Marianna Sachse Is Creating A Sustainable Children's Clothing Line. Here’s How
Marianna Sachse, Founder of Jackalo, is designing eco-friendly clothing for active kids that are better for people and the planet.
While purchasing clothing for her children, Marianna noticed an issue. She wanted clothes to be eco-friendly but strong enough to outlast daily activity. It became clear that not only would the piles of waste from clothes cause environmental damage, but they would also cost parents unnecessary time and money. After taking a deep dive into a possible solution, Marianna founded Jackalo. This brand operates at the forefront of environmental sustainability by maximizing the use of sustainable materials to produce clothes that are comfortable and long-lasting.
We asked Marianna about the story behind the founding of Jackalo, the No. 1 thing she wished she knew before starting her company, and how she’s grown since embarking on her entrepreneurial journey.
Q: Tell us the story behind your company’s founding. How and why did you start working on Jackalo?
A: I started Jackalo after years of frustration with clothes that didn’t stand up to my active son. He wanted comfort; I wanted durability and sustainability. I couldn’t find anything that checked all three boxes. When my son was six and I was seven months pregnant with our second child with hardly a hand-me-down in sight, my husband had the opportunity to relocate our family to the Netherlands for a new job in the solar industry. I used this transition as time to dive deep into solving the problem that families like mine face by creating a company that makes clothes that are long-lasting, comfortable, and sustainable—and then buys them back when outgrown. We launched simultaneously in the U.S. and Netherlands and became the first circular children’s clothing brand in either country.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
A: I’ve always been an ideas-driven individual and a problem solver. For years, I put those skills to use working on issues related to health and the environment. But I felt most fulfilled in the creative space. I’m a third generation home-sewist, and was taught that you can figure out how to create anything of beauty that you want to see in the world. I’ve always had creative side-hustles, but in my very academic family, an impressive resume was valued more than creative endeavors.
It wasn’t until my mother was dying that she and I had some really honest conversations about what I wanted for myself. Creative work was central to that. She helped me realize that my family would always love and support me, even if my career path was non-traditional.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting your company?
A: Starting a business without a partner is a lonely process. The isolation and responsibility have been some of the hardest moments of my entrepreneurial journey. In these periods of loneliness, I realized that even if you work on your own, your community is what you make it. I built and found the community I needed over a period of years. Pre-pandemic, I started an in-person mastermind group, which made me feel less alone and helped me appreciate the skills and experiences I’d already gained in my short time as an entrepreneur. After the pandemic started and my family returned to the United States, I joined a group of entrepreneurs online who have since become my biggest support and champions. Finding and building community—either within your business or outside of it—is critical.
Q: We dare you to brag. What achievements are you most proud of?
A: I’m most proud of the growth of Jackalo as a company and our enduring commitment to core values. We’ve had consistent year-over-year growth, and more than doubled our January sales from the previous year. But more than sales growth, I’m proud of how we’ve been able to grow in a way that remains consistent with the values of the company—putting sustainability and fair labor first, while also meeting the needs of our customers.
Q: What resources or people have contributed the most to your successes?
A: The support of my family has been a major contributor to my success. So often I hear of entrepreneurs who struggle with family support, and this is a vision- or motivation-killer for so many. My husband, my kids, and my extended family all believe in what I’m doing and support me. Additionally, the online communities I’ve joined have been critical. Dreamers & Doers and The Social Sales Girls have been the most important in helping me connect with and learn from other entrepreneurs. Last, but not least, connecting with free resources that really add value is so important. I meet weekly with a coach from the DCSBDC, and he helps me stay on track.
Q: How do you celebrate successes along the way?
A: I mostly celebrate successes in small ways: high fives with my family, a moment of bragging with friends, and often a little self-care to help me keep going. Rest and recovery are so important for everyone, but especially so for an entrepreneur that can easily let work bleed into all facets of life. In part, I celebrate my work accomplishments by not working. As the adage goes: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Q: How have you grown as a leader since starting your company? What experiences have contributed to this growth?
A: Because of past employment experience, I’ve learned how to triage decision-making in terms of levels of importance. My time in direct service and crisis intervention helped me see that the concept of an “emergency” is relative. Safety, health, and family always come first. This is what I look at with anyone I partner with—how are they protecting and serving their employees, or for contractors, themselves?
I lead with kindness and try to always ensure that the people I work with feel valued. My business cannot grow with me alone, and I depend on my partners—their skills and strengths—to carry the business forward. They need to know this and feel this in order to feel as committed to my vision as I am. Recently, someone who works with me shared that I was the best manager they’d ever had. That really meant a lot to me.
Q: How would you describe the journey you’ve had in a few sentences?
A: Since I spent much of my early days of entrepreneurship traveling, I’d say that starting a business is like being in a new town. You have to be prepared to listen and learn, be a sponge for everything you are seeing, and connect with and rely on others at times. Sometimes that feels exciting. Other times, it can be scary and exhausting. But know that this experience will always result in growth, and you are a better person for putting yourself in a position to grow. And just like going someplace new, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Q: What’s next for you and Jackalo?
A: As Jackalo grows, I aim to grow our circularity program. We already accept all outgrown Jackalo items back, regardless of condition, to be renewed and resold. But I plan to take the next step and recycle the fibers of the clothes that can’t be resold and use them in future production runs, in order to be a truly closed-loop system. We are also starting to seek the investment we need to scale our business, so that Jackalo can expand its reach and make an even greater impact. I'd love to see kids all around the world wearing Jackalo!
Marianna is a member of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection, and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to their monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.