You may have seen Sanetra Longno grace the Instagram photos of local businesses by modeling their goods, or maybe even behind the lens of her own photography projects. But now this multi-talented creative and supporter of small businesses has her own venture to pursue as the founder of Unravel Co.
Launched in December of 2017, Unravel Co is a line of sustainable handwoven bags focused on ethical production and works with communities across the globe.
We wanted to learn more about how Sanetra got the idea for her new business, what a typical day is like for her and what she wants people to know about the sustainable fashion industry.
Tell us about your background. What were you doing before Unravel Co. and what led you to start the business?
My background has been fashion, holding a BA in Fashion & Retail Management.
Before Unravel Co I was working with Raven + Lily as an Assistant Store Manager and doing a bunch of modeling, photography, and knitting which helped me surround myself with great supporters and connect with many people.
What led me to start the business was a desire to serve others. I didn’t know what that would look like until after I had experience working with ethical brands such as Raven + Lily and Noonday Collections. But at first, Unravel Co didn’t start out as what it is today.
I had a knitting company on Etsy and realized I was too much of an introvert to continue this and wanted something more fulfilling. I did a complete rebrand after 2-3 months and started researching communities I could collaborate with for woven goods, which has been an obsession for me since I was a kid because my mother always had woven home goods. Then, shortly after, I discovered the group Unravel Co is currently working with in Ghana. Once we understood this was a good match I began to research and sketch design concepts in June of 2017 and launched in December of the same year.
What has been the most unexpected part about owning a business?
The most unexpected part was the process of building my website. All of the things you have to consider for the design functionality is very overwhelming. It took me 2 months to decide on a web design for the site. Which stressed me out because I wasn’t sure if I was just overthinking it or if it was an average timeframe to choose the visual direction of the site. Another thing is the fulfillment process. This is the most time consuming and unliking thing that I have to suck it up and buckle down. I’m still figuring out my system for it, but slowly getting there.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Scattered, to be honest. Every day isn’t the same for me because I get bored really easily. My morning starts with prayer and reading the word with my husband. Then turning on music to get our juices flowing, cook a morning breakfast if I have the time before running out to a meeting or something. Check my emails and start a to-do list for the day. Once that’s decided on, action is taken place.
But don’t get me wrong, my day isn’t always like this. I sometimes get lost on social media and an hour or two will go by, or get distracted with something else and I have to catch up on my tasks, running around like a crazy lady. After getting some things done at a coffee shop/coworking with friends I head home to cook dinner for the hubby and I, or we, make something together or [get] takeout if groceries are low and laziness sneaks in. Once stomachs are full it’s either back to work we go or just relax on the couch with some wine and a movie.
As a designer, where do you go for inspiration? What fuels your creativity?
Getting lost on Pinterest and Instagram by typing in keywords of color, or light effect, photographers, fashionistas, iconic settings etc.
Different cultures, random shapes of products; sometimes an idea will come to me based on a conversation I’m having with someone. And even seeing other woven bags or baskets inspires me to create something new and unseen.
Another thing that fuels my creativity is a passion to serve and help others. My heart was designed to pour out and it’s so rewarding when you see the impact. Also, the process of creating something new and watching the design come to life drives me bonkers in a good way. 🙂
What do you want people to know about sustainable fashion and the handmade industry?
I want people to understand the process of sustainable fashion compared to fast fashion. How the product is developed from an idea to production to the hands of the maker all the way to the customer because that will express the value in a garment or product. Which plays into cost explanations for fair wage craftsmanship. Educating yourself about the product process opens the eyes and importance as to why you should know where your clothes are from and if the makers are being treated fairly as an employee.
How has community played a role in your journey as a small business owner?
Community is a HUGE sector in my life and as a small business owner. I would not be able to accomplish things or live life without my strong community. When you have a great team of cheerleaders you can get through anything.
I’ve had days where I get lazy and drive myself off the wall over the smallest things and my cheerleaders will encourage me to push on and decide on coworking dates to hold each other accountable. If you have someone in your group that will tell the solid truth with love and boldness, keep them for life. You must have a realist in your group to snap yourselves out of it sometimes. Idea bouncing: Communities are the best for brainstorming sessions!!!
Having multiple perspectives and an extra pair of eyes helps tremendously too because you can miss something if you’ve been staring at the same thing for several hours or brain farts are blocking the creative flow to move forward.
What are you currently reading or listening to?
A few books I’ve started reading and haven’t completed:
- Crazy Rich Asian – written by Kevin Kwan
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – written by Marie Kondo
- Sustainability: Practical Insights on Developing Fair Trade Artisan Groups – written by Kristi Griem
- Sylvan Esso
- Indie music
- Coffee shop playlists on spotify
Favorite way to unwind after a long week?
Dates with the hubby, dancing the night away, enjoying good wine and food, traveling with the hubs or doing a personal photography project for myself to enjoy.
What is your best advice for someone who wants to pursue their passion and start a business?
Just do it!! It’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing because no one knows. We learn something new every day and continue to move forward while figuring things out along the way.
Don’t allow your fear to stop you before attempting. You never know the outcome unless you try. Ask around if you have questions. Reach out to those who are doing what you’re pursuing to learn from. Remember they started where you are and have learned different systems and processes on how to do things, so it’s perfect to pick their brains if they’re open to it. That’s what I’ve been doing.
You can find Sanetra on Instagram @sanetrastew or @unravelco and shop the collection at unravelco.com.
Images by Ashley Green of Frankie Jean, courtesy of Sanetra Longno.