After working for several years as a freelance artist, designer Cybelle Elena started a small clothing company called Recyclabelle out of her apartment in Los Angeles. Being both business owner and designer gave her the flexibility to take on custom commissions, including a number of wedding dresses. While she loved being part of important milestones in people's lives, she was bothered by the fact that based on current laws, not everyone is able to experience that moment.
That led her to enlist a number of other designers on a collaboration called PRIDAL, a multi-designer bridal collection created in celebration of marriage equality, because, as she says, "prejudice is never in style".
A percentage of the sales from the PRIDAL collection, currently 40% of revenues, are being donated to non-profit organizations that work toward achieving PRIDAL's goal of equal representation of marriage across the board. Cybelle says that, "All of the contributing designers are artisans and represent themselves, and supporting them is another important element of PRIDAL. A core value of the company is to encourage a symbiotic relationship between small businesses and social progress."
Socially conscious businesses are on the rise and Cybelle felt that making a positive change with her art has always been a part of the way she wanted to do business. She said, "I think an important question for business owners and entrepreneurs to ask themselves is 'What role does private enterprise play in social change?'. I believe there's a big role- business is a major part of everyone's lives. More and more often people are voting with their dollars and looking for authentic options."
PRIDAL currently has a number of designers participating in the business and the hope is that more will join up soon. Originally, Cybelle contacted designers whose work she admired and used their commitment to the cause as a screening tool. She explains, "I wanted to choose designers who would collectively create a diverse and eclectic collection, so I made sure to include those who worked in a wide variety of mediums. Desiree Martinez is a jewelry maker, QueenKing does headpieces, Seed to Salad makes bouquets, and even the other clothing designers like China Faith Star and Laurel Tincher, have a vastly different style than I do, making PRIDAL truly represent diversity."
Like any new business endeavor, Cybelle Elena's biggest challenges came from juggling many tasks and wearing more hats than she was used to. She explains, "There is no way to anticipate every little hiccup that might occur with a project like PRIDAL and it can be very challenging to remain patient and optimistic. Hard work does pay off; it just might not be in the way you expect." As for her biggest inspiration that keeps her focused, Cybelle boiled it down to just one word, "Love."
As for other entrepreneurs, who are interested in launching businesses with a social element, Cybelle advises, "look at the social issues that matter to you, identify needs and try to meet them. Also, make sure that you're doing it for the right reasons. Starting a business is so much hard work, if you aren't truly passionate about your cause, it could be easy to lose steam. Plus, a catchy name doesn't hurt either."
Currently PRIDAL has chosen the Human Rights Campaign as their main beneficiary, based on their wide recognition as a LGBT civil rights advocacy group and their reputation and history of success. PRIDAL plans to also work with smaller beneficiaries once they begin their touring fashion show. We hope to include local non-profit organizations that support LGBT individuals and families within their own community. These organizations will join PRIDAL for a fashion event in their own town and be given a coupon code so that those in their own city can support them with a PRIDAL purchase.
Cybelle and the other designers participating in PRIDAL have big visions to grow and make an impact. She explains, "Approximately 2.5 million people get married every year in the U.S., if 0.1% of those weddings include one outfit from PRIDAL, we will raise 1 million dollars for charity. I hope PRIDAL becomes a catalyst for socially conscious businesses."
Even if you aren't ready to start your own socially conscious business, Cybelle suggests that you get involved with a business that is already doing that. You can become a customer of those businesses or even take on a volunteer role. With PRIDAL, Cybelle advocates those who are passionate about supporting marriage equality can get involved with PRIDAL by telling friends and spreading the word about it, shopping in the PRIDAL boutique or getting involved in an upcoming fashion event in your city.
You can learn more about PRIDAL at pridal.org.