Sleevecandy: Authentic T-Shirts On a Mission

October 12, 2011

1:04 pm

I have a passion for startups with a mission to do good. They combine two of my favorite things – (1) creating something from scratch and growing it into a useful product or service, and (2) working to solve a social or environmental problem. So, anytime I come across a social entrepreneur, I get excited.

Chicago-based Sleevecandy is a startup combining a unique online shopping experience with the mission to support the Salvation Army’s community-building programs. Customers can browse a large selection of one-of-a-kind t-shirts and buy cool tees that no one else will have. All of Sleevecandy’s tees are incredibly unique or no longer available outside the website.

You know how places like Urban Outfitters and American Eagle sell t-shirts based on a fictional bar, fishing company, club, etc.? Sleevecandy has their real-world counterparts – authentic tees, not recreations.

I’m not knocking those pretend tees – I’m guilty of owning one that says “Malibu Surf Shack,” and you want to know something? Not only have I never been to Malibu, but also I have a feeling the “Shack” doesn’t even exist.

But when you buy a non-contrived tee on Sleevecandy, you can wear something authentic and know that 30% of your purchase price will be donated to The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Program. Now, that’s real.

Co-founders Reed Hushka and Hanif Perry plan to hire some of the Adult Rehabilitation Program graduates to help them with Sleevecandy. The program helps people with underprivileged pasts work to overcome problems like extensive substance abuse. Participants receive guidance and work therapy so they can turn their lives around and become functioning family members and citizens again.

“Given the high levels of unemployment, we think this is an incredibly important cause right now,” said Hushka.

Hushka hopes that hiring program graduates will help keep them on the right path after their rehab program is over. It’s a way Sleevecandy can do good beyond the donations they generate.

I learned about Sleevecandy when I wrote an article about TheCom.it last month. Sleevecandy was one of the initial startups featured on TheCom.it and received some great feedback on the site.

The Sleevecandy selection of tees is constantly growing and changing, so check it out and see if you can find a t-shirt treasure.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup.

She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, “Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership,” which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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