After the Tom’s of Maine namesake, Tom Chappell, sold his all-natural toothpaste and deodorant company in 2006, he bought 85 acres and 125 Rambouillet sheep and started a clothing company. The 74-year old eco-entrepreneur and author of The Soul of a Business has a degree from the Harvard Divinity School and has been known to lead his employees in nature contemplation exercises. Whether selling toothpaste or cardigans, ultimately Chappell is peddling the idea that businesses should not exist solely for the pursuit of profit, but as a vehicle for a greater purpose.
When I decided to start a clothing company, I didn’t go looking for fabric, I went looking for sheep. I believe that if you want to do good through business, you have to understand the impacts of your entire supply chain.
Sheep, if managed properly, can improve degraded land. All of agriculture has that potential. It’s our greatest hope for building a sustainable economy.
My father worked in textile mills his whole life, so I understand the social and environmental abuses of the industry. I want to prove that fabric can be made differently. When I interviewed wool processors, the executives were surprised I wanted to go out back to see the water quality coming out of the mill.
Whether for fiber or food, small farms are our future. That scale allows us to work in harmony with the landscape. The challenge of becoming profitable without sacrificing values is a good challenge to have.
I’ve been an organic gardener my entire life. Organic tastes better, and if you want to take care of our soils, water, and wildlife, organic is the answer. I’m proud to be from Maine where organic is on fire. I think its wisdom will prevail throughout America eventually.
Tom Chappell founded the ethical fashion line Ramblers Way in Kennebunk, Maine in 2009. The company’s ultra-fine wool and Pima cotton garments are available online at https://www.ramblersway.com