Wise Women Wednesday: Brianna Kilcullen

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Q. Who are you? What is your background? 
A. I’m a Sustainability and Supply Chain consultant based out of Jacksonville, FL.  I recently founded my own consulting business in May 2018 offering my services to organizations in the apparel, outdoor and food industry.  I spend quite a bit of time traveling between the east coast and west coast and internationally.  My previous experience was working on the brand side of the apparel industry for companies like prAna, a subsidiary of Columbia Sportswear and Under Armour.  During my time working on the brand side, I implemented the Fair Labor Association program at Under Armour, expanded the Fair Trade USA program into Vietnam, was a key contributor to REI’s Product Sustainability Standards, traveled to, worked with and documented the impact of our clothing on the people in planet in over 35+ countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.  I also host documentary screenings and educational events on the apparel industry and the people who make our clothing.

My passion for this work began from a trip to the textile factories in Central America where I received hands on experience working on the factory floor.  I gained the utmost respect for the people who make our clothing.  Prior to the apparel industry, I lived in Uganda post-Civil War and traveled and worked on agribusiness initiatives on the northern Uganda and South Sudanese border. 

I’m a graduate of the Outdoor Industry Association’s Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy, a six-month program to prepare, unite and amplify the voice of future outdoor industry leaders. 

Fun fact: My dad was a college basketball coach, so my childhood consisted of growing up in the gym and moving to new places for my dad’s career. 

 Peru

Peru

Q. What is your work?
A. My services are designed to meet the immediate demands of a single project as well as integrate sustainability into a company’s ongoing operations.  I work to create sustainability plans that align companies triple bottom line by leveraging years of international field experience navigating farm to factory global networks, working alongside certifying organizations and identifying core social and environmental impacts.

Most companies want to implement sustainability initiatives but do not know where to start and have limited headcount.  I saw an opportunity, especially with REI’s recently launched Product Sustainability Guidelines, to collaborate side by side with companies and help them bridge that gap and measure their impact and improve their sales.  Less than 1% of clothing sold in the US is made in the US.  75% of a company’s impact is in their supply chain operations.  I work with companies to trace their supply chain around the world and identify opportunities for social and environmental impact and cost savings based off of their operations.

Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. Launching my own consulting company is incredibly exciting but can be slow development out of the gate and come with periods of lulls.  Something that resonated with me on my recent trip to Haiti was my conversation with a Thread International employee, Richardson, and listening to him describe how every Haitian is an entrepreneur who has multiple hustles to survive.  That struck a chord in me.  The opportunity to not have to fit in one box but to be able to wear multiple hats and create synergy and connectivity and energy into everything that one does.

In combination with my consulting business, I also launched a hemp project as well.  I was inspired on a recent work trip to China in August of 2017 to dig deeper into the history of hemp and the opportunity it holds for American farmers and for Made in America products.  I am currently working on creating a hemp product overseas that will be the first time we are reintroducing hemp into the home good market on a mass scale. 

I believe we have lost connection to where our products come from and how they are made.  My vision is to be able to partner with local farmers to grow hemp and to process and create products that serve the local market.  I am working to do this in Jacksonville, FL (where I am from) and see this as a model that can be replicated in the United States and internationally.  I am especially excited for this because I am able to use my experience from conducting international business to sustainability to supply chain to connect those dots and learn along the way.  I’m also excited to connect all of the work that we are working on with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.   

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BK Factory

Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. This year has been a big year for me.  Five months ago, I was living in my own apartment in San Diego, CA with a secure job as a large company.  I made the decision to leave my job, sell most of my belongings (I put the rest in storage), travel cross-country and launch my consulting company and my hemp company at the same time.  I am now based out of Jacksonville, Florida and have launched my consulting website been accepted to University of North Florida’s Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Program for the 2018-2019 year, will be presenting at Thomas Jefferson University’s CannaVATION start-up event in Philly in October and working on raising funding to document the process from farm to factory of making my hemp product.   

A mantra that I have adopted from my good friend, Lorena Reyna, a fellow start-up founder, was that failure is not failing… it is not doing it.  That is a mantra that I have to remind myself daily, sometimes hourly.  I often feel like a baby deer trying to walk and constantly feel out of my comfort zone.  As intimidating as that can sound, I am constantly doing checks and balances on my passion and purpose to make sure that everything I am doing benefits helping those around me and creating a sustainable business that is profitable for the business, the people and the planet. 

 Haiti

Haiti

Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you? 
A. I am proud to say that I am DOING it!  I would really love to have some acres of land to grow my own hemp and citrus trees.  Unfortunately, Florida legislation does not currently allow anyone but University of Florida to grow hemp for research purposes.  I am working with like-minded individuals in Florida (we are putting together a meeting after the general election is over in November) to begin working with the new governor, house of representatives and department of agriculture and commissioner to pass a bill that allows small farmers to grow hemp in Florida.

Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Slow down and breathe and be present.  I missed a lot in high school and college because I was so focused on what is next whether it was graduation, new job, new boyfriend, new apartment etc., There is so many amazing moments that can happen in one day.  I would tell my younger self to wake up, enjoy the day and do not worry about the next day.  Take one day at a time.

 Hemp

Hemp

Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. That you can always go back to what you know but the opportunity lives within the risk of jumping without knowing where you land and having confidence in yourself and your purpose will always guide you to the right path.  My favorite quote is from Margaret Meade “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead 

Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. Great question!  I was recently at a meeting in Jacksonville to discuss with Congressman Rutherford issues in the local community.  I had several questions I wanted to bring to his attention regarding the Puerto Rican evacuees opportunity to be able to vote for the first time in the US Elections now that they live in Florida.  I’m always beating myself up on public speaking and ensuring that what I am saying is a value add while at the same time nursing my sweaty palms and fear of holding a microphone in front of my peers.

I was really afraid to speak but I dug deep and took a deep breath and reminded myself that speaking up and creating and sharing what I am working on is not just a reflection of me.  It is a reflection of the people and experiences that have made me, me.  I have an obligation to create, share and communicate on behalf of the challenges I have seen in my local and global community because if not me, then who?   

 So yeah, when I don’t feel like it, I remind myself that not everyone has the option in their everyday to ‘not feel like it’, which provides me the energy to propel forward when I am struggling.

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Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I’m a huge believer in being inclusive.  I am a supporter of women and breaking the glass ceiling, but I also believe that we cannot exclude men from the conversation and instead need to partner together.  I meet a lot of female founded organizations that will only hire women and I believe that is destructive.  I don’t think it is so much about one’s gender but instead the type of leadership approaches (feminine and masculine) that should be highlighted.  i.e. I’d love to see a man be featured on Wise Women that demonstrates feminine leadership qualities!

Q. What's your favorite yoga pose? 
A. My favorite yoga pose is Triangle.  I love this pose because it usually adjusts my hips and I can feel my core strengthening.  Since we store our emotions in our hips, I always consider it a double doozy… releasing emotional energy from my hips while getting that 6 pack!

Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. I’m still learning!  Less is always more.  You can always add more but it can be hard to reduce.  Kinda funny!  Living an abundant life means having less abundance to me! 

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