders and really enjoy seeing pictures of my designs on my customers.”
KiwiNation had help to grow from an idea into a successful business. Ms. Baskerville had the privilege of working with the knowledgeable professionals and well-versed innovators at LaunchNET Kent State, a program that helps equip students, alumni, faculty and staff with the tools and skills they need to kick start their entrepreneurial venture.
Ms. Baskerville worked with Tabitha Martin, venture advisor at LaunchNET, and with advisors Zach Mikrut and Danielle Flemister.
“She already had her Etsy shop up when she came in,” Ms. Martin says. “We helped with strategy and branding/positioning, mostly. I got to work with her recently on her presentation for our Idea Olympics and the regional Idea Labs competitions, and she is really starting to gain some confidence and presence in her presenting, which is really exciting to see.”
Ms. Baskerville found LaunchNET to not only be helpful in the beginning stages of KiwiNation, but also saw the program as a necessity in her journey to build her brand. The results are evident. She was one of three winners in LaunchNET’s second annual Build Your Own Brand pitch competition last fall.
Build Your Own Brand operates as a four-weeklong workshop to assist underrepresented students who are interested in owning a business and allows participants to compete in a pitch competition for prize money to help their business.
“LaunchNet has been a big help since the beginning, with reviewing the early versions of my business plan to the Build Your Own Brand pitch competition,” Ms. Baskerville says. “Winning the Build Your Own Brand pitch last fall was great because I was able to earn money to grow my business.”
While Ms. Baskerville still has another year left of school, she plans to continue her entrepreneurial venture with KiwiNation.