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Fashion Recycled Leading the ecofashion movement

By Mike Werling

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Who: Ava Demarco, president and co-founder, Robert Brandegee, CEO and co-founder, Littlearth
What: Eco-friendly fashion accessories
Where: Pittsburgh
When: 1993
Startup Costs: $85,000

"You don't have to sacrifice to be both fashionable and green," says Ava DeMarco, co-founder and president of Pittsburgh-based Littlearth, a fashion accessory company that specializes in using recycled materials in its designs and was at the forefront of the ecofashion movement.

That thought was the inspiration behind Littlearth and its initial lines of accessories: purses made out of used license plates and belts made out of recycled leather and used bottle caps. DeMarco looks back on the early days nostalgically, remembering that the first designs were often determined by the materials she and her partner, Robert Brandegee, had access to at any given time. The first license-plate bags were wrapped around tuna cans on each end because.well.that's what they had. Those days are long gone. They now have specialized parts made for their bags and wine holders, and they work with different states to secure used plates.

One of the other challenges DeMarco recalls, something that seems silly for a 17-year-old, $6 million company that's been on Oprah and is about to buy its third building, was gaining credibility as a legitimate business out of a basement. There were times, however, when success seemed far off.

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