Are We Ready for a Whole Foods for Clothes?

Soraya Darabi and Maxine Bédat

From Left: Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi

Curious where your clothes come from? Soraya Darabi and Maxine Bédat just launched, an online shop for consumers who want to know the origins of their purchases. To date, they’ve raised $1.35 million in venture capital funding.

Before Zady, Soraya built and sold famed foodie app Foodspotting. Maxine, a lawyer, previously ran The Bootstrap Project, a non-profit dedicated to world crafts, commerce and job creation in developing nations.

I spoke to them Sunday night about this week’s big launch.

Amanda: You two seem like a business match made in heaven. Choosing a business partner can be as important as picking a spouse. How did you two find each other?

Soraya: In high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, actually. We remained friends through social media for the last 10 years. I was drawn to Maxine's previous organization, The Bootstrap Project, and asked if we could meet for coffee. I then became an advisor and the rest is history.

Amanda: Given Zady's social mission to bring transparency to garment manufacturing, why are you making Zady a for-profit versus a non-profit company?

Maxine: A lot of businesses these days seek to do good while making money. They're not mutually exclusive. How the US tax code tags these entities, with designations like "C Corp" or "501(c)3," isn't necessarily how founders view our companies. Tax codes make you decide if you're "for money" or "for the good." We're for both.

Amanda: I've been watching folks launch "conscious fashion" brands for more than a decade, none of which made a dent in mainstream markets. Why do you believe Zady can scale – and why now?

Soraya: Just look at the food industry. Whole Foods, for example. People want to know where their food comes from and will pay extra to understand the origins of suppliers and manufacturers. Local food sourcing makes sense. We believe our society is ready to think about clothes in the same way.

Amanda: Soraya—you've already sold a business for millions of dollars. Why are you doing this crazy entrepreneurship thing again?

Soraya: After Foodspotting, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I joined Bootstrap as an advisor because I was passionate about it, not because I saw it as my next business opportunity. Some things in life can't be planned. I just follow the energy, and the energy behind the idea of Zady was too strong to be ignored.

Amanda: Some women fear the work required to build a company will hurt their relationships with spouses or children. Do you struggle with that?

Maxine: I just got married in July and we didn't get to take a honeymoon. Zady has just been too consuming. I can't remember who said it—it was either my dad, or Sheryl Sandberg, or both—the most important career decision you’ll make is who you marry. I'm so lucky that my husband is proud of my success, not jealous. For now, I put Zady first, and he honors that. launched August 27th. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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