We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Brei and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melissa Brei, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The thought that pushed me to start my own business was “Why not me?” For two years, I made excuses for not taking the risk. In my head, I was too young and inexperienced so no one would take me seriously. So, I put my project on the back burner, but the issue of textile waste and, more broadly, climate change progressively worsened. After my summer internship in 2019, I realized that something had to be done because society could no longer wait. The thought then turned into “Why not now” and I have not looked back since. I took advantage of the resources that my university offers and found my partner. Together we have built SIFT Collective and aim to create an eco-fashion marketplace by establishing a universal sustainable fashion standard, closed-loop ecosystem, and integrated partnerships to reduce textile waste generation while increasing the accessibility of sustainable fashion.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
SIFT Collective wants to tackle unsustainable practices in the fashion industry by normalizing circular ecosystems. On our platform, we offer a wide range of apparel products to our customers from guaranteed sustainable brands. We have developed a sustainability criteria that will help educate consumers on what sustainable fashion really means. From material sourcing to social impact to climate impact, all of our brands will be vetted using this criteria to ensure our customers are accessing the best products on the market. Currently, we are working to build partnerships within the textile recycling industry to offer consumers a convenient, transparent method to recycle their clothes. With the COVID-19 pandemic, forming partnerships with recyclers and brands has been a challenge. Perseverance has been key to getting the word out to not only customers but potential brand partners. We are proud that we have partnered with 12 diverse brands considering the circumstances and are looking forward to the future to partner with more. We strive to make sustainable fashion accessible for every consumer and disrupt the normalization of textile waste.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am from Ann Arbor so there are many great places to eat and fun activities to enjoy. If it was the summer/fall, I would take my friend to nearby nature parks and hike or kayak. I would also take them to an apple orchard to get delicious cider and donuts. For food, I would take them for breakfast at Angelo’s, lunch at Zingerman’s, and dinner at Frita Batidos. If it was the winter, I would take them to the same restaurants and instead of kayaking, go sledding.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My partner Kevin and everyone else on our team: Eileen, Dana, and Allie. I would also like to thank Barger Leadership Institute including our mentors Fatema and Sharanya.