By: Rachel Weed | Community News Service
Henry Sengle, a Hinesburg native, returned to his home state and found a way to combine his passion for the outdoors and love for sewing to start Thuja, a sustainable hoodie company.
The Thuja (pronounced thu-yuh) sweatshirt design has three basic parts. A solid color for the sleeves and torso, and a print for the pockets. The material is a waffle fleece, the same fabric used by Patagonia for their “R1” temperature-regulating layers.
“I sort of wanted to just make myself the perfect layer, very much as a project for myself,” says Sengle when asked about the design logistics and inspiration.
Single started to dabble with sweatshirt patchwork in high school at CVU. He experimented with combining bright-colored sweatshirts together for himself and his friends to participate in ski culture, he said.
Toward the end of 2018, this side project turned into a business.
After wearing his design to work, at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, his co-workers started asking where they could get one, so he started making custom orders. Soon enough, people from all over Vermont, and eventually, nationwide started requesting hoodies.
His work has been entirely self-taught. Though sewing is nothing new to Sengle, he had to learn how to efficiently produce large amounts of high-quality sweatshirts.
One challenge is sizing. Starting out, the only size he has was based on his own measurements, so establishing smaller and larger sizes took a lot of trial and error, Sengle said.
Winter of 2020, Thuja took off. New orders were constant. During this time, Sengle made the call to officially, and legally switch the project to a business.
“I’ve done no marketing at all. It’s been entirely word of mouth,” says Sengle.
He does have an Instagram account where he has posted a few pictures but leaves it up to his followers to do the promoting. While wearing his design, accounts will tag @thuja_vt, and the hoodie speaks for itself.
Instagram users can use the link Thujavt.com in the account bio to custom make a sweatshirt. The website is currently a Google Forms where customers specify how to personalize their hoodies.
The business started in Sengle’s bedroom. Since then, he has had to upgrade to a larger space and relocate. Now he dedicates an entire room to sweatshirt making.
Sengle attended undergrad at Ithaca College and majored in business, which has given him a leg up in the entrepreneurial aspect of Thuja, he said. This has helped him in making sure the business is properly organized and running smoothly.
Sengle is halfway done with a retail order from Thuja for Outdoor Gear Exchange. The order should be completed and on the rack by October, he said. The hoodies sold in the store will be $85. Custom hoodies are $90 plus $8 for shipping.
Right now, Thuja is a one-person team. Sengle talked about possibly taking on an employee, as well as eventually making this a full-time job if the business continues to grow at this rate.
But why the name? Besides Sengle liking how it looks, Thuja is also the name for the genus of a cedar tree.
“I’m pretty obsessed with trees, so at some point, I’m definitely going to sort of make that part of the company or the brand,” Sengle said. “Whether that’s donating to the American chestnut foundation, or like some sort of contribution to helping to keep Vermont forests healthy.”