Featured Solopreneur: Tribe Alive - "Hope is our message, fashion is our medium"

Carly Burson has a vision.  

She wants to empower the lives of marginalized women, while also changing how the fashion industry operates.


You see, Carly is the founder of Tribe Alive, a company that employs impoverished women in developing countries - putting their hand-crafted products on the global marketplace, and giving them access to training, safe working conditions, and a reliable income.


Not only does the Tribe-Alive model directly improve the lives of the women making these beautiful products, but it empowers the consumer making each purchase, as well.


Inspired to create the business after adopting her beautiful daughter from Ethiopia, Carly has merged countless years of experience in the fashion industry with a commitment to running a socially-conscious, purpose-driven business.

Needless to say: her ethical business model is WORKING. Last month, Carly celebrated just one year of business with a beautiful new Fall Line, and is now working with artisanal partners in six different countries. What's more, Tribe Alive has announced recent collaborations with FabFitFun, Clementine Daily, and Filter of Hope (among others!). We were also thrilled to include Tribe Alive's beautiful artisan bracelets in our #SheForShe campaign giveaways.

Read on to learn how Carly built Tribe-Alive into a successful enterprise, plus more about its global impact, in this week’s Solopreneur feature interview!

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What sparked the idea for Tribe Alive?

I began my adoption journey—I knew that becoming a mother would profoundly impact my life, but I never imagined that it would alter the course of my life’s work.

Although adoption presents an opportunity to support an individual child, I was struck by the desire to address the core issue of child relinquishment on a global scale: namely, the economic insecurity facing women in the developing world.


Tribe Alive was born from my decision to utilize years of experience in the fashion industry as a platform to alleviate poverty among women in the developing world. By promoting the development of artisanal traditions and connecting women to the global marketplace, I have seen my outreach grow rapidly in a year’s time. From a small group of artisans in Honduras, to the development of partnerships in five additional countries—the Tribe is alive and well. I strongly believe that ethical fashion has the power to change lives, and it's my hope that Tribe Alive’s artisans will be empowered with the means to care for their families so that child relinquishment need never be considered an option.

What has been the best part about owning your own business?
 

The freedom to control my own schedule so that I am able to be a part of all my daughters important moments and milestones.

Tell us about your first couple jobs?

Immediately after college I traveled to Thailand to live and work in Bangkok in an orphanage and teach English. This experience further solidified my love for travel and immersing myself in cultures different from my own. It also developed in me a strong desire to adopt a child and help combat the issues surrounding child relinquishment.


What did you study in school? Has it helped you with your business in any way?

My initial studies were concentrated in Psychology, Sociology and Spanish. My study of psychology not only helps me in my day-to-day life, but also impacts my life’s work. I think it’s incredibly important to view people with an understanding that there is a reason why we all are the way we are and to approach each other with compassion.

What drives you to get out of bed every day and continue what you’re doing?

My family. I want my husband and my daughter to be proud of me and to see me making a difference in the lives of women. If my daughter learns to care for others and recognizes that its our job to take care of one another, my job as a mother is complete.

When did you start to realize that you had an “entrepreneurial spirit?”

Since I was a little girl I’ve dreamt big and envisioned doing something that deeply matters. My parents will tell you that I always went my own way, developed and maintained a relentless point of view from an early age and never allowed anyone to tell me what to do. I think I always had an entrepreneurial spirit but it took me time to develop the courage to take the leap.

What do you believe is your business/ career “purpose?”

To empower marginalized women with opportunity that enables them to reclaim their lives.

 

What would you have told an earlier YOU, when you were first starting out?

To start small, stay focused on the message and keep my priorities in perspective. Owning your own business easily and quickly takes over your life and it’s important to remember what’s most important in life.


Who have you turned to for mentorship/guidance throughout your career?


I often turn to our non-profit partners rather than turning to fellow entrepreneurs. I find it important to stay grounded in a ‘non business’ minded perspective and to stay true to the message and the mission. Our non-profit partners keep me closely connected to the issues our female artisan partners face and remind me that human lives matter more than our bottom line. I always want to approach business from a human perspective and not from a financial perspective.

What inspires your creative ideas?

Everything. Inspiration is everywhere. I’m constantly taking photos, ripping pages out of magazines, underlining sentences in books and filling my schedule up with as much travel as possible. 

How do you handle fear and self-doubt?

I surround myself with people who lift me up and give me confidence in myself. My family has always been incredibly supportive of me and makes me feel more special than I actually am. Fear and self-doubt is a part of being a business owner though and its something you deal with everyday. You just have to learn to ignore it.

What’s your approach to maintaining a healthy “work/ life balance?” / What advice would you give to others trying to achieve it?

I’m still learning that and it’s something I struggle deeply with. I’m a very structured person and recently had to set rules and boundaries, as in— no work calls after 7pm and no working on the weekend. When I don’t set clear boundaries for myself I work non-stop and my family suffers.


What is your vision for your business? Where do you want it to go?
 
I want it to grow so that we’re able to reach more women with sustainable employment. I want our business to stand as a model and an example that you can experience financial success without compromising the rights and needs of others and I want that model to be a part of changing how the fashion industry is allowed to operate.


Which women have supported or inspired you the most throughout your career?

My mother. She’s strong, hardworking, compassionate and knows exactly who she is. I’ve always wanted to be just like her.

Many would say that women face more challenges as a business owner than their male counterparts. Would you agree or disagree? Either way, what would your advice be for young women looking to launch a new venture of their own? 

I’m not going to deny that we still have a long way to come in regard to female equality in business, but I feel progress is being made. Women need to work harder then men and face different challenges that our male counterparts do not. I think women need to be up for that challenge and work as hard as we can to prove that we’re equal, just as capable and that we have just as much (if not more) to offer.

As part of this campaign, if you could “nominate” a strong, stand-out woman in you life, who would it be and why?

My best friend, Stacey Kraft. She owns a beautiful bridal boutique in Boston, Massachusetts and has worked hard to follow her dreams. Before becoming a business owner she was unhappy in her career, relationships and overall life’s circumstance. So many people live like that and never take the risk to change their situation. I’ve always admired her courage to take a leap into the unknown and in many ways it gave me confidence to start Tribe Alive.

What advice would you give to young women who worry about their future—or are unsure which career path to choose? 

To know that none of us ever have it figured out. We’re meant to constantly evolve and grow … and change our minds. Our culture pressures us to know exactly who and what we want to be at a very young age, and it’s not fair. I’d encourage young women to always go after their passions and to do something they care about. When we’re fulfilled doors open and  it’s easier to recognize our true selves.

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THANK YOU FOR THE INSPIRATION CARLY!
 
(( Solo Sisters: Tribe Alive's fall line is out now—so make sure to check it out!!  ))

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