Ask any business owner, and they will tell you that there are a few key moments that make them pause and look back on how far they’ve come. For Burrow and Be founder Catherine, it was a 2018 trip to India that proved to her she was on the right track.
Where our relationship with our factories began
Burrow and Be is proud to have been working with not one, but two GOTS-certified factories in India for over four years.
“Finding quality and trustworthy factories is not an easy job,” says Catherine. “We wanted to make sure their ethics aligned with ours and that, by partnering with us, our expectations would be valued and implemented.
“By using Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certified factories that were audited to strict global standards, we knew that the supply chain of products would be traceable. We searched the GOTS directory and after multiple samples and communications from different factories we found a factory that we knew we could work with.”
The team from that factory then introduced Catherine to Burrow and Be’s second factory, and the three have been working closely ever since.
“Sometimes you can just get a feel for how something will work by the conversations you have – just like how I knew our Australian distributor would work!” says Catherine. “Sometimes, you just click.”
Catherine says it was a trip to India in 2018 that really strengthened her relationship with the factory teams. While there, Catherine went on tours of the dying units, printing units, weaving plants and cotton mills, all hosted by the owner of their first factory.
“We also enjoyed some holiday time with his family, and I was able to get to know his daughter,” says Catherine. “Even now, she asks when we will be coming back to visit.”
Funnily enough, one of Catherine’s standout memories from that trip involved a car and coconut water. While rehydrating on the road from one destination to another, both Catherine and her husband placed their empty coconut shells on the floor of the car to be put in the bin when they got back to the hotel.
“Everyone was astounded that we made such an effort – especially for something that was also biodegradable – but that’s just how we had been brought up,” says Catherine. “We wouldn’t have thought to do it any other way.”
Catherine loved seeing the manufacturing process in action, from milling the cotton fibre all the way through to packing the pieces. It was amazing.
“Oh, and the food,” adds Catherine. “I just loved the food!”
How are Burrow and Be factories ethical?
With sustainability and ethical manufacturing close to Catherine’s heart, she was delighted to learn more about how both factories support her vision. Being GOTS-certified, they boast supply chain certification and require all processes to adhere to strict standards.
“I loved seeing all of the systems that are in place for environmental sustainability, particularly in contrast to the chaos of the streets outside,” says Catherine. “Factories must have appropriate waste and substance management for dyes and inks, water reduction and recycling plants.
“But the GOTS don’t only cover environmental sustainability – they address social welfare and safety, too. A living wage is paid to workers and, in some cases, there are safe work residences for workers to prevent them travelling long distances. There is absolutely no child labour, and nobody is forced to work against their will.”
Burrow and Be is proud that 96 percent of products are made in GOTS certified factories. For Catherine, the knowledge of each process and what is involved in each and every piece allows her to make design and manufacturing decisions that are worth it.
“I can see firsthand what works and what doesn’t because I do the research, see the sales and pay the bills,” says Catherine. “I guess being this involved over the growth years of the business has moulded it into what it is today. Nothing goes unnoticed.”
On her trip to India, Catherine learned how differently both factories operate and was able to identify the advantages and disadvantages of both methods.
“I know where their skill sets are and I try to work around that, even though life and world complications – like, oh I don’t know, a global pandemic – have thrown curve balls,” she says. “Each disaster is a learning experience and each triumph a success to be celebrated.”
Since returning from India, Catherine says her relationships with the workers and owners of the factories has continued to grow.
“We respect each other and help each other through tough times in business, which have become more and more common thanks to the pandemic.”
Catherine communicates with the factories between three and five days per week across multiple platforms including email, WhatsApp and Messenger. It’s a juggle, but remaining hands on in her business is fundamental.
“We communicate most when we are designing new season collections, making changes and organising the logistics of incoming stock,” says Catherine. “I will often work into the night to communicate with them on their time, as going to bed and replying in the morning can delay our response time.”
Started from the bottom…
The enormity of having grown Burrow and Be from a small business in her parents’ garage specialising in hand-printed wraps and pillowcases to since outgrowing a purpose-built garage and a commercially leased warehouse unit isn’t lost on Catherine. It’s moments like her trip to India that allow it all to sink in.
“The decisions I have made over the years and the story of the brand are what have made it successful – it is definitely a piece of me,” says Catherine. “Creating a business that will have legacy effects for my children and showing them what persistence, patience and hard work can achieve are two of my biggest motivators. Having the flexibility and balance to work around our home life is an unexpected bonus.
“But overall, being able to do what I love – design beautiful fabrics and products, made with a conscience, for families to celebrate the new era of their life – is my favourite part of the job. I am so lucky to have the support system, both here and abroad, to help me achieve it all.”
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