After graduating from college, I decided to start my own business instead of looking for a job. Several mentors told me that the fastest way to learn about business was to start your own. That is exactly what I did.
I started ThirstTees in 2011 during the peak of the TOMS shoes craze and the one-for-one giving model they pioneered. I was inspired by Blake Mycoskie's ability to create a successful for-profit business that had the social impact of a non-profit. I decided to emulate this model with a different need.
I began researching major issues to support and everything kept coming back to water and sanitation. Every 19 seconds a child dies from a water related illness. Additionally, there are tremendous economic impacts do to the lack of clean water. Families spend hours each day collecting water instead of working or going to school. Providing clean water to these communities has long term positive effects.
After settling on the issue I wanted to tackle, I developed a partnership with a non-profit that was building wells and biosand filters. I pledged to donate a percentage of every item sold to their organization. Based on the cost of a well or a biosand filter and the number of people it served, we were able to help one person get access to clean water for every item purchased.
At this point, I had the concept and the relationships needed to build ThirstTees.
- T-Shirts: I began with three basic designs that a friend from Nike created for me. I found a screen printer in Portland, OR and printed ~500 shirts in a variety of sizes and colors to get started.
- Fulfillment: I managed all of the fulfillment on my own. Each night I would package the sales from the day, print the labels and prepare the orders. I used USPS flat rate shipping bags and dropped them off at the post office each morning.
- Shopify - I was an early adopter of Shopify and was able to manage the site and all transactions through the platform.
- Authorize.net - Stripe was brand new at the time and there were limited payment processing options so I created a merchant account with Authorize.net.
- Social Media - I relied heavily on social media and developed a following on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I created a social media campaign that led to an hour long meeting with Daymond John from Shark Tank. After our conversation, I was invited by Mr. John to be his guest at the Bend Venture Conference where he was speaking.
- Trade shows - With the help of a few friends, I would attend local trade shows to spread the word about the brand and the cause.
After working on ThirstTees for over two years, I decided to shut the project down. I had transitioned to working for a tech startup and no longer had time to maintain it.