Portland’s green, DIY ethos has given rise to moms who have built successful businesses that center on sustainability — and leave time for their families.
The Rose City is a haven for makers of all stripes, as well as for those who care deeply about protecting the environment, for the next generation and beyond. Small wonder, then, that our city is flush with inspiring mom entrepreneurs who are shepherding successful small businesses that give back to the earth in a big way. Meet four—from a milliner to a just-crowd-funded menstrual cup maker—who caught our eye.
Sixteen years ago, naturopathic doctor Kori Giudici, then in school, made her first hat out of recycled green velour curtains. She soon found herself selling her eco-friendly, handmade reversible hats in the hallways between classes.
She named her growing side business Flipside Hats in homage to her childhood nickname, Flip. “I was always doing things a little differently, was always moving and couldn’t sit still,” says Giudici, now 43. All that energy helped her keep both her medical practice and burgeoning hat endeavor flourishing — until she had her son, Moses, now age 8.
“I had to choose because it got to be too much to do both. Focusing on Flipside gives me more time to spend with my family and more flexibility,” she explains.
Moses often hangs out at their Southeast Belmont storefront and workshop, which is a close walk, bike or skate from both school and home. Her husband, Jake Giudici, 35, handles the business operations. “I try to support Kori’s creativity,” he says. Both share the mission of a sustainable lifestyle and business. “Over one million tons of excess fabric goes into landfill every day. It’s cheaper to throw it away. But we, and a growing number of companies, are taking that fabric and re-loving it into new goods,” says Giudici, whose stylish, fun, and functional American-made hats were recently picked up by Whole Foods, one of many wholesale outlets.
Flipside Hats now supports 11 employees. More than 90 percent of their raw materials come from recycled, repurposed or upcycled fabrics and 13 percent of their profits go to organizations doing good locally, such as Race for the Cure, local schools and OHSU Family Medicine. “It feels good to give back to the communities that are supporting you,” she says.
This fall, the Giudicis are launching Portland Hat Company, an eco-friendly, fair-trade venture that will be produced abroad, creating jobs and utilizing traditional fabrics in countries such as Ghana, Morocco and Guatemala.
“Goumikids kind of found us,” explains 42-year-old CEO Lili Yeo. “I think the good things in life tend to do this.” The Beaverton-based business began after she and a good friend were visiting soon after the birth of her first child, Iliana, now 8. (She had another daughter, Ariana, 7, soon after.) “We talked about the struggle to find mitts that would stay on our baby’s hands. We started dreaming about it and wanted to design a product that was good to the earth, beautiful and functional.”
So she did just that. From the original soft, organic fabric mitts, which foil infant attempts to scratch themselves, to baby booties, hats and snuggly jammies, Yeo built a company that is about more than just profits.
“As a mom and an entrepreneur, I don’t want my company to be about just pumping products into the marketplace but also something that does good to the planet,” she says.
Yeo named the company after goumi berries, little red berries that change the nitrogen levels of plants around them for the better. “Small can indeed be mighty,” she says. Goumikids gives back by donating
10 percent of profits (and 100 percent of all goumigiving print profits) to nonprofit partners that aid survivors of sex trafficking, an often hidden and ignored issue in both her native Philippines and right here in Portland, due our location along the I-5 corridor.
Yeo’s company also strives to be eco-friendly, “making conscious choices across our value chain, using fabric scraps that would otherwise go to waste and actively choosing as best we can. We only have one planet.” She also loves that her two daughters have an engaged mom and a businesswoman role model rolled into one. Her girls tell her they want to create their own businesses one day. “It’s another wonderful benefit for them to see that this is attainable as a woman and as an Asian-American,” says Yeo. “It’s wonderful to walk this journey with them.”
When Portlander Jaime Schmidt was pregnant with her son Oliver, now 8, she started experimenting in the kitchen to concoct her own natural deodorant. The ones in the store did not meet her expectations for odor protection, great fragrance or ease of use. “I became very conscious of making sure everything I put in and on my body was pure and natural,” she explains, and the more research she did on conventional deodorants, the more she realized how needed a chemical-free and effective product could be. Her tinkering was so successful, Schmidt started selling her concoctions as Schmidt Naturals, originally packaged in reusable glass jars, at local farmers’ markets.
She soon found a loyal, quickly expanding following, drawn in by both her environmentally conscious, cruelty-free, vegan ingredient list as well as the vibrant scents of her products, from Rose + Vanilla to Lavender + Sage.
Schmidt, 40, who has earned numerous accolades, including Entrepreneur of the Year from accounting firm Ernst and Young, and Most Intriguing Entrepreneur from investment firm Goldman Sachs, cemented her status as a maker movement icon this January when her start-up was acquired by Unilever.
The Schmidt Naturals brand has recently expanded to soaps and toothpastes and can be found at drugstores around the world, but their commitment to eco-friendly sourcing and practices remains stronger than ever. “We believe that no matter who you are, and no matter where you live, you should have access to quality natural personal care products. With this vision in mind, our team advocates every day for increased availability and affordability of our collections without compromising on quality,” says Schmidt.
The business, whose marketing and product development teams are housed in a sleek, open office space in the Pearl, is a true family affair with her husband, Chris Cantino, 33, heading up marketing and communications, and their son giving feedback on product scents. “He’s very honest about what he likes and what he doesn’t,” laughs Schmidt. She is relishing the recent shift in her role that allows her more freedom to explore new endeavors, including speaking around the country to encourage other women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Her advice: “Say yes now, then figure out how.”
By the time Amanda Wilson, 36, hit her 30s, she was fed up with the impracticalities of period care, especially after having kids. “Tampons weren’t getting the job done anymore,” she says.
The mother of five daughters (three adopted sisters, Breanna, 22, Alexis, 18, and Hailey, 16, and two biological, Onika, 9, and Sephina, 6) reached out to a scuba diver friend who does 12-hour-long dives; she suggested trying a menstrual cup.
Wilson liked the idea but after trying a few of the conventional options she found them lacking. Unsatisfied, Wilson decided to develop her own, geared toward women’s bodies and comfort, using non-toxic materials and leaving the smallest possible environmental footprint — and Voxapod was born. Her research showed that the most prevalent feminine hygiene products contained toxic chemicals and produce copious amounts of landfill waste, in addition to not always working well or conveniently or being affordable. (Unlike Rogaine, razors and potato chips, tampons are taxed as a luxury item in the majority of sales tax states!)
“The more I learned, the stronger my desire became to create something better that would not only improve period care but make it more accessible and reduce the environmental damage done by feminine-hygiene-care waste as well as the pollution done to women’s own bodies by putting toxic materials on such absorbent tissue,” explains Wilson, who has become a passionate advocate for improving period care for girls and women around the globe.
She says the issue is deeply intertwined with access to education, opportunity and equality. “Women should have nontoxic, nonplastic, eco-friendly, reusable choices,” says Wilson, and Voxapod, which surpassed its funding goals on Kickstarter and Indiegogo InDemand this spring, is just that.
The Voxapod, which is made of medical-grade silicon, can be worn up to 12 hours at a time. Even better, funds from purchases go towards donating the product to girls and women in need and supporting Wilson’s advocacy efforts. The first customers will receive their product in November. “The single most powerful way to impact girls is to keep girls in school and often lack of sustainable period care keeps girls out of the classroom,” says Wilson.
Additionally, Wilson seeks to help other female entrepreneurs find their way to the national marketplace through the peer mentorship nonprofit WomenLed, which she launched last year. She believes being a mom can help women become more successful, not less. “I know how to make a watermelon out of a lemon,” she says, “that’s the scrappy skill set that comes from being a mother.”
Sarah Vanbuskirk is a writer based in Portland. She is the mother of five kids, Violet, 15, Charlie, 13, Hank, 11, Noah, 9, and Walter, 6, and is currently working on a memoir.
Jamie Carle is a photographer living in Vancouver, Wash. They have been documenting for 10 years and are raising a 4-year-old son, Jaxin. Their focus is showcasing love and connection through visual storytelling.
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