EP 135: Growing A Truly Sustainable Business With Art & Eden Founder Susan Correa

May 29, 2018 | Business Models, Podcast, Product Development

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who explores what it takes to navigate the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Click here to support this work.

The Nitty Gritty

  • The story behind Susan’s personal breakthrough that prompted her to leave a two decade fashion career to launch Art & Eden, a sustainable clothing line for kids
  • How Susan transformed her approach to business from fast to slow
  • What processes Susan and the Art & Eden team put in place to stay accountable to their sustainability values
  • Where — and why — they give back a portion of their profits to social equity projects as a part of their Buy Better, Do Better mission

After two decades in the fast fashion industry, Susan Correa decided to leave her career as the sole breadwinner of her family to pursue a more sustainable approach to fashion. Today, Susan is the founder of Art & Eden, a sustainable clothing line for kids that approaches fashion in a slower, more intentional pace and weaves in social equity projects into the foundation of the business model.

Listen to this episode of What Works to hear more from Susan on what transformed her mindset to create a business that is better for the planet and the people. Plus, so much more on the values, processes, and branding efforts that go into a sustainable business model — and how that applies to any business.

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Leaving behind a career to launch a business

“It was the most difficult decision of both my personal and professional life. It was a really tough decision but I could no longer participate in a world that values profit over people. I knew too much.” — Susan Correa

In Susan’s fashion industry experience she focused entirely on profit. What trends would bring the most money? That was at the foundation of everything Susan did for two decades. But after learning more about using business for good, including giving a portion of profits to social equity programs, Susan faced a turning point in her life.

Susan declares, “I had one of two choices: accept the industry or change the industry. And I’m one that doesn’t take anything lying down so I decided to make change a reality.”

With a newfound passion for sustainability, partnered with her longstanding experience in fashion, she decided to leave the career behind and start a brand new business from the ground up. That business is now Art & Eden, a collection of sustainable children’s clothes made from organic cotton, low-impact dyes, and unique prints.

Staying accountable to sustainability principles

“It’s really a coming together of committed people from committed institutions that makes it all come together. Even in our smaller world of Art & Eden, engaging with a community that cares is what enables us to make this a possibility.” — Susan Correa

Creating a sustainable foundation to your business requires buy in and help from anyone — and any company, collaborator, or partner — that touches your business. In this conversation, Susan shared multiple ways that her company stays accountable to the sustainability principles that they were founded on. Here’s a quick look:

  • Sustainability from seed to finished product. This means asking questions like: are we dying the textiles in the correct manner? Are we labeling products correctly? Are we working to educate our farmers?
  • Relationships with independent testers. Art & Eden works with the Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, as well as OEKO-TEX to independently test materials. These relationships signify Art & Eden’s commitment to truly sustainable textiles.
  • Triple bottom line accounting. It’s not just about profit: the company also exists to give back.


How a sustainable business brands their product

“The entire brand message, from the story of how the brand is better for the planet, for people in the community, and for the little kids as well as our impact journey, is all documented on the hand tag of the garment.” — Susan Correa

There are multiple ways that Art & Eden approaches branding — and everything starts from a solid product. “That’s a winning formula for any business: where you start with the product and you ensure you get the product right.”

They work with artisans from around the world to create their unique prints that you can’t find anywhere else. I mean, how cute is this Alligator sweatshirt? Or what about this monstera leaf dress?

Beyond design is the heart of their product: sustainable fabric, including organic cotton and recycled or upcycled polyester, and low-impact dyes. Both are crucial to their sustainability mission of Buy Better, Do Better.

Want more from Susan Correa? Listen to this episode of What Works to hear more about her transformation from fast to slow fashion, how she keeps her team and partners accountable to uphold sustainable practices, and how their social equity programs work.

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