Polly LaBarre writes about the extraordinary ambitions and plans for Nau.
The presumption that business can, and that we can, is at the heart of a new enterprise emerging from that hotbed of green goodness, Portland, Oregon. To say that Nau (Maori for “Welcome! Come in”) is a new outdoor-clothing company would be a little like saying Starbucks started out just to sell a cup of joe. The ideas Nau promotes are as important as the clothes it sells.
Two and a half years ago, ideas were all Nau had. They took form in the heads of a small group of executives who had left big jobs at Patagonia and Nike to huddle together in the Urban Grind coffee shop in Portland’s Pearl District and dream. Based on a shared conviction that, in addition to generating profit, companies have an equal responsibility to create positive social and environmental change, the Nau team set out to reinvent the way people shop, reshape the outdoor category, redesign the corporation–and inspire the wider business community to do the same.
“Every element in our business is an opportunity to turn traditional business notions inside out.”
–Chris Van Dyke
Today, Nau is a business with three months of sales under its belt by way of the Web and four retail stores (in Boulder, Colorado; Portland; Chicago; and Bellevue, Washington), 92 people, $24 million raised in capital, and four clothing collections in various stages of production. The business plan projects $11 million in revenue this year, growing to $260 million and 150 stores by 2010.
As Patagonia has proved, Sustainability is like high end technology. It takes innovation, good design, high paying customers and a dedicated team to create a company like Nau.