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Behind Brandy Mercredi’s Journey Creating Ethical, Sustainable Clothing

An Interview With Brooke Bohinc

Brandy Mercredi’s headshot

Meet Brandy Mercredi, the Founder and Designer of FRANC, a sustainable, ethically made clothing company for people fed up with fast fashion.

Brandy’s entrepreneurial journey started when she grew tired of designing and shopping for unethical clothing that was standard and boring. As a self-proclaimed Jane-of-all-trades, Brandy used her diverse skill set to start Franc. That’s when the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship truly began. Despite setbacks in partnerships and the economic slump following the pandemic, Brandy has persevered in producing and providing clothing in a way that supports her values, is kind to the planet, and is marketable to her customers.

We asked Brandy about the founding story behind Franc, the mistakes she’s made along the way, and how her definition of success has changed since starting her company.

Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Franc?

Owning my clothing line was a long-time dream. Over the years, as I shopped and designed for other brands, I realized I was spending way too much time hunting down timeless essentials that were made to last. 

I was also increasingly frustrated with many of the commonplace practices in the fashion industry. This frustration inspired me to finally put my work experiences to use and create a clothing line that did better. I launched Franc in April 2017.

Two women posing in Franc costumes

What problem does Franc solve? What makes your products different from others in the industry?

At Franc, we create clothing for those who care about the ethical production of clothing and the well-being of our planet. Our aim is to make clothing using sustainable fabrics and ethical practices while keeping our production local to reduce our carbon footprint and ensure that the people who make our clothes are treated well and paid fairly. Our focus is crafting timeless designs that are effortless to style and easy to incorporate into your wardrobe. We prioritize quality essentials rooted in our values rather than the fast fashion norm of chasing the latest trend at the lowest possible cost without regard for people or the planet.

In what ways has your upbringing or past experiences contributed to how you operate as an entrepreneur?

Growing up was tough. I faced a lot of challenges, but it was through the grief and hard times that I learned to never give up and keep pushing forward. I figured out pretty early on that if I wanted something, I had to put in the work to learn how to do it, and then go all in to make it happen.

As I got older, I realized that it's important to ask for help and lean on others, even if it's hard to do. I used to think that I had to do everything on my own, but I've learned that having a support system is key. It hasn't been easy, but I'm glad that I learned to be self-sufficient first.

Black and white striped shirt displayed on a rack.

What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting Franc?

I may never get a real day off ever again. In all honesty, when I started Franc, it was based on my passions and values. I didn't realize that those passions would change as they became mixed with stress and responsibility. Starting a business based on passions is still a great idea, but my hobbies, passions, and work are now all intertwined. I’ve had to find new hobbies and passions for downtime. 

I'm focused on building a business that meets our values, is kind to our planet, and is able to develop the products that our customers are asking for while remaining profitable.

What were the most difficult and most impactful lessons you’ve learned starting and running a company? 

I’ve learned how important self-care is to be able to stay in the game and run a business. The ebbs and flows and turbulent stress are inevitable. Still, when met with hard hits, you need to have the habits and the skills to take care of yourself. This lesson came after severe burnout that sent me on a whirlwind of doctor visits and two years of deep healing.

I’ve also realized how important it is to keep in mind that sometimes customers, friends, or family may say they want something but end up not purchasing it. As humans, we often think we want something, but it's actually more about our ideal vision of ourselves rather than what we need at the moment. Though I’m grateful for suggestions, I learned very quickly not to listen to each of them. I still rely heavily on our community's feedback for future planning, but we ask better questions, work hard at not taking every critique to heart, and focus very heavily on data analysis.

While sitting on a couch in sweatsuits, two women smile and pose for a selfie.

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made as an entrepreneur?

Expanding our business with the wrong partners. In 2019, I was struggling with a heavy workload and wearing too many hats. I decided to outsource our picking, packing, and shipping to a third-party fulfillment service. I hoped this would allow me more time to work on the things I was good at and improve our services to our customers. 

Despite the fact that I had carefully evaluated fulfillment centers for months and interviewed them for weeks, the partner we chose to work with ultimately almost drove my business to the brink of closure. It took everything we had to move away from them and back to doing everything in-house, which turned out to be a lesson we are still recovering from.

Have you struggled with self-doubt as an entrepreneur? How do you navigate this?

Yes, often. Self-doubt feels like a rollercoaster as an entrepreneur. It ebbs and flows constantly. A big one I struggle with is thinking the path toward sustainable and ethical fashion will never be something many consumers care about. But then, something will happen to solidify that my self-doubt is wrong. Sometimes, it takes a burst of sales, feedback from our community, or even just one email from a customer to remind me that my doubts are unfounded. 

In other moments, I shut everything out and focus on why I started Franc. I remind myself of what we are working toward and then work hard to improve things I feel ho-hum about. Rather than allowing doubt to creep in, I really try to utilize it as an opportunity to reevaluate and enhance so we can better convey our values and product to potential new customers.

FRANC terracotta pants on a chair

Have you felt like giving up? What made you persist?

I’ve definitely felt like giving up—often during the most challenging times. But it always comes down to being faced with a choice that allows me to weigh my options to give up or persist. Each decision has its own set of consequences. The option to give up has never given me consequences that I am okay with. Also, sometimes, it is more complicated to quit than push forward. So when I feel like calling it quits, I have chosen to keep going as long as I still have choices to make. Ultimately, there will always be choices. I always want to pick the one that helps me move forward.

Has your definition of success evolved throughout your journey as a founder?

At first, I had some pretty big goals: build a massive business and make as much money as possible. But I soon realized that this outlook didn't take into account the importance of sustainability and ethical practices when it comes to production. It wasn't long before my priorities began to shift. I realized that being huge like the big brands wasn't the goal; that kind of mass production just wasn't sustainable in the long run. Instead, I started to focus on building a business that meets our values, is kind to our planet, and is able to develop the products that our customers are asking for while remaining profitable.

A woman posing in a cardigan

How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences? Would you do it all over again?

It’s been a rollercoaster ride. The first few years were empowering. As a Jane-of-all-trades with many skills and experiences, I finally felt like I fit in a career. Building an ethical brand was difficult, but I felt prepared. Making sustainable clothes was stressful, but I had the skill set. Authentic marketing was challenging, but I had already learned from many past mistakes. 

Then the pandemic came, followed by the post-pandemic economic slowdown. The last year of the slowdown was the most stressful of my life. Everything that worked in business before no longer worked and I started to feel like a salmon swimming upstream. That being said, we are still in an incredibly challenging period of the economy. The stress is still high, and there is no guide for what works. Even so, I would 100% do this all over again.

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