MENTOR SPOTLIGHT: ELLEN HOCKLEY-HARRISON @ EVERGREEN
When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and always assumed I’d work for myself, but never knew what my path would look like. I started my first business in the spring of 2015, and eventually sold that business while working on Evergreen (which I started in 2020 during the Pandemic).
Tell us about your venture/work.
At Evergreen Activewear, we make life better, easier and more sustainable for active moms and moms to be. As a niche brand, we recognize that we don’t have the same accessibility as many of the brands you typically work with/support, which is why I think it’s even more essential we’re part of the conversation. Not only are we building a brand for active, healthy and strong moms, but we’re fostering a community to support women through pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Even more-so now, as I round out the third trimester with my second child, I see the need for our products only growing stronger. With maternal mortality and mental health rates skyrocketing, I know that if we can continue to create a product that helps to provide solace for women during this incredibly transformative time we can be a frontrunner in the market.
How did you decide to tackle this particular issue?
I started Evergreen Activewear in the throws of pregnancy and COVID out of a deep need for maternity activewear that supported my growing body and love of high impact/intensity movement. I have always been an athlete, movement is deeply part of who I am and what brings me joy. As I became more and more pregnant, and searched for activewear that adapted to my needs, I realized there was a major gap in the market supporting women through pregnancy and postpartum. I knew there had to be a better way, and I was determined to work with my community to create a product that would stand the test of time, through every kettle bell swing and every late night feeding.
What do you enjoy most about being an impact entrepreneur? What’s hardest about it?
Changing people’s lives. Knowing that we’re building a brand that not only supports pregnancy and postpartum, but also that supports the environment and the world we live in is what makes everything worth it. Recognizing that we have an opportunity to make long term impact through the product itself, our giveback model and and brand growth is what drives me. That said, running an apparel business on the tail end of the pandemic while we’re still managing supply chain challenges, factory shutdowns and massive retail unknowns is extremely hard. I don’t think there is any one thing that makes it hard, but combined it can seem untenable at times.
How do you navigate the space of being a founder and also being a POC/women/non-binary person?
Some days it feels like being a female founder is incredibly overwhelming and unsupported and some times it feels amazing to be building strong communities of folks who are outside of the traditional founder space. Knowing that the work we do is giving underrepresented folks more opportunity to thrive.
What advice do you have for early-stage impact entrepreneurs about using their time, relationships, and opportunities at The New School to prepare for this kind of career?
Foster, maintain and support all of your relationships. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that you can’t do it all alone. Having a strong network will lead to greater opportunities for growth, and will further your work in ways you cannot begin to imagine. That said, be mindful of your time, your time is money and its up to you to make the right choices for how you spend it. You will, no matter what, waste both time and money while you explore your entrepreneurial journey, and that’s all part of the process, but knowing how and when to take a step back will help you continue to grow.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for this opportunity. I’d love to connect with early stage entrepreneurs as they explore their journeys.
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