“If you know why you’re doing something, you will figure out the how”
When Natasha Franck, founder of Eon, set out to create a sustainable fashion ecosystem, she didn’t have all the answers. She just got started.
Fashion is currently one of the most polluting industries on the planet. Natasha Franck, founder of Eon, wants to make it one of the greenest. Two years ago, she came up with an idea that could make fashion more sustainable, more efficient, and more profitable: Create a unique digital ID tag for every piece of clothing on the market. The tag would contain a profile with all relevant product information—what the garment is made of, who made it, what its supply chain history is, how it could be reused, how it should be recycled, and more. The tags promise tremendous benefits for individual companies seeking to green up their businesses, but if the industry as a whole used them with complete transparency, the information could power an entirely circular economy—one in which nothing is wasted, only repurposed. Connecting fashion consumers, producers, and innovators digitally would mark a major shift in the trillion-dollar industry and it would take serious buy-in to achieve. It’s a big ask. Did Natasha get intimidated? Nope, she got in process.
How to own an industry in one year
Before officially launching Eon, Natasha Franck spent 12 months researching all the aspects of the industry: production, waste, sustainability, and business models. She called it her “year of learning” and says this period was crucial to setting her company up for success. Left, a snapshot of how she went about the year. Click the numbers above for more information on each step she took.
Do a lot of field research
“I read books on waste management and business model innovation—I even visited recycling sites around New York City to learn about the current challenges and areas of opportunity. I was really interested in the concept of the circular economy because it seemed like a solution that worked for both sustainability and business growth. I read an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report called ‘Intelligent Assets: Unlocking Circular Economy Potential,’ and shortly after reading that I started Eon.”
Meet people with relevant experience
“I reached out to people I was interested in on LinkedIn, met people through accelerators, acquaintances, and grant programs, and just tried to get as much face time as I could with people who had worked in areas like green energy, investment and finance, and fashion. I especially wanted to talk to people who had experience switching industries, since that’s what I was trying to do.”
Enroll in crash courses
“These programs gave me a way to work out a lot of my goals and challenges in a short amount of time. I applied for and was accepted into three start-up accelerators—two with a focus on sustainable fashion and one with a focus on retail technology. In an accelerator program, you get mentorship and advice and meet potential investors.”
Talk out ideas
“Talk—and don’t just talk to people who will nod and agree. Sometimes talking to people who didn’t get what I was trying to do helped me more than talking to people who did. They forced me to think about how I could best articulate my message—something I still work on all the time.”
Natasha didn’t always have a deep background in fashion—in fact, she wasn’t even working in the industry before Eon. Previously, she was a senior vice president at Delos, a sustainability-focused real estate start-up, where she worked on the development and implementation of the WELL Building Standard, which puts health and wellness at the center of city planning and urban design. While traveling the world to introduce the standard, she encountered alarming pollution in major cities—some days, people were told to stay inside because the air quality was so bad. “The idea of children growing up in a world where they can’t breathe the air was once a distant-reality sci-fi horror movie…and is now becoming a reality,” Natasha says. She poured herself into research and found that the burning of waste is one of the biggest contributors to poor air quality—“so I became particularly interested in trash.” These were natural resources and materials that were being incinerated and thrown into a landfill—a waste both environmentally and economically.
Natasha became so obsessed with waste and trash that her friends’ phones would autocorrect her nickname “Tash” to “trash.” LOL.
In fashion, where 150 billion articles of clothing are made every year, and 90% of these textiles end up in landfills—the consumption of resources and production of waste is never-ending. Natasha saw an opportunity to disrupt that cycle. Today, EON is already working with some large global fashion companies to introduce digital profiles, powering a connected supply chain and unlocking new sustainable business opportunities. How cool is that?
Natasha’s goal is lofty, but crucial to her success so far is her willingness to acknowledge when she doesn’t have all the answers. “I used to think I had to plan out every aspect of the company before I tried anything, even before sharing my ideas with partners and investors,” she says. “Then I had a meeting with one potential investor where, instead of pitching them, I just had a conversation with them. I told them what I knew as well as what I didn’t know. I think they were kind of surprised by my candidness.” But they also recognized and believed in the viability of the idea because of the alignment of business and sustainability value that it introduced. They’re now working with her. Today, she’s partnering and collaborating with fashion companies, working to implement these ideas and solutions, and solving for challenges and introducing solutions, one project at a time. “If you know why you’re doing something,” she says, “you will figure out the how.”
What is Natasha’s secret weapon?
Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration “My advice to other entrepreneurs would be to share your idea with the world. An idea will only be so good if it’s just sitting in your computer. Ask other people to collaborate with you. Growth happens through collaboration.”
– Natasha Franck, founder of Eon