JGS Ian Bentley put sustainability at the heart of Parker Clay – and they’ve doubled sales every year (episode 363)

Ian Bentley is the Co-founder and CEO at Parker Clay. Parker Clay sells handcrafted leather goods made in Ethiopia and is on a mission to create a better bag for a better world. Something they’re clearly doing well at as in 2021 they won the B Corp “Best for the World” award for their community impact efforts. Founded in 2014 they have been consistently doubling the business and now have a global team of over 200 people.

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Getting Started In eCommerce

As they were building their family and careers, Ian and his wife Brittany talked about having a third child and ended up adopting from Ethiopia. It was also there that they founded their business, Parker Clay.

Starting out, they worked with Ethiopian women who just wanted the opportunity to work. They crafted bags out of leather from Ethiopia, but Ian and Brittany did not know how to sell them. They eventually contacted a friend who helped them set up their online store on Squarespace, and this was how they began their eCommerce journey.

About Parker Clay

  • All products are made in their factory in Ethiopia
  • With headquarters and warehouse in Santa Barbara, California
  • Does all of their own fulfillment
  • Primarily selling through their own website running on Shopify Plus

The Product

Parker Clay handcrafts premium leather bags, wallets, and accessories.

The leather they use comes from Ethiopia, which is one of the largest producers of leather in the world. Production is also done in Ethiopia, and these factors are very important for Ian. By sourcing their material from and producing goods in Ethiopia, Parker Clay is able to create jobs and impact the economy.

Ian says this instills a sense of pride in the country and the people, which he finds really meaningful.

At The Heart Of Parker Clay

Ian says it’s really personal for him.

Brands today try to strike a balance between profit and purpose and that’s what Parker Clay would like to stand for. Working with the women of Ethiopia, seeing how they fight for their families, and telling their personal stories are the heartbeat of the brand.

And while data and statistics will always be part of a business, for Ian, a huge part of it is each woman doing creative work at Parker Clay and her stories of triumph.

Incorporating Sustainability

When you want to incorporate sustainability in your business, just know that it won’t be perfect and you’ll make mistakes.

But creating an impact means leading with your heart and your mind. Understand that people and cultures are different, continue to lift each other up despite the differences, and don’t stop helping others — that will make a big impact.

Growing the Business

When asked how he is able to continuously grow the business, Ian first mentions the passion he has for the business and its core.

Secondly, he credits their team for having the same vision he and Brittany have, and for enabling the business to grow and scale.

Third, he says there are also investors who have helped them scale and even sustain their growth.

Finally, he also mentions trying new things such as getting into social media, trying podcasts, and even doing direct mailers. Diversifying has been a huge part of their development, and they’re now looking to scale even further.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • For Ian, it’s both email and SMS marketing.

Tool Top Tip

Growth Top Tip

  • Hire a great finance team because business projections are important.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 354: Building a Sustainable Fashion Brand with Partnerships and PR. Gergana from blonde gone rogue
  • 337: Growing a sustainable fashion business to 7-figures with Encircled’s Kristi Soomer
  • 335: Next level fashion sustainability to satisfy a $120bn opportunity with Camilla Olsen

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