Each month we showcase a different entrepreneur whose small business we’ve been following in our Brands that Bloom Series.
This month we touched base with Brianna – the brains and heart behind Anact! Brianna a sustainability wiz that worked with large brands like Under Armour focused on improving the brands overall environmental friendliness within their supply chain. After seeing the industry for what it was, she started Anact.
Brianna’s dream is to make a sustainable towel better for all people and the planet. She feels like that’s the (not so) small act she can offer to this beautiful world! She shares a bit of her story with us – and we’re thrilled to be able to share it with you.
Interview with Brianna Kilcullen with Anact!
Share your Entrepreneur Story.
The main reason that I started Anact was because I felt like if someone didn’t do it then it wouldn’t get done, and the role that the textile industry plays in climate change wouldn’t be fixed. Most people don’t know that the textile industry is one of the most environmentally harmful industries on the planet. I didn’t know until I saw first hand from my time working for Under Armour.
I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. But I have always hustled. I grew up playing on all-boys basketball teams because my dad was a college basketball coach, so I was used to having to work harder to keep up. There are several entrepreneurs in my extended family but I wasn’t raised to be an entrepreneur, per se. My dad always wanted me to have a corporate job and get a good 401(k) + health insurance because that was what was considered successful in the eyes of his dad.
It really took me realizing that I wanted to be my own boss and work for myself through lots of tense moments working in corporate for me to make the jump. Looking back, I realize it was in me all along and I think it’s in all of us. It’s just been the structure we have set-up in society that has downplayed our ability to have an idea and execute it.
How about the Anact Brand Story and your vision for where the brand is going?
I had the idea of Anact in August 2017. I began working full-time in the business May 2018 and we launched on Kickstarter in September 2019. One of the biggest challenges was 1) navigating being a business owner for the first time and 2) finding a supply chain partner that was willing to invest in the prototype and meet our costing, quality and transparency criteria.
The guiding purpose of Anact is to inspire our customers to take simple acts to create positive impacts each time they use the Anact towels. We believe that people are itching to feel like they can make a difference in their own life each day and we want to be there to inspire them to do it.
Anact is a movement within a brand. It just so happened that our act was making a sustainable towel better for all people and the planet. Of course, we want to play a large role in the $5.4B US Household market but we also want to be engaged in our community.
We believe there are gaps in society that are not allowing a safe space to learn from one another or make improvements on the issues that impact us every day. We want to host events called “ACT UP.” This events will allow us to come together as a community and hear from subject matter experts on a variety of topics that pertain to our community such as immigration, education, policing, or running for office.
I also visualize being able to purchase warehouses in downtown Jacksonville, FL and turn them into factories so we can one day grow hemp and process and manufacture locally.
We love the stories you share with updates about Anact, how do choose what to share? Any tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way?
Hmm… good point. Before starting Anact, I was off of social media for 2-3 years. Coming back on was hard for me but it’s important to meet our customers where they interact.
I started following other accounts that I admired such as @thisisrange and I started developing a brand voice for Anact and testing to see what resonated with people and what didn’t. I always try to create some form of engagement or make people think with what we post. The thought of just posting product photos of our towels sounds awful. We’re so much more than a brand that sells towels.
A great tip that I recommend is doing partnerships with like-minded organizations such as giveaways to increase your following and engagement. It takes people less than 10 seconds and allows you to increase your brand exposure at little to no cost.
What has been a struggle for you with Anact?
Funding. I really did not anticipate how long it takes to become profitable. Thus far, I have self-financed everything. I consulted on the side, took out credit card debt, won pitchfest money, accepted money from family and friends – you name it. And I’m still doing a lot of that to this day. Looking back, I wish that I had set up Quickbooks and created one business card and account for everything instead of intermingling all of my personal expenses.
Something that I struggle with most in growing our following is how to properly use social media ads in an authentic way. I have steered clear of that (except for our Kickstarter) and have focused on who we tag and hashtags to increase engagement.
Words of advice from Brianna
I truly believe the future businesses will be businesses that are solving problems and clearly articulating that to their customers and not just creating a business to tell a pretty marketing story or make stuff. I believe that the impact of COVID-19 is teaching that to us right now more than ever.
I really love this graphic that iFundWomen put together. I would highly recommend ensuring your current or future business is catering to maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a north star moving forward.