Category: Undergraduate Students
Senior creates sustainable fashion brand
April 19, 2022 Written by Mackenzie Duffy | Graphic by Gabriela Coleman
It shouldn’t be surprising that senior Sierra RyanWallick already has CEO and co-founder attached to her name.
The entrepreneurship major admits to having a passion for social entrepreneurship since the age of 10 when she started AutumnLeaf Fundraisers and raised more than $100,000 for nonprofits. Since then she has taken on larger projects, including the creation of UP Cycle Design.
During the fall of 2019, Sierra RyanWallick’s time at the Clinton Global Initiative University sparked the creation of UP Cycle Design. The program takes unused fabric scraps donated from Fabscrap, a nonprofit in New York, and discarded plastic bags and gives them a new life as products while reducing harmful and unnecessary waste.
“It’s really important to make people—especially our generation who are going to be tackling these issues—aware about the massive problem that textile waste creates in the world,” RyanWallick says. “The fast fashion industry has completely changed our consumption habits, and so in America, we throw away 10 million tons of clothing every year. And if we donate clothing, most of that ends up in landfills in other countries or burned, both of which cause health problems that affect humans and animals alike.”
In 2020, RyanWallick's participated in the Horn Entrepreneurship Summer Founders Program, completing more than 100 customer interviews and repeatedly pitching ideas. From there, she started the Level UP social entrepreneurship program, which has hosted more than 70 students thus far.
“We created a 12-week program where students learn about entrepreneurship, design and sustainability,” says RyanWallick. “They basically go through the process of what we do at UP Cycle Design; they chose a nonprofit in their community to support, they create designs based on that nonprofit’s mission and then they pitch those designs to choose one winning design that they then learn how to prototype, market and sell during a fundraising campaign where they set a goal to reach.”
When asked for her advice to others looking to break into social entrepreneurship, RyanWallick has some words of caution. “It’s definitely hard. You have to be mentally strong to deal with all the ups and downs of starting a business,” she says. “But it’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do, so if you’re ready to take on the biggest challenge of your life, jump in! Remember: fall in love with the problem, not the solution. No matter how many pivots you take after that, it’s still solving the same problem, just with different ideas.”
UP Cycle Design now has 12 team members and is working through the logistics to one day be able to take clothing donations directly from consumers. The organization currently sells six upcycled cloth sticker designs that directly contribute to important causes like the World Central Kitchen that feeds Ukrainian refugees, as well as Polar Bears International, Save the Manatee Club, UDance and more.
Learn more about the organization's efforts, purchase cloth stickers and find out how you can get involved by visiting UP Cycle Design's website at upcycledesign.org.