Brianna and I connected in late February and I was blown away by her passion and knowledge of the hemp textile industry. Brianna is committed to sustainability and educating consumers on sustainable practices and the hemp industry. Check out our interview and make sure to visit Anact.com.
Brianna Kilcullen, founder of Anact
30 years old | Born in South Bend, Indiana | Raised in Jacksonville, FL
Anact’s towels are one-of-a-kind and do not exist anywhere else on the market. Made from 55% hemp, each Anact towel is able to save 526 days of drinking water because hemp uses little to no water to grow. Whereas conventional cotton uses approximately 50% more water to grow, so by creating a towel that uses hemp as a preferred fiber, we’re able to significantly reduce our impact on the planet with each Anact towel.
We also see an opportunity to create a hemp indstury here in Florida by showing the versatility that hemp provides to be used as food, fiber and fuel.
Brianna, what got you interested in the textile industry?
I actually never expected to be in the textile industry! When I graduated from university, I was working part-time for the government and decided to buy a one-way ticket to Uganda for a fellowship with a non-profit because I really wanted to work in the international development space.
I had an amazing experience working in northern Uganda with rural farmers and intended to stay but my family really wanted me to move back to the United States. I agreed to come back for several months and in the process, I ended up getting recruited by Under Armour for a position in their supply chain department.
I remember it being a big move at the time to go from DC to Baltimore for this new up and coming sports apparel brand but I had no clue how transformative of an experience it would be to get to learn how our clothes were made and the people who make them. From there it was history. I realized there needed to be wide-sweeping changes made in the industry to protect the workers and the planet and I have set out to do so ever since.
Starting your own company from the ground up can be challenging and exciting at the same time. What has been the biggest industry challenge for Anact?
There have been several challenges. One, using hemp and reintroducing the plant back in the US public. There has been a negative stigma for years attached to hemp, marijuana, and cannibas. A lot of the time, before I can even talk about Anact and our products, I will have to do full-blown overviews of the differences between hemp and marijuana, and explain that people cannot smoke our towels. I wish I was joking but this is very true! The next challenge has been funding of course. It was and still is tough. The things that made me more nimble and able to execute, such as, being single, not having a home or people to depend on me are actually frowned upon in the bank’s eyes. They want to see the collateral to be able to pay back the loan, so traditional SBA backed loans haven’t worked for me thus far. I have gotten to where I am through grants, crowdfunding, family/friends donations, working side hustles, reducing my cost of living etc., and sometimes it feels like it’s still not enough!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
This is such a great question! I draw inspiration from people around me. I am a globalist, not a localist. I believe we are all interconnected and shouldn’t have to put people or the planet down or to have a great product. I believe we can create dignified jobs that support a circular economy and solve problems that the people need to be solved. I am a huge advocate of human rights and believe that creating conscious capitalism plays a huge role in creating equality in society.
What are some of the long term goals for Anact?
Expanding on the above, I envision Anact being able to partner with local Floridian farmers to grow hemp and process into yarn, which we can manufacture here in Jacksonville, FL. I want to reduce the lead-time so we only produce for what is needed to channels such as hospitals, hotels, restaurants, gyms, spas, people’s homes etc. I like this concept because we are able to have a faster supply chain that can forecast in real-time, unlike the current model which requires brands to forecast 16-18 months out from the sell-date and can lead to excess inventory that ends up in landfills or being incinerated.
Do you see the textile industry shifting to more sustainable products?
I believe the industry will only move forward, as much as the customer demands it and mother earth continues to allow for it. Unfortunately, we don’t have strong regulations in place that require product disclosure of textiles, so we can’t rely on the government to regulate the industry. I believe it has to come from the customer and within the industry.
What advice do you have for any women looking to start a hemp business?
Do not focus on hemp itself. Hemp is an ingredient to your product and story, but have a larger purpose (and story) than hemp because there will be a new “hemp” one day and you don’t want to put all of your emphasis on it.