I am happy to introduce the Her Campus community to Laura Wittig, the founder of the sustainable media company, Brightly!
Brightly is a platform that features brands and products that are ethically and sustainably made to empower conscious consumers. I stumbled on Brightly.eco by mistake while I was looking for an account by the same name on Instagram! When I spotted the “.eco” in my search results, my tree-hugging heart couldn’t stay away.
They’ve got recommendations for everything from sustainable holiday advice to ethically made home decor. Laura also co-hosts a podcast, Good Together, with her fellow change-maker, Liza Moiseeva. It’s a 30-minute, daily shot of eco-friendly encouragement to inspire us to live every day more sustainably.
Laura went to school at the University of Texas in Austin and majored in multimedia journalism. I actually caught Laura on a special day! I just happened to talk to her on her last day working at Adobe as a product manager. Laura had launched Brightly on the side and had been running it part-time for about a year and a half. With the platform picking up steam, she was ready to go full time.
How did you get started with ethical fashion and sustainability?
“I actually got my career started in Amazon fashion in Seattle. This would have been around 2012. While I was at Amazon, I was responsible for leading the fashion growth. What that means is that I directly contributed to the sale of millions and millions of dollars of unethically made shoes and handbags, and I was measured on my sales. I got very good at that job. Amazon was kind of a crazy place to work, but I made some great friends and really enjoyed it! However, I started to think through it; what is my impact on the environment? I am literally contributing to the sale of all these unethically made products.
I used to sit in front of the fashion editor’s closet while I was there, and I would occasionally get headaches when she would open brand new PVC, plastic-like shoes and handbags. That ended up being a wake-up call for me. I also had the opportunity to watch The True Cost documentary which talks about how damaging the fashion industry is from a human perspective. That’s how I got started thinking about sustainability!”
The name Brightly? Where did it come from?
“I’m not very religious myself, but I did grow up in the Presbyterian Church and there was a hymn that said, ‘All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,’ and I believe it comes from a poem as well. Brightly’s main mission is to change the world through the power of conscious consumerism, and really, that name touches everything. It touches people, animals, and supply chains.”
Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.” Why do you do it?
“I love Simon’s book! I do what I do because I really believe in the power of individuals to help change the world. Of course, we need a change in politics, in enterprise, in giant corporations and, of course, those things are going to have the biggest impact in terms of scalability and speed. But the other thing that’s required is a shift in consumer thinking. As consumers, we have a large amount of power in order to figure out what we want to purchase and when. We can email our congress people. We can do all sorts of things from the advocacy perspective, but what’s really missing is the educational content and resources for people to become conscious and to do it in a way that’s unbiased.
On Brightly, we feature brand and product recommendations that aren’t paid placements. They are placements we truly believe in, and we make sure they aren’t greenwashed and all of those things. We are a media company, so we do have brand partnerships but we are always upfront about them and we make sure they fit the criteria.”
What would you say has been the most fulfilling moment thus far?
“For me, it’s any time that I interact with someone who has been personally touched by our platform. So, we actually did a live podcast recording here in San Francisco in October, and we invited 71 women to join us. We made it a half-day, mini conference. We had ethical lifestyle and fashion gurus come in and educate us from that perspective and then we did our podcast recording. But one of the really wonderful things that happened at that event was everyone stayed 100% of the time. You’ve probably been to many events where people kinda float in and out, but everyone there was so excited and paying so much attention because they were really interested in what was going on!
At the end of the conference, we had a chance for people to network with each other, and we did it in a really thoughtful way. We said, ‘if you’re a DIYer, come to this group,’ ‘If you’re really into ethical fashion, come to this group,’ and that was an interesting way to get people to talk about what they had in common without doing an ice breaker. And everyone stayed for that! In today’s world, there is a lot of-pardon my french- sh*t going on. So much negativity! A lot of things competing for your attention and it feels like everybody has an agenda. We like to think of what we do as an opportunity to spread positivity and change.”
What’s one thing every business/boss woman needs?
“I would say conviction in what you’re doing! It’s hard to verbalize, but when you’re starting a company there’s a lot of competing things happening. There are competing people for your time, competing opinions on which way your business should go. There are all sorts of things coming at you from various angles, and at the end of the day, the thing that someone can not take away from you as a boss is your conviction and your unique perspective on what you’re doing. And I think your duty to your company, employees, and community is based on those beliefs!”
What are the words that you live by?
“I always love the old adage of, ‘Do not harm, take no sh*t!’ The whole genesis of Brightly is truly doing no harm to the planet. Another way to look at it is to show up and be an authentic leader but make sure you don’t take sh*t. As a female founder, tech and business, in general, is so male-dominated. I think, last year, only 3% of venture capital dollars went to female founders, which is absolutely mind-blowing because women are starting companies faster than men are. We’re just not getting the resources we need. Particularly here in Silicon Valley, it’s very male-dominated, so in order to survive and thrive here, I’ve had to learn to hold my own in that space. So that’s where that comes from!”
What’s some advice you’d give to other ambitious women who want to change the world?
“See if you can find a job that’s supportive of your side hustle. I know it’s easier said than done. But when I got started at Adobe, I wasn’t looking for a full-time job. I was doing some contract work, which is a good way to make a decent amount of money hourly and not have to deal with organizational politics of where you’re at, so that’s a good way to launch your side hustle.
Adobe reached out and wanted me to bring my unique experiences to a job there. They wanted to be flexible with my time there, so I was really fortunate to have that time to create and have that support. Today is actually my last day, and it’s been a wonderful family! I know it can be draining, but see if you can do that side hustle and get pointers and perspective.”
Laura recognized her impact on our planet and did something about it! She wanted to do better by the environment, and in the process, she created something to help the rest of us make a change. Brightly teaches us about small steps we can take every day towards a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s her world, and I’m glad we’re living in it! #livebrightly