Thread International makes a business case for good

Now that Thread has worked with a national brand, the next hurdle is scaling up.

“When you’re a startup CEO, for a while, you are terrified of not having any customers,” Rosenberger says. “Then all of the sudden, you’re terrified of having them.”

After Thread first pitched to Timberland, for example, the team wasn’t sure it could deliver the fabric for the boots on time.

“We spent four months trial and error-ing, praying and hoping by the skin of our teeth, convincing vendors to run a couple hundred yards of fabric at a time, so that we could get what we needed to Timberland under the deadline,” Rosenberger says.

The company has big plans to appeal to consumers who are tired of commodity manufacturing.

“We’re called Thread because I believe that we’re all connected. There’s a thread that runs through all of us,” he says.

Rosenberger just took a trip to Asia to explore new sourcing, such as helping a yoga brand create products from trash in India, Indonesia or Bangladesh, the ancestral home of the practice.

“I love origin stories, and I think if you can tie the origin story of a good back to an area of the world that resonates with the customer, you can create an even more valuable good,” he says.

Learn as you go

Rosenberger’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father all ran small businesses, and like them, he’s learned as he went. As the company grew to 18 employees, it required more strategy, competence and discipline. Rosenberger compares it to going from a one-car road trip to a road trip with three cars.

“Just about the time I figure out in a particular stage how to be a good CEO, it tends to change again,” he says.

Luckily, he’s attracted people who have worked at bigger brands.

“It helps when you have somebody that understands the spreadsheet in a way that makes my gut come to life,” Rosenberger says.

It’s been challenging to learn how to execute everything that needs to be done, while maintaining the inspiration it takes to run a disruptive business. Keeping that inspiration at the forefront is why Thread became a Certified B Corporation.

But figuring out how to put the pieces together also makes it easy to get up on Monday mornings, he says.

“You get punched in the face over and over and over again, and you get knocked down — the only thing we know how to do is to get back up,” Rosenberger says.

“Being a startup entrepreneur is like brief moments of pure elation surrounded by long stretches of pure terror,” he says “I wouldn’t give it back for anything in the world. I’m so proud of the process and the experience.”