Building A “Sustainable” Brand Nearly 10 Years After Starting on Kickstarter

Building A “Sustainable” Brand Nearly 10 Years After Starting on Kickstarter

Zack Helminiak co-founded Nomadix nearly a decade ago, and got it off the ground with a successful but scrappy Kickstarter campaign that raised over $70,000 to create a all-in-one towel made from recycled materials. Now, they’re innovating beyond the beach-meets-yoga-meets-travel towel that gained a devoted audience (and allowed for interesting collaborations with creatives), and slowly adding on new products.

Last fall, Nomadix launched a puffer blanket that aims to be as versatile as their flagship product with clip-on details that prevent it from sliding and slipping, he notes, and a bandana towel that’s great for athletes, looking to catch their sweat. With their products in over 1000 stores across the country, including popular outdoor retailers like REI, they’ve grown from being a niche brand to one that’s more mainstream.

But behind these products is a commitment to rethinking manufacturing, says Helminiak. This spring, the California-based company disclosed its 2022 Social Purpose Corporation report.

“Reimagining the way textiles are made is no small feat, but the health and sustainability of our planet will continue to be our number one priority,” he says.

Becoming a Social Purpose Corporation was a purposeful decision for the Nomadix crew. A Social Purpose Corporation produces a hybrid structure between a for-profit and a non-profit that allows the company to focus on its broader mission beyond selling outdoor travel gear. “It’s been pretty important for us from day one, that, yes, we were selling towels, but how?”

In the report, Nomadix highlights a few points of progress: switching their headquarters to 50% solar, decreasing air freight by 45%, phasing out 90% virgin plastic with recycled materials, and making all their paper goods and packaging FSC-certified.

While these may seem like no-brainers, in dealing with a global supply chain, and the surprises brought on by the pandemic, Helminiak notes that it’s a balancing act. “We’re always thinking about how to do things in a more eco-friendly manner, but we also have to mindful that it’s a business.”

And responsible manufacturing, he says, can be more expensive. “You’d be able to price your product at a different price point altogether (a lower one), if you used non-recycled material. So it is a significant additional cost.”

While many brands increased prices during the pandemic, Nomadix has kept their flagship towel at $40, despite the higher production costs and inflationary pressures in recent years. “We like that price point. We think it’s a good price for a product that’s going to last for years, and does more than just a typical towel. Plus, it’s made of recycled materials.”

It also requires them to take a bit more initiative. For instance, with the puffer blanket that launched last fall, Nomadix wanted to steer clear of PFAS, or forever chemicals. These are often found in insulated products and many outdoor brands are making an effort to reduce their use of PFAS. Often found in DWR, a chemical finish that helps fabrics repel water, PFAS has been part of a growing national conversation, as legislators have started looking into all the sources of PFAS. Naturally, Helminiak says, Nomadix wants to be part of the move to shift away from using these chemicals. So they opted for a vegetable-based DWR, which they worked with manufacturers to implement.

Helminiak points out that the problem is really overconsumption. “The biggest problem with sustainability is consumer consumption, the idea that you need a new pair of pants, shirt, etc all the time. We’re building a company that you can use this one towel for many things — and it’s not dorky, it’s a cool thing,” he adds.

In fact, the origins of the company are just that: when Helminiak and his co-founders were getting ready for a cross-country trip together in their 1998 Subaru, they had to be mindful of what they could bring. It was too much gear, and we wanted to simplify it, he says. Hence, the desire to build a product that can be used for so many things and dries quickly.

While Nomadix is using recycled plastic bottles, closed loop manufacturing process, and opted for vegetable-based DWR, there is still work to be done, Helminiak admits.

“We have this laundry list of things we’d like to do. And we just keep making progress on that. We’re not perfect. We’re just trying to offer you a better solution. In our lifetimes, and we are in our 30s, plastic pollution and textile pollution have visibly worsened, so we wanted to divert as much of that waste as possible away from our waterways, oceans and beaches.”

Forbes Staff

Forbes Staff is an official member of the esteemed Forbes team, dedicated to delivering high-quality content and insightful journalism. With a deep understanding of the industry and a passion for uncovering compelling stories, Forbes Staff brings their expertise to the world of fashion. As a trusted member of the Forbes team, they contribute to the renowned Forbes platform, providing readers with valuable insights into the global fashion landscape.

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