Kitsbow, maker of premium cycling clothing and accessories, was purchased by its employees with the assistance of a group of local North Carolina investors on January 3, 2022 after 10 years of private ownership. Effective immediately, employees will own a majority of the shares in Kitsbow Apparel, PBC, which is organized as a Delaware public benefit corporation.
A public benefit corporation (PBC) empowers leadership of the organization to embrace “social and public good” of both customers and employees, while operating in a responsible and sustainable manner, and place the interests of shareholders on equal footing. Diversity and inclusion are also values threaded throughout a PBC. In contrast, traditional corporations are required to put shareholder return above all other priorities.
In addition, Kitsbow has started the process to become a certified B Corp from the nonprofit B Lab. B Corp Certification requires a holistic review of a business’s social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, and is based on a vision of creating a community of for-profit companies committed to redefining success in business. Examples of privately-held B Corps on the national stage include: Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Plum Organics, and King Arthur Flour. In Western North Carolina, B Corps include East Fork and French Broad Chocolate.
Since relocating to Old Fort, N.C. in late 2019, Kitsbow has embraced numerous initiatives such as training a workforce with no prior experience making premium apparel, helping build trails in Old Fort for access by all, making PPE for first responders and medical professionals, making apparel in a sustainable way to better protect the planet, building and operating a unique retail service with excellent and healthy food made locally, hosting the first bike shop in Old Fort in decades, using only compostable materials in all shipping and packaging, and creating generous employee benefits, including 100% health insurance paid by the company.
“When the opportunity to buy the brand and all of its assets became available, the employee leadership was unanimous in doing so as a public benefit corporation, and immediately starting the process for certification as a B Corp as well,” explained David Billstrom, CEO of Kitsbow. “We have been embracing social and public good since we landed in North Carolina to make clothes, so it was a natural step to make.”
“We are beginning the new year with a bang, not only with employee ownership but also with a pledge to sell apparel only made in the United States,” explained Jessie Inglis, Director of Production for Kitsbow and one of the senior leaders of the company. “We sold the last of our
offshore-made apparel at the end of last year, and from now on, other than gloves and socks, all of our apparel will be made in the U.S. It is truly a very new year!”
All of the Kitsbow employees in Old Fort, N.C. are expected to stay, indeed all were offered their same jobs, and all hourly employees received a significant raise effective January 2, 2022 to reflect the increased cost of living in Old Fort. Kitsbow will no longer have employees or an office in California, completing the transition announced in August 2019.
CEO David Billstrom will hold the same title and role in the new organization, and will report to a new Board of Directors structured to be inclusive, diverse, and representative of the Old Fort community as well as the employees. Board members will be announced soon.
Terms of the sale, price, and the identity of the new local investors are not being disclosed at this time. Kitsbow Apparel, PBC will continue to do business under the brand name Kitsbow Cycling Apparel.
“I think this is a tremendous outcome for the company, the team, and for the community – all of whom have created something quite special,” stated Kitsbow founder and long-time ‘Chief Obsessive’ Zander Nosler. “I’m thrilled that the company is moving forward even more aligned with our founding values, including allowing the people who do this incredible work to have a true stake in the company.”
Zander will continue as an advisor with Kitsbow in its new form.
“Our apparel revenue doubled in 2021, compared to 2020, and we plan a similar rate of growth for this year,” explained Dustin Donovan, Director of Operations, and another senior leader of the new company. “This means we are still hiring, so if you know anyone who wants to join an amazing team of people from diverse backgrounds, please visit our website and apply.”
Not only does Kitsbow manufacture in the U.S. to keep jobs here and support a sustainable economy, but also the made-to-order method helps ensure a more sustainable approach to the apparel industry. Kitsbow doesn’t scrap unsold clothes, because the company only makes clothes that are ordered — in precisely the right color, size, and fit for each customer. TrailCycled is the term Kitsbow uses to describe the entire cycle — Made To Order, Less Waste™. Kitsbow also offers repairs, and will do everything it can to avoid sending clothes to the landfill.
The reasoning is circular, to minimize its footprint, maximize use, and thus conserve resources. You can learn more here about Kitsbow’s efforts.
Kitsbow was established in California, 10 years ago, with each detail of our apparel vetted for quality, style, and durability. The clothes are also exceedingly durable, which means they last longer, which means the negative impact of production is minimized.
Relocating to Old Fort, North Carolina in 2019, Kitsbow committed to a Just in Time manufacturing model, minimizing waste and maximizing flexibility to serve the customer. All products are packaged in compostable packaging, as well as all shipping materials, ready to return to the Earth in your own garden. Kitsbow makes all of its products in the USA except for gloves and socks. Kitsbow is also a Bicycle Friendly Business, designated at the highest level (Platinum) by The League of American Bicyclists and has started the process to become a certified B Corp.