Backpack EcoBusiness: How Corporations Are Giving Back And You Can Too

When Jonathan and Alex Torrey walked out on the corporate world, they didn’t know exactly what they’d be heading into, but something a little less cold, a little less stiff, and with a lot more heart is what they were aiming for. “Do good” is the mantra they set out with, and a couple of years in, it’s what they’ve managed to achieve.

Graduates of Terry Business College from the University of Georgia, both Jonathan and Alex were headed straight for CEO corner offices with the likes of Fortune 500 companies, before they quit it all and when looking for a way to put soul back into entrepreneurialism, and that’s how umano was born.

More than just a company that sells t-shirts with sketched, hipster designs, Alex and Jonathan found a way to turn their venture into an eco-business the likes of Warby Parker and Toms; for every t-shirt sold, a kid somewhere in the United States, Peru, or Mexico gets a backpack full of school supplies.

If you want to talk about giving back, they delivered over 2,000 backpacks in the first half of 2014, and they’ve since more than doubled their yearly amount for giving. It helps that Bloomingdale’s picked up their signature collection, and the duo based in Athens, Georgia have showed up on the radar of the masses as an unstoppable tour de force for community giving.

So while the idea of putting back-to school kids in touch with fresh materials to start the new year is not a wholly original idea, the umano crew has certainly found a creative way to adapt their business model to include community responsibility, and it’s easy enough for you to as well. Operation Backpack is one such example; helping homeless kids get connected with supplies that will help them succeed at their studies is their main goal. And not only are they looking for donations, but volunteers willing to commit their time and energies to put supplies together and deliver. ActionAid is another; reaching kids all over the world.

But you don’t have to start your own business like Jonathan and Alex or work for a charity to help kids get ready for school; with the internet it’s easier than ever to lend a helping hand. Have a drive for school supplies in your neighborhood, at your book club or at your school that accepts gently used backpacks, uniforms, and school shoes and new items like glue sticks, Crayola crayons, and No.2 lead pencils. Add in books and printable guides on how to be a better digital citizen, with tips on keeping your information safe online and building a positive digital footprint.

After your supplies are in, have a party, a milk and cookies night, or an impromtu movie night where you stuff bags and and then send them to places like World Vision to distribute, or drop them off with your school board to distribute within your own community and give back where it’s needed in your city.

You don’t have to be the umano’s of the world when you first start—that’s something that takes a lot of work to get to. But with one backpack, either by buying one of Jonathan’s and Alex’s custom drawn shirts  or stuffing a knapsack of your own, you’re on your way to creating a smarter, more conscious, and happier world. And when it’s as easy as putting on a t-shirt, or bringing together a community for one cause, how could you not?

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