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Entrepreneur cultivates sustainable attire

Fred Scott (MBA ’00) had a simple idea to help save the planet: produce T-shirts with sustainable business practices. It turned out to be a good idea, too. Scott’s company has more than 60 locations in 13 states and he’s gone from a small-time T-shirt salesman to Chief Executive Officer.

Scott’s Locally Grown Clothing Co. currently offers a basic mix of men’s, women’s and children’s T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps and bags. Current designs on celebrate the company’s home state of Iowa as well as California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. All products are made in the United States with non-toxic, environmentally friendly, water-based ink for all graphic printing.  

“We utilize organic products as often as possible to help minimize our impact on the environment while maintaining comfort and style,” Scott says. “Locally Grown offers several organic styles made from 100 percent USDA-certified organic and pesticide-free cotton.”

Scott, originally from Spencer, Iowa, got the idea for his company while selling licensed collegiate T-shirts to sporting goods stores for the University of Iowa and Iowa State University in 2006.

“I was looking for a new venue to sell Locally Grown shirts and decided to give the downtown farmers market a try. Once there I began to learn about sustainable agriculture and the local food movement,” Scott says. “The message of ‘Locally Grown’ resonated with so many people on several different levels between local producers, chefs, moms, dads, kids and just about everyone in between.”

He then trademarked the phrase “Locally Grown” and the word “Locavore” — a person who eats locally grown food — for use on apparel. Scott launched Locally Grown Clothing Co. in 2010. His business partner, Kelsey Byus, joined him in branding, marketing and developing the line as it exists today.

“I saw the real potential for the brand, particularly from the wholesale side,” Byus says.

As president of Locally Grown, Byus manages operations and inventory and runs the majority of the wholesale division of the company.

“[Scott] is a visionary,” Byus says. “He sees and knows where he ultimately wants to take this company and all the good work it can do and needed someone to help execute his vision.”

One of the company’s messages concerns the future of agriculture and the environment. Scott allows that his company makes it easy to publicize grassroots messages in a format he calls “wearable awareness.”

“It takes us back to a simple way of life and reminds us of who we are and where we come from,” Scott says. “It connects us to a greater good and empowers us to make informed decisions about the food you eat and clothes you wear. This aims to help create positive environmental and social change.”

Steve Savage, president of Ellie’s Eco Home Store in Boulder, Colo., started selling Locally Grown products in the store in fall 2010 after receiving a catalog in the mail.

“I instantly knew that I would like this product in the store,” Savage says. “We really don’t have another product like them, so as any retailer would do, it’s good to have a unique product for your customers. We really like the local messaging and the fact that they use organic cotton and dyes is an added benefit.”

The things that make Locally Grown unique to small retailers are also reflected in the company’s core values, which include supporting local communities and local farmers, protecting the environment and buying and eating healthy food.

Locally Grown donates 1 percent of sales to Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system that protects the natural environment, sustains farmers and nourishes families. Locally Grown has also established a partnership with Niman Ranch, a network of more than 650 sustainable U.S. farms and ranches. Locally Grown produces a line of Niman Ranch T-shirts. A portion of the profits — $5 per shirt — goes towards the ranch’s Next Generation Scholarship Fund.

“Locally Grown captures the voice of a movement and embraces the rise of the organic products and the renaissance of local agriculture across the country,” Scott says. “It provides a way for you to connect to this movement and show support for your local community.”

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  1. This sounds like an interesting concept. However,several of the shirts contain a large amount of polyester. How does polyester “minimize our impact on the environment”? I understand that polyester is necessary in the manufacturing of certain products, but T-shirts? Pretty sure you can make those out of 100% cotton. Also, how is polyester “locally grown”?

    Again, seems like an interesting concept, but the products do not seem to support the concept.


  2. Fred Scott says:

    Thanks for your comment and I would like to address your concern. Based on the title of this article I can see how it may create some confusion. Locally Grown Clothing Co. promotes messages related to the local food movement and sustainable agriculture through our clothing. We do not claim that our products are actually “locally grown” however ALL our products are Made in the USA. This alone is extremely challenging as a start-up apparel company in an industry dominated overseas. In addition, we utilize 100% Certified Organic Cotton in over half our line and strive as a company to offer more styles and products utilizing organic cotton as we grow. We are a clothing company, so fit, fashion, comfort and style are also very important to us. We are not perfect but we are trying to do good and to be part of the solution. We are passionate folks doing what we love to help inspire others and bring about awareness as it relates to eating local and supporting sustainable agriculture. As we see it, this is the best way to help protect the environment and the health of all Americans. Sustainability is difficult to achieve if at all truly possible. We appreciate that you are asking the right questions and interested in the ingredients of our products. So, thank you again and we will try to do better in the future. Sincerely, Fred Scott CEO Locally Grown Clothing Co.

  3. Fred,
    Thanks for the response. That does provide some important clarity. I was thrown by the first sentence of the article: “produce T-shirts with sustainable business practices”, and thought that was the primary focus of the brand. Also, I understand that it is difficult to produce clothing in the USA, so congrats on making that happen. Again, thanks for the response and good luck with the business!

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