June 28, 2023

Building a Greener Future: Marianna Sachse and America's First Circular Children's Clothing Brand

In a world where fast fashion dominates the market, Marianna Sachse, the visionary founder of Jackalo, is paving the way for a greener future in children's fashion. Jackalo, America's first circular children's clothing brand, is revolutionizing the industry with its durable, sustainable, and eco-friendly clothing options. In this exclusive interview, Marianna shares her inspiring journey, discussing the challenges she faced during the company's launch, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and her innovative marketing strategies. She also reveals her future goals, including expanding the circularity program and seeking seed funding. Join us as we delve into the story behind Jackalo and discover how Marianna is reshaping the way we dress our little ones.

Marianna Sachse, the founder and CEO of Jackalo

Chris: Let's start with the first question. Can you share with us the story behind your company, including its history, mission, and values?

Marianna: Absolutely. I developed the idea for Jackalo when my older son was around seven years old, and I had a newborn baby. I was frustrated and disappointed that I had very few hand-me-downs from my older son for the second child. The reason behind this was that we had received a generous amount of hand-me-downs initially, but as my eldest grew older, the supply started to diminish. This led me to realize that the poor quality of clothes available in the market was the main issue. I began to see what other parents were experiencing in the communities I was a part of, and I discovered that many of them faced the same problem. The clothes couldn't withstand the active nature of their kids, causing  holes and other quality issues.

I noticed that the few brands producing more durable and long-lasting clothes were not aligned with the values of parents who cared about sustainability. These brands either contributed to environmental pollution or showed no commitment to environmental responsibility. Sustainability-minded parents reluctantly purchased from these companies, compromising their values. That's when I realized the need for a clothing brand that offered longevity, comfort, and sustainability. Since buying secondhand is the most sustainable way to shop, I wanted our company to facilitate a seamless process for parents to return the clothes and allow them to find a new life with another family.

Chris: That's a compelling story. Now, could you share the challenges you faced during your brand launch and how you overcame them?

Marianna: I launched in 2018 with a crowdfunding campaign. As you can imagine, securing initial funding for a fashion business is challenging, especially for someone like me who comes from outside the fashion industry.

If I had worked for a major fashion company, I would have had an established reputation, making it easier to attract investments. Being an outsider has its advantages in terms of understanding the customers and the product's needs. However, it becomes a disadvantage when it comes to accessing funding. I had to rely on crowdfunding and bootstrap the business from the beginning until I could establish myself as a recognized entity. So, that was the first challenge.

The second challenge was starting a company while living abroad. We were residing in the Netherlands, but I'm originally from the United States, and my professional network primarily existed in America. Building a business from scratch heavily relies on word-of-mouth and personal connections. Therefore, I had to launch simultaneously in both the Netherlands and America.

Running a business in the Netherlands as an American presented various mundane challenges. Fortunately, one of the easier challenges to overcome was leaving behind the complexities of managing a Dutch business as an American when we moved back to the United States. While I love the Netherlands, being an American entrepreneur there posed its difficulties. The core challenges I faced were gaining recognition as an outsider and obtaining funding for a new brand.

Chris: I suppose there is more bureaucracy in Europe.

Marianna: Yes, that's true. Part of it is my deeper understanding of the American customer base and community. However, there are bureaucratic challenges specifically related to being an American starting a business in the Netherlands, which can be quite complex due to the intricate issues between the Dutch and American tax systems. It adds an additional layer of difficulty. These challenges aren't something that small or medium-sized business owners can do much about.

Chris: By the way, how is your business doing? Since 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted numerous businesses. We're aware of the struggles faced by many entrepreneurs through our interviews. How has the pandemic affected your business, and how are things going now?

Marianna: Jackalo is still a small business with a small team. When COVID-19 hit, I was able to quickly adapt and produce masks. Although cloth masks were later deemed less effective, I wasn't trying to exploit the situation for profit. It was simply a response to the demand and a way to support people's needs.

Chris: Can you elaborate on your marketing and growth strategies, particularly your approach to affiliates, organic content, and offline marketing?

Marianna:  I focus on fundamental business practices that yield positive results. I engage in extensive outreach to potential affiliates, as affiliate traffic is more cost-effective approach compared to Facebook or Google ads. What's particularly great about affiliates is the ability to target specific individuals who discuss topics relevant to our customers. It's not a generic spray-and-pray method that some online advertisers promote, relying solely on algorithms to optimize the targeting. For a niche product, it's crucial to have the right people endorsing your products. Hence, an affiliate model that targets the right audience is much more effective.

I also emphasize organic content and SEO, ensuring that I address subjects of importance to my customers. Recently, I was in a discussion about whether DTC brands need a blog since the primary goal is to sell products. But the answer is yes, having a blog is essential. It allows you to discuss topics that matter to your customers. Additionally, email and SMS strategies play a vital role. Maintaining regular communication with existing and potential customers who have subscribed to my list is crucial.

I also strongly believe in the value of offline marketing. Not everything needs to be automated. There's real value in personal interaction. For a sustainable children's wear brand like mine, this can involve attending school events as a parent and carrying cards to engage in conversations with other parents. It can also mean reaching out individually to customers, getting to know them, understanding their pain points, and building brand loyalty. All these efforts hold significant value.

Chris: Got it. Yeah, that's great. You've provided some valuable insights.

Marianna, what would you say has been the most significant risk you've taken in your life or in your current business?

Marianna: Starting this business has been the most significant risk I've taken. You see, my background is in social change communications. I hold master's degrees in public health and social work. I was in a comfortable position, advising foundations and nonprofits on effective communication strategies for social change. I could have continued as a consultant in that field for a long time. However, I'm also someone with a strong creative side. I truly enjoy product development, understanding people's needs, solving problems, and being involved in the visual and marketing aspects. I felt like I needed to reconnect with my  creative side when I focused more on high-level strategy and communications. Coming from a background in social change communications, I recognized the need for change in the fashion industry.

When I started, there were no clothing brands addressing circularity in children's clothing in America. Jackalo was the first circular children's clothing brand in the country. Although other brands have since emerged and replicated our model or utilized peer-to-peer resale platforms, the larger fashion companies are not embracing circularity at the necessary rate. True circularity requires designing products differently, not simply reselling subpar mass-market items. We strive to create products that are better, ensuring they last longer and can be composted or recycled into new fibers when they can no longer be reused.

Taking the risk to be a part of this vision was significant for me. I saw an opportunity and, more importantly, a societal need to transform the way we approach children's fashion, and I wanted to contribute to that change.

Chris: I understand. That's commendable. Now, let's move on to the next question. Can you share any exciting upcoming projects or initiatives from your company? What are your goals for the future?

Marianna: Absolutely. My main goal for the future is to expand our circularity program. We have conducted tests and established the model, and now I'm thrilled to make it larger and more impactful. I want more  customers to opt into our circularity program. Whenever we release pre-loved items, they sell out quickly. This indicates high demand. So, my focus is on finding ways to increase the volume of returned products and effectively address that demand. I aim to make the circularity component a significant portion of our overall sales. To achieve this, we are exploring new iterations of our circularity program that emphasize the product return process. I'm excited to determine the best approach for this and, ultimately, see our circularity efforts grow.

Also, I am gearing up for fundraising as we seek seed funding. I have successfully demonstrated the need for our business, achieved a good product-market fit, and established a solid minimum viable product (MVP). Now, I am ready to scale our operations with external investment. This is the next step on our journey.

Chris: That's fantastic news! Working towards growing your business is always inspiring. With MVP sales already in place, I'm confident you'll achieve success in your fundraising efforts, Marianna.

Marianna: Thank you. I appreciate your support.

Chris: As a final question, what advice would you give to someone embarking on their own business journey? There's a wealth of advice out there.

Marianna: Absolutely. I have quite a few pieces of advice to offer. Firstly, do thorough research. There's a lot to learn, and it's essential to be well-informed. One particular aspect that I didn't prioritize initially but wish I had is establishing an advisory board early on. Having a team of individuals who can support, advise, and guide you is incredibly valuable. Many people are willing to serve as mentors or offer their expertise. By giving up a small portion of equity, you can attract high-quality individuals to your advisory board who are invested in your success. I recently launched my advisory board after months of building relationships, and their presence has been immensely beneficial.

Additionally, make it a point to connect with as many people as possible. Seek out individuals who have experience in starting a business, as they have received plenty of advice and are often eager to pay it forward. Schedule phone calls, meet for coffee, and pick their brains. In return, offer your support and reciprocate whenever possible. Building a network and fostering opportunities to learn from and connect with others is always advantageous when starting a business.

Chris: I understand. That's actually valuable advice for our viewers.

Well, that wraps it up for today. Thank you so much, Mariana.

Marianna: You're welcome. Thank you, Chris, for this opportunity to speak with you.

Chris: Nice meeting you. Thank you. Have a great Friday.


In conclusion, the interview with Marianna Sachse, the founder of Jackalo, provides valuable insights into the journey of building a sustainable clothing brand for children. Marianna's story highlights the importance of identifying a societal need and taking risks to bring about meaningful change. Despite facing challenges in funding and navigating different markets, she demonstrated resilience and adaptability, ultimately establishing a successful business.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed additional hurdles, but Marianna's ability to pivot and respond to the demand for masks showcased her commitment to supporting her community. Her marketing strategies, including the emphasis on affiliates, organic content, and offline engagement, exemplify the value of targeted approaches and building genuine connections with customers.

Looking forward, Marianna aims to expand her circularity program, creating a more sustainable approach to children's fashion. Additionally, seeking seed funding will enable her to scale operations and further advance her mission.

To learn more about Marianna Sachse's inspiring journey and Jackalo's sustainable children's clothing brand, visit their official website at https://hellojackalo.com/. Explore their wide range of durable and eco-friendly products designed to last, reduce waste, and make a positive impact on the environment.

Stay connected with Jackalo's latest updates, initiatives, and engaging content by following them on social media. Join their community on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest to be part of the conversation and stay informed about their mission to revolutionize children's fashion for a greener future.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to support a brand that aligns with your values and contributes to a more sustainable world. Visit the website and follow them on social media today!

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