When Phoebe Yu founded her business Ettitude, she built the product based out of a desire to find sustainable, high-quality bed linen that didn’t cost a fortune. She wanted that hotel-quality softness but without the price tag and she was equally invested in creating a textile that was more environmentally-friendly than cotton. To do this, Phoebe partnered with a textile university in Shanghai to develop the world’s first lyocell fabric made from 100% organic bamboo and the brand was born.
Phoebe, how did you come up with the name ettitude?
It’s actually quite simple: ettitude means eco-attitude. I wanted to capture the brand’s values as well as the mindset of our customers, who are looking to find more sustainable and gentle ways of living without losing any quality of enjoyment along the way.
You started alone on your business journey, but at some point, you brought a business partner on board. Why did you choose to partner up with someone and how did you find the perfect fit?
I brought in our president, Kat, when I was looking to expand into the United States. Kat has been instrumental in taking us into that new market and brings another element of local insight and expertise to the company. She was the right fit because of her history successfully scaling start-ups, but most importantly, she believes in Ettitude’s product and our vision. That is always the most important thing when bringing someone in – that they believe wholeheartedly in what you are doing.
What makes your products so special?
Ettitude’s products are all made from lyocell made from 100% organic bamboo, which is exclusive to our brand. Our bamboo is sourced from FSC Certified forests in China. The bamboo is then turned into pulp, dissolved in a non-toxic, organic solvent and goes into the process of manufacturing – which sees water reused and recycled up to 200 times before the final 100% bamboo lyocell is created. This innovative fabric is feathery soft, thermo-regulating, extremely breathable, antimicrobial, and water-saving, resulting in bed sheets that are better for you and the environment. The result is bedding, sleepwear and towels that are incredibly soft and light to the touch – in fact, our bedding is often referred to as ‘vegan silk’ because the sheets are so soft and our processes are cruelty-free.
Finding a premium quality product at an affordable price is sometimes very difficult. How did you manage to fill this gap?
It was very important to me from day one to make sure Ettitude’s price point was affordable without undercutting the quality of the product. By being direct to consumer, we cut out the middleman and pass on more of those savings to our customers.
One of your biggest challenges was to learn how to run a business in Australia. What made it different from running a business in China? What was good, what was challenging?
Australia was the ideal place for Ettitude to start because the consumer mindset around sustainability is already quite evolved when compared to China. My background in supply chain management allowed me to quickly navigate the systems needed to create the product, and the local policies, tax systems and government initiatives were ‘start-up friendly’ which made the process easier.
Where did you focus on being seen and heard by the industry and your clients?
In the beginning, social media played a big role in spreading the word. It is still a great and vital way for our customers to learn about the product and share their experiences sleeping with Ettitude. As the business has grown both in Australia and in the United States, we’ve partnered with select tastemakers and industry thought leaders who also believe in the importance of becoming more sustainable in our day-to-day lives. We also collaborate with like-minded brands – we’re quite selective about who we get into bed with!
Everyone says that it’s important to keep going and never give up. Often times it’s easier said than done. Have you ever been in situations where you questioned whether to keep going or let it go?
Starting a business will always have its ups and downs. I don’t think anyone should expect smooth sailing, especially when you are creating something that has a purpose beyond just the product itself. But in the same breath, it’s that sense of purpose that has always pulled me through. You have to nurture yourself in those moments, try to switch off from the noise that’s holding you back and remember why you started!
You also partner up with charities. Where is your focus here?
We recently signed an agreement with 1% For The Planet and we also work with One Girl and C02 Neutral. Our primary focus is on giving to charities who are focused on environmental preservation, but we are also passionate about supporting women.
Thinking about young founders, you recommended once in an interview „ask for a ton of advice – and then actively ignore most of it“. What do you mean by that?
Ha! Yes, that is still one of my favorite pieces of advice for young founders. Young entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, will often get lots of free advice from well-meaning people. You have to know what to take and what to leave – and that comes from knowing your business inside and out. Once you have that deep knowledge of your brand, you will be able to tune into what’s relevant to you. It’s also important to maintain an element of healthy intuition when running your own business.