By Caledonia Rice EBS Contributor
BOZEMAN – Jen Perry is an eco-conscious entrepreneur and the founder of Jelt Belt, a Bozeman-based company whose signature item is a stylish, but practical belt made out of recycled materials.
Perry started the company in February of 2014 because she saw a need for a functional, sustainably manufactured belt that looked good, and was travel and outdoor activity-friendly. She also saw her company as a means to give back to the community.
“After a near-death experience, I knew I wanted to do something to create a positive impact on the world.” Perry said.
In early February, after an intensive eight-month review process, Perry announced that Jelt Belt had achieved Benefit Corporation, or B Corp, status, joining only six other Montana-based businesses with the certification.
B Corp is to businesses what Fair Trade certification is to coffee, or what USDA Certified Organic is to milk. B Corps are for-profit companies that meet the rigorous standards of the nonprofit B Lab in terms of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Perry’s support of social causes is one reason her company became B Corp certified. She donates 1 percent of annual sales to local veterans in partnership with the Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation, an organization that utilizes fly fishing as a means of healing. Another 1 percent goes to nonprofit organizations focused on the environment. The company also donates $1 of every junior Jelt Belt sold to Thrive, a Bozeman nonprofit dedicated to helping kids succeed in school, at home and in life.
Jelt Belts are also eco-friendly. Its packaging is made of 100 percent recycled cardboard, reflective of Perry’s desire to reuse existing materials rather than contribute more waste to the planet.
The belts themselves are made of RePET, a recycled polyester yarn manufactured out of plastic water bottles. Jelt Belts are also recyclable-and convenient. Gel pads on the interior hold the belt in place, loops or no loops; and contain no metal, meaning it’s one less accessory to take off in the airport security line.
Perhaps the most laudable community-oriented aspect of Jelt Belt is the company’s manufacturing practices.
Jelt Belt paired up with the Montana Correctional Enterprise Program at the Montana Women’s Prison in Billings to keep the manufacturing local, while also providing incarcerated women with valuable skills they can use upon their release. These employees are paid a fair wage and their earnings help pay for restitution, legal fees, and child support. All Jelt Belts are made in the correctional facility.
“Being a certified Benefit Corp means that I am using business as a force for good,” Perry said. “Since launching Jelt, I have met thousands of … amazing people working hard to make the world a better place, whether through nonprofits or through the work they are doing with kids and families. I am honored to have a business that supports these worthy organizations and to call the people who run these organizations my friends.”
Visit jeltbelt.com for more information.