Dressed for Success

Lessons from one of today’s most pioneering businessmen on how to ask the right questions and make a positive impact

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In 2002, no one was studying ingredient lists to make sure they could pronounce everything on the label. But Brendan Synnott predicted they would. A few years later, he was proven right.

Brendan, the CEO of organic cotton clothing brand Pact, has a knack for anticipating the questions people will start to ask about what they’re eating, buying and wearing. He saw that normal practices, from snacking to getting dressed, were not necessarily in line with our optimal wellness. And he saw how he could combine his natural curiosity with his awareness of a better way to live to create businesses that matter.

He’s also been using his platform as an entrepreneur and founder to imagine how we can create better ways of doing business, from how we source materials to how we perpetuate a healthier work-life balance (including making sure Summer Fridays aren’t just restricted to summer.)

I was drawn to Brendan’s commitment to reimagine the things in our lives that we often take for granted, from our clothing to our workweeks. I talked with him about how learning to ask the right questions — and paying attention to wellbeing, and where it lacks in our daily experiences — can help guide entrepreneurial paths.

Beth Doane: You’ve had a varied career, and have created a brand that makes a lasting positive impact. What was your journey to creating Pact?
It started in 2002 when I founded Bear Naked with the idea that in five to 10 years everybody was going to want to know how to pronounce the ingredients in their food, understand how their food was made and who was behind making it.

Fast forward to when Pact began in 2011 and I believed that in five to 10 years everyone was going to ask similar questions of their clothes. What are my clothes made out of? Who made them and what impact do they have on the planet and people? Clothes say something about you, and I believe that ultimately consumers don’t want to be seen in clothes that are trashing the planet and mistreating people.

Doane: The fashion industry is a major contributor to carbon emissions. What has been one of the biggest challenges in running a business that seeks to disrupt traditional practices?
Currently, our largest challenge is forecasting the huge demand we’re experiencing, while balancing the challenges in fulfillment we have seen at shipping ports worldwide. We keep running out of product, which is a good challenge.

Doane: How do you use wellness to help you balance running a business with your personal life and your wellbeing, both physical and emotional?
Practicing wellness is the only way I can neutralize the stresses of running a start-up business. I hike, exercise and recreate daily. When I don’t make the time, I’m a not-so-great dad, husband, co-worker and friend.

This philosophy extends to my company, too. At Pact, we just extended Summer Fridays to all year long because we believe it’s important for our team to have enough time away from the business to recharge and work on wellness during their weekends.

Doane: Wellness seems like a big part of your life. What are three of your biggest tips to care for your body and mind on a consistent basis, no matter how busy you might be?
I skip lunch and just snack, and I try to eat just two big meals a day. I’m 42 now, and I’ve found that I just don’t need three big meals a day.

I walk whenever and wherever I can. That includes at family time, socializing time and work time. It’s amazing how much you can get done on a walk, either thinking through a problem or a conversation.

Therapy has been hugely beneficial and helpful in my life. Having a space to converse about what’s going on and make space to become more emotionally aware and strong has been a pillar for sorting out life.

Doane: What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t make any decision until you have to.”

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