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Something Used

By Hugh McIntyre

HOW IS A CLOTHING LINE BORN? In most cases, a designer is inspired by a vision that translates into a line and a new company. However, Something Used was already five years old when its first clothing line was designed and marketed. Before that, the company had been involved in everything from publicity, to music distribution for bands, to concert bookings across the United States. The brand had developed a following: 50,000 online Facebook “friends” who were following what the company was doing. A vast majority of those people were most interested in the fact that the company donated a large portion of profits to charities, no matter where the revenue stream stood. If Something Used planned a concert, the audience was aware of the group that benefited from the performance earnings.

This visibility, moreover, represented a business opportunity. All these people were loyal to a brand, yet they had no way of supporting the mission of the company. If a fan didn’t live near where Something Used was having an event, there was no way to contribute. It didn’t take long for the idea of an online clothing company to materialize.

The clothing line was to be something very special and yet very simple. The clothes would be nothing fancy: t-shirts with interesting images and slogans. The business model, however, would grow and become more powerful. The idea behind Something Used was that a person did not have to choose between being charitable and buying something he or she wanted; indeed, by choosing the right company, he or she could have it all. On the other end, Something Used proved that a company could have charitable giving built into its business model and still make a profit. For every item the company sold, a donation was made, and the customer factored this into his or her buying decision.

Fast-forward three years, and Something Used is completing its fourth clothing line. Only one line appears each year as a limited-time offer, so as to give people a chance to buy what they want and also for new people to catch on. Working under this model for three years, Something Used has shown that if you donate a percentage of your profits and explain to your customers what their donation will do for the world, this can translate into sales.

Over the years, the company has worked to change the world through the following Something Used Impacts:

For every clothing line, Something Used pays a nonprofit to cancel out future carbon pollution, thus making the line(s) completely carbon neutral. Over the last three years, this has added up to over 207,000 pounds of carbon pollution that will never exist.

One of the best ways to prevent future poverty is to educate women today. Something Used took this idea seriously. When the second clothing line was launched, a donation from each shirt’s profits sent a girl to school for two months. Each of these girls was a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and many had been orphaned by it, almost certainly dooming them to a life of prostitution without some form of education. Something Used paid to send 200 girls to school for two months.

In the context of this focus on education, the company observed that some of the things keeping children from developing countries out of schools can be addressed. Children who cannot afford shoes cannot walk to school; children who cannot afford daily lunch money will drop out of school. It is unacceptable that a young child should drop out of school because he or she cannot afford lunch; therefore, the sales from another shirt design paid for seven of these children to buy lunch every day for an entire year so they could continue their education.

While the business’s main focus is on helping people, there are other causes out there that are more than worthy of our resources. Over eight years, the company has paid to protect more than 10,400 square feet of rainforest and almost 15,000,000 square feet of animal habitats in Asia. People take precedence, but it can never hurt to share some of the wealth.

In its most important and most thoughtful donations, the company dedicated a portion of the profits from its third line of shirts to medicine donations for needy people in developing countries. For every shirt sale, Something Used donated a certain percentage to a nonprofit that could allocate the funds effectively. In addition, another company matched the business’s donation, thus doubling the effect. This has led to a total of $7,500 in donated medicines.

Of course, the company has dipped into many other causes, but these are the five that have had the greatest impact. The hope, moreover, is that other businesses will take up the same mission in their own way. Something Used has already offered advice to an individual seeking to start a clothing line with the same social commitment, and Something Used can only hope that there are many more who will see that it is possible to live in a world where capitalism can flourish and yet benefit those in need.

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