A company’s social impact can come from its products, but also from its operations and governance. Ian Bentley, founder and CEO of Parker Clay, manufactures long-lasting high-quality bags while employing vulnerable women in Ethiopia, improving their quality of life.
In your own words, how would you describe your company?
At Parker Clay, we craft premium leather bags to provide dignified employment and uplift women from exploitation. We provide better — better bags and better production to make a better world.
We don’t take shortcuts. We obsess over sourcing, stitching, and every last grain of leather leaning into centuries of Ethiopian leatherworking tradition. Our bags are built not just to last but to improve with age — a claim we’ll back up with our Lifetime Guarantee. These bags change lives at every step of their journey.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
One year after traveling to Ethiopia to adopt our daughter, we realized we wanted to relocate our family to Addis Ababa to work with vulnerable women and children. In our time in Ethiopia, we came across a local artisan crafting with Ethiopian leather. Inspired by the quality of the leather and the craftsmanship, a seed was planted. We saw an opportunity: to create a brand that showcased this exceptional craftsmanship and provided sustainable employment opportunities for these vulnerable women.
What are the advantages and inconveniences of having your manufacturing facility?
We recently moved into our new factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with approximately 16,000 sqft, allowing us to double our current capacity with just one-day time shift. We are already seeing international demand and will be moving into select international markets and expanding into select wholesale markets. We also see advantages in the future of Africa. By 2050, one in four humans, a quarter of the world’s population, and one in three working-age people will live in Africa. Africa is a young continent – the youngest in the world, with 60% of the population under 25. Africa is the last and largest emerging market and offers the last big supply chain and consumer prospects, with opportunities like the ones Southeast Asia presented 20 years ago.
In terms of inconveniences, Ethiopia is a more emerging market, so some aspects of logistics can be challenging. We see Ethiopia working hard to overcome those obstacles with expanded air freight, rail, and port shipping, as well as energy and power expansion to fuel manufacturing growth.
You’re on track to grow your revenue by 40% this year compared to last year - and hopefully reach $10 million. How did you manage to get this growth?
We have worked diligently since 2014 to put a strong foundation in place at Parker Clay. One of our biggest advantages is our supply chain, which we have worked hard to develop and build capacity that can scale. We have built a strong customer base of well over 100,000, of which we see a very high retention with customers returning to purchase additional products, gifts, and items for their community. We have also been scaling our marketing efforts and seeing a positive return that we believe will produce strong results for us in the 4th quarter of 2023.
What is your break-even point?
We are targeting to be close to breaking even this year and then, in 2024, become profitable.
How do you measure your impact?
We have always put a lot of emphasis on empowerment and impact from day one. It is why we are also a legal public benefit corporation and a B- Corp with a score of 112, which puts us as one of the highest ranking on the planet for leather goods. The beauty of being a B-Corp is that it provides 3rd party accreditation on how we measure our impact. It is also exciting to see the growth in the number of publicly traded B-Corps over the last few years as it continues to grow substantially, proving that both profit and purpose can be achieved.