Stacy Flynn, EVRNU, Woman Entrepreneur
It is pretty awesome when a reader reaches out to you about someone who she thinks I should talk to. This particular reader so me on Mark Suster’s show and reached out. We emailed a few times and then she emailed me about Stacy Flynn. She had seen Stacy speak on a panel at the Pacific NW Economic Region’s Economic Leadership Forum and thought of me. She sent me links and info and she was right, I was totally intrigued and asked for an intro. Stacy has started a company called Evrnu that recycles cotton garment waste to create renewable fiber. Not only is what she doing impressive her entire story of how she got to this place is too.
Stacy was born in Rochester, NY. Both her parents worked for the telephone company. Her father had just got back from Vietnam. Her mother worked in the HR area for the credit union of the phone company. Her parents were divorced when Stacy was 5. Her Mom stayed in Rochester and got remarried and her Dad moved to Houston.
When she was 12, her parents decided that she should move to Houston to be with her Dad. Her three siblings stayed with her Mom. Her father had remarried and had a kid her age and they figured that would be a smart move. In someways it did because she became great friends with her step-sister. The downside was she did not see her siblings for three years. In many ways Stacy got caught in the cross-wires.
At 16 she moved back to Rochester. In Rochester there are over 50 family members that live within a 20 mile radius. She’d go to school and see cousins and extended family members daily. It was a bit of a culture shock after living in Texas for four years with a small family.
After graduating high school, Stacy took a few years off because she really had no idea what she wanted to do. She got a job at the credit union where her Mom worked. She also worked at a fabric warehouse and did some work at the School of Arts up there in the costume design division. She was making money at the credit union but loved the fabrics. She took a few classes in that space and decided she should apply to FIT. She found what she wanted to do.
Stacy was denied from FIT. After crying for a few days she got on a train and went down to FIT. She went to see the head of the registrar. Stacy told him that she would not leave his office until she was accepted. He was impressed and made her a deal. If her GPA dropped below 2.9 she was out. She agreed.
Here is what I found really interesting. Stacy took a textile design and finishing class. She was barely making it. She asked a million questions and thought she understood the material but would bomb the tests. She talked to her professor about it. He did something that changed her life. He took her down to the lab and asked her to take a fabric and dye it the color blue through the techniques he was teaching in class. She hit it perfectly on her first try. The professor was intrigued and asked her to do several other colors that were much harder. She nailed the others within a minimal range. He told Stacy that she was an extreme kinesthetic worker. Essentially a tactile learner that makes up about 5% of the population. It was a total aha moment for Stacy. After that all the department heads worked with Stacy differently. She was began acing everything. In the theory of knitting she took apart the machine and put it back together. Her education really started coming together.
Stacy was 21 when she began FIT. She knew that when she graduated in four years that she needed a good job. She had already been in minimum wage jobs for the 3-4 years after high school. She had a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and she needed to figure out how to take this education and do something with it.
While she was at FIT she worked in a high end luxury design studio in Tribeca. She worked on the fabrics for high end sheets, pillows and throws. The combination of that job and FIT landed Stacy a job at Dupont. At Dupont Stacy managed their quality lab for lycra certification. She learned a lot about the fiber industry and management. She oversaw 15 people. The division was a mess when she walked in and she cleaned it up and made it operational.
Target came knocking at her door. They brought in about 250 people around the country to work on their design and development of new fabrics in their raw materials division. Stacy did her homework which is probably how she landed the job. She went to the Target store in NJ and spent hours there analyzing the floor plans. She wanted to understand how Target thought. Security approached her and brought her into the backroom. She explained what she was doing and the head of security in NJ called the head of HR at Target to make sure she was telling the truth. Needless to say they were amazed on both ends how she went about preparing for the job interview.
Stacy oversaw the women’s category. She was the first hire for this program. She made fabric for their private label. The first program was their chino program, a wrinkle resist stain repel product. With access to resources she was able to figure out the entire business in this category. She went shopping and figured out a way to make a really high quality chino program for a fraction of what the competitors were charging. When it launched it became Target’s highest grossing program. They did $25m on the pants in this category the first quarter it came out. After 5 years she decided to leave on a high note.
Stacy’s next job was at Eddie Bauer. It was the first time in years she lived somewhere that extended family lived too. Her brother lives in Seattle. This job was much less time consuming. She was living on a houseboat and flying around the world making jeans. She has such a technical background and had learned a lot from the designers who got how she thought and that collaboration helped her make the right textiles. Stayed 3 years. The company had a management shift and it was time to go.
Stacy had this random opportunity in 2010 to work with recycled products. She was working on how to make fleece out of recycled fabrics. They sent her to China and as she puts it she went into the belly of the beast for a month. She saw first hand the destruction that China was causing the environment making fabrics. One day she got out of the car at a factory and couldn’t even see her colleague. The pollution was ridiculous. They were sitting a tables in the factory under a cloud of carcinogens. She had enough. At Target she was burning through a million yards a month and decided she had to reshape her career and think about the environment and textiles. She saw the problem and wanted to fix it.
She returned to Seattle and enrolled in a MBA program at Pinchot University. They have one of the first sustainable MBA programs in the country. She wanted to bridge that language into the textile industry. While at school she started a business making fiber out of cotton and fabric waste. She noticed that the amount of natural resource extraction is off the charts realizing that fiber is the lynchpin of the problem. She began to wonder if there is a way to contain the waste to the supply chain. Can you take recycled fabrics and turn them into a premium fiber and not create waste or deplete resources. She finished all that research this past November.
Stacy decided to apply to the Fledge program, a conscious company accelerator that helps entrepreneurs take their companies into realities through a 10 week intensive program. She got in. It is a very cool program and companies who get in are actually paid to get through it.
Fast forward Evrnu has been launched. The video above gives you can idea about what Evrnu does. They used is on an Indiegogo fundraise when she was just starting out. They have patents on the chemistry it takes to break down the used fabrics into molecules. It is a bit like micro-brewing. They put the materials in the vat and the atmospheric conditions that are created cause the fabrics to break down. From there they can create beautiful pristine fibers to make new fabrics. They are working with Washington State University on this.
Stacy is trying to make a major change in the world. Currently it takes 700,000 gallons of water to make one t-shirt and that all goes to waste. She wants to become the new Cotton Industry by taking old fabrics and turning them into new fabrics without creating waste. Her history and understanding of how to break down something to fully understand how it works has played to her advantage. I am beyond excited about what Stacy is doing. In full transparency by the end of our conversation I also invested.
This is the future. It is important for our environment and with technology and of course Stacy it can be done. Brands are excited too. We all need to be thinking about the future of our environment.