Meet Alisa Otto, Founder of Ottomatic Threads
Posted by Jaime Purinton on 13th Jul 2021
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."- Helen Keller
What the heck is a "micro-factory," I thought when I first saw Alisa post about her micro-factory in a mutual online outdoor group we're both members of. I mean, a micro-factory sounds so adorable.
Then I read her story.
The story about how she started and grew Ottomatic Threads with a small team (less than five full-time employees with a couple of part-time employees) to something that is changing how we view the outdoor industry and what that industry says they "can't do.
Since Ottomatic Thread's first product launch in early 2020, they have:
- Opened a sustainable micro-factory.
- Opened a sustainable print shop inside that factory.
- Extended their size range to XS-6X.
- Hired a badass team of ambassadors.
- Spoken at seminars on sustainable manufacturing.
- Launched a ton of fantastic clothing pieces.
- Started hosting summer camps for kids to learn about sewing and sustainability.
It is incredible what they have accomplished in such a short time and with such a small staff. This is stuff legends are made from. I am feeling what Alisa is doing with Ottomatic Threads deeply with my heart.
What is your “why” behind Ottomatic Threads? What keeps you inspired every day?
I have been every size imaginable as an adult and I always struggled to find clothing that would help me get outside; more often than not, I would find myself borrowing my husbands too-big technical tops so I wouldn't be covered in sweat the entire time (it gets really, REALLY hot in Texas!). When I was just pregnant enough with my son to develop stomach bloat, I could not find a shirt long enough to cover my stomach before going on a hiking road trip with a friend. I was uncomfortable the entire time we hiked, I would tug at my t-shirt and my too short jacket and could not focus on my hike. On the 6 hour drive back home, I thought back to all the other times I was uncomfortable on hikes and decided I would use my apparel design background to do something about it. I don't want any woman to ever feel like they cannot participate in the outdoors because they don't have the apparel needed to do so.
My two kids keep me inspired every day. It means everything to me for my kids to see me using my talent, my skills, and my heart to make a change in the outdoor industry and to help others; I want them to know it's important to use what you have to improve people's lives.
Please tell us your accomplishments in starting your own clothing company that caters to sizes 0-6x? How did you make this happen?
I have a bunch of experience in the apparel industry, but probably the most impactful job I had was as a fitter and seamstress at an intimate apparel company in Austin. I worked with women every day to fit them in foundation garments and alter them to provide the best fit. I remember speaking with women who weren't able to participate in activities they wanted because they couldn't find a sports bra that fit them; I think that's the first time I really saw the impact clothing has on people's ability to live their lives they way they want. I am lucky that job was early in my career, so fit has always been of upmost importance to me. I started this company out of my spare bedroom as I was transitioning out of my career in higher education (where I taught apparel design courses for over a decade), and now that I have a handful of employees, we have the ability to offer such an expansive size range. I am really proud of what we've been able to accomplish with such little resources.
What have you learned about yourself along the way?
I have learned so much about myself, but most importantly, I've learned that, as a small business owner, I'm far more capable of making a difference in this industry than I originally thought.
What kind of activities are your clothing pieces suited for?
Hiking seems to be the number one thing our clothing is used for, but we also know they've been used for climbing, running, skating, and at working out at the gym. Our base layers knocked it out of the park last winter and I absolutely loved seeing our customers skiing and sledding in them! We usually don't get much snow action in Texas, but when we did this year, our local customers said they lived in the base layers.
What is a micro-factory? How have you been able to challenge the status quo in the clothing industry?
A micro-factory is a small factory (typically under 5,000 sq ft) that has all aspects of production under one roof. Our micro-factory is about 1,800 sq ft and we have only a handful of employees. With our little crew, we are able to do everything from design, patternmaking, sampling, graphics printing, production, and order fulfillment.
Besides creating a product that allows women to feel empowered how else are you giving back?
We donate 1% of profits to national parks on an annual basis. In addition to that, we are actively seeking organizations we can support through product, funding, etc. Community is everything and we want to support ours as much as possible.
Is sustainability at the core of what you’re creating?
Absolutely! Sustainability is so much more than making everything out of organic cotton though, which I think a lot of people don't fully understand. Sustainability has to do with the materials, the way in which clothing is produced, machinery used, and work environment. There are companies out there that may use only organic materials, but they produce in sweatshops. Sustainability also comes in play with the quality of the clothes; the better something is made, the less likely a customer will need to replace that object. We are big fans of multi-use clothing, so though our gear is meant to be worn outside, most items can also be worn in just everyday life.
Do you have any new products on the horizon?
Eventually! We have some really big goals and some products we've been testing, but aren't quite ready to share with the world yet. We want to make sure what we are putting out there is the absolute best it can be before adding to the product line-up. I'm a big believer that there is always room for improvement and you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to add something different for your customers.
How can our followers support you?
Help us spread the word! We know we are a little fish in a big ass ocean, but we know we have something unique to offer. Help us get the word out there to other consumers, tell your favorite gear shops you'd like our stuff in store. But also just be a good human and help others get outside.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We absolutely love our community and want to know how WE can help, so please don't be afraid to reach out! We love hearing from grassroots organizations that need sponsors or want to collaborate on giveaways- I think it's really important to use our following to help others as much as possible.
Visit their online store and buy a couple things here: