Do you know what happens to that jacket you throw out when the zipper breaks? Or where damaged gear goes after it’s been returned to the companies that made it? The sad truth is that 12.7 million tons of textiles end up in the landfill every year — but Nicole Bassett and The Renewal Workshop are working to change that.

By partnering with some of the best-loved apparel brands in the biz, like Mountain Khakis and prAna, The Renewal Workshop is helping to reduce the landfill pile by bringing that old gear to their new factory, where those items can be refurbished into Renewed Apparel.

The idea is simple but brilliant, so it’s no wonder that Nicole is a finalist in this year’s OIWC Pitchfest. The Renewal Workshop is only just getting started — but if the interview below is any indication, Nicole is going to blow us all away in Salt Lake next week.

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What inspired you to found The Renewal Workshop?

Having worked inside the apparel industry for the last 12 years. I was always curious about where the clothes go when people are done with them. The apparel industry is linear — resources are taken, made into apparel, used and then where do they go? I saw an opportunity to make the apparel industry circular. So our company came into being to help brands manage all of their apparel that needs a solution: things that are returned, damaged, warranty, etc. And we take the product into our factory where we sort and grade the product. If it can be resold, we repair it and clean it to a hospital grade clean; for everything else we find upcycling and recycling solutions.

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What has your experience been like, so far, as a female entrepreneur in the outdoor industry?

I am launching my company at a opportune time, I have been in the industry for a decade, so I have a great network of people to get connected with and ask for help. A lot of women before me have had to work hard to become leaders in this industry, so I am grateful for them so that I can start my company with less hurdles to work through. Starting a company is hard enough.

Why did you decide now was the moment to apply for Pitchfest? What are you hoping you and The Renewal Workshop will gain from the Pitchfest experience?

I had worked in the Outdoor Industry for the past 12 years in the area of sustainability. So when we launched The Renewal Workshop this was a perfect opportunity to share our company to Industry. This is a chance to tell our story in a bold way, to say — “Hey I am doing something new and this is something that can benefit our entire industry.” The best part of Pitchfest is the chance to meet more women entrepreneurs, especially in the outdoor industry. These women are creative and passionate and good business role models for me.

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What are your goals for The Renewal Workshop in the next year or two?

Our first goal is to set up our factory — that is happening right now. We are focusing on developing the systems to take in and renew the apparel and get it ready to be sold this fall on our ecommerce marketplace. The next phase is to develop our upcycling and recycling networks so that nothing is sent to landfill.

And what has the mentorship side of Pitchfest been like, for you?

The mentoring coaching was a great experience. First I got to meet a really amazing woman who has been a pioneer in her own career, and it was inspiring to hear what she is doing. It was also super helpful to have someone provide an outside perspective on our company story and how to frame our story to make for a strong pitch.

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What’s the best adventure you’ve been on recently?

I went to Oman this spring with my Mom and my sister. It was an incredible experience to be in a completely different culture and see the world through a different perspective. Oman is beautiful and not what I thought it would be – these beautiful wadis which are rivers throughout the country.

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What is your spirit biome?

Pacific Temperate Rainforest – I love what’s out my backyard.

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In a sentence, what’s your perfect day outdoors?

Trailing running with my pups, and some Solstice Pizza in Hood River and a Good IPA! (I know I am a stereotype!)

Women of Pitchfest 2016

This interview is part of our Women of Pitchfest series! Learn more about OIWC’s Pitchfest here.