Away from the glitz of this week’s Academy Award ceremonies, one story that didn’t get covered by the global media was a budding partnership that shows how quickly a young Cape Breton company is growing.
Tara Milburn, the Founder and CEO of Sydney-based Ethical Swag, was in Los Angeles and meeting with Red Carpet Green Dress, a global organization that advocates sustainable design in the fashion industry. It represents the early stage of a partnership – one of many that Ethical Swag has formed in the past two years.
Though Ethical Swag has doubled its revenues in each of the past two years, what excites Milburn is the partnerships she has formed with like-minded companies and organizations, like Red Carpet Green Dress.
“They reached out to us and said they wanted to collaborate,” said Milburn, noting how the two groups first linked up just last month. “You hear about the Oscars and how they give out a lot of free stuff. We had a fabulous conversation and they said, ‘Come out and we will look at how we can work together.’”
Ethical Swag does what its name says it does. It sources goods from ethical manufacturers and sells them on to companies or organizations to represent their brand. The goods on offer on its website range from apparel to handbags to notebooks, and the producers offer environmentally sustainable procedures and are committed to the social good of their communities.
Milburn, a former Director of Direct Foreign Investment with Nova Scotia Business Inc., became full-time CEO in 2018 and the growth has been dramatic. The company’s clients include several universities and range from large organizations to local businesses.
In the autumn, Ethical Swag became a preferred supplier to global tech giant Microsoft, a relationship that is now beginning to generate sales.
New customers reach out regularly, having found the company through Google searches, said Milburn, and she is working hard at turning these link-ups into relationships. The company is growing through its association with groups that champion ethical business practices.
In October, Ethical Swag was a sponsor of the World-Changing Women’s Summit at the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. Milburn was one of 250 purpose-led women entrepreneurs attending the event, and that helped to broaden her network. She is also completing the process of becoming a B Corporation, an international certification that shows the company is committed to ethical business practices.
Milburn said it is too early to say whether sales will double again this year, but prospects are good and the company is poised to grow. It now has two full-time and a part-time employee and several contractors.
In the early days of the venture, Milburn spent a lot of time building up the foundation of the business so it could scale once customers started coming. For example, she has created a detailed online employee manual so anyone joining the company can quickly get up to speed with every aspect of the business.
And for the foreseeable future, Milburn expects to gain new clients and continue to build relationships.
“We’re just finding a lot of like-minded organizations all over North America who are interested in working with us,” said Milburn. “More and more people are finding us. Daily, we get emails from people saying, ‘We’re so pleased to find you.’”