Queen of Law, to Queen of Raw

An online market place, where you can buy and sell deadstock fabric; the mission for Queen of Raw is to make fashion more sustainable, for future generations.

Its founder Stephanie Benedetto, tells me about her rag trade-roots, and how they’re helping her to disrupt the fashion industry…

Wall Street lawyer to bootstrapping a tech startup, that’s quite the pivot..?

“I was working on Wall Street in 2008, when the market crashed; I decided then I’d build a business, and go change the world.

I was obsessed with waste. I first started mapping out my idea on the back of a Starbucks napkin, about 5-years ago. But we didn’t launch until 2018; with the political and social situation as it is now, we knew the timing was right.”

So why the focus on fashion industry-waste?

“My family has been in the New York garment industry, for over 100 years – I grew up with it all around me.

“It was my grandfather’s idea, I just upcycled it.”

Back then my grandfather wasn’t talking about sustainability or circular economy, but his business model was much the same; you find materials nearby…excess fabric people aren’t using, you repurpose it with minimal waste and toxins – because your bottom dollar depends on it – and you sell it to your local customers.

The only real difference is we are using technology to enable us to do it with complex supply chains, on a global scale.

More profit, less pollution

“The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world, and it takes 700 gallons of water to produce just one t-shirt.

By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face shortages of fresh water, and be exposed to hazardous chemicals from textile production. And, it’s not just in the countries where we are manufacturing, like China and India; the threat to our water is happening right here in the US, and in Europe, too.”

That’s really bad, right?

“Yes it’s bad, but it’s also a huge opportunity. One of my greatest frustrations is that we can talk endlessly about the problem and the challenges, but we must focus on the solution.”

“The nature of business is to make money.”

“They need solutions that are sustainable, and make economic sense.

So many people think it’s about overhauling entire industries, overnight. There are steps that companies can take today, that won’t cost them money, but will save them money – even make them money.

Businesses need to consider the triple bottom line – people, profit and planet – as people increasingly want to buy from brands that are more sustainable.

Forever 21 is a good example of a brand that ignored the shift in the consumer mindset; they put all their money on fast fashion continuing to rise, and suffered the consequences.”

How important is technology in enabling the fashion industry to be more sustainable?

“Blockchain is a game-changer for sustainable fashion. It provides absolute transparency and trust in the supply chain.

As well as the Queen of Raw online marketplace, our customers can use our blockchain-enabled service, MateriaMX, to track how much water, toxins, and energy they’ve used throughout the production process, as well as how much they’ve paid for raw materials and labour.

Ultimately, these things can be measured against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, so that both the business and its customers, can better understand the impact they’re having.”

A woman working within the disruptive technology space – that’s got to take guts..?

“There’s something about this city that makes you feel like anything is possible…that you really can change the world.

I went to an all women’s school. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life; it’s where I found my voice.”

“Growing up in New York, I felt empowered…the Queen of my domain.”

Is that what inspired the name?

“It’s the spirit behind Queen of Raw, yes. I wanted the name to empower me, and other women in business and technology. And, instead of using the word sustainability, I liked the idea of raw…raw materials.”

“Everyone said, no, no, no, it sounds like pornography, or the raw food movement.”

“I said, well sex sells, and so does the raw food movement. So far, it’s served us well – we’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

Women in sustainability

Do you think women have greater power to change the world?

“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded and supported, by the most incredible women in the sustainability.

“You need conviction of purpose, and creativity – I think women bring that.”

“When you innovate in a new space, it requires confidence and resilience because you’ll be met by constant challenges. You need to be willing to learn from the no’s, as well as the yes’s.

Also, we hear plenty about how women outperform men, when it comes to the financial performance of their business. They’re smart enough to spot the economic benefits of a sustainable business model.”

Motherly nature

You have a 4-year old son, and a baby due any minute! Has this influenced what, and how you do business?

“I am absolutely building what I’m building, so that my children can have clean water to drink, and a healthy planet to live on. I know I can be a key part of that.”

“On the days when we hear those no’s…that’s what keeps me going.

And then, we get to pat ourselves on the back when we’ve saved a billion gallons of water, in a quarter. And, I know that’s just the beginning…it makes you realise that you really can change the world.”

And, the future for the Queen of Raw..?

“So, it’s the fashion industry now, but in time…wherever there is waste, that’s where you’ll find the Queen of Raw.”

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