BY: JULIE CHUNG
When Nick Chang created the nonprofit t-shirt company RIPEBRAND last year, he had a clear mission in mind: to encourage people to get involved in their local communities to “ripen” and grow into better versions of themselves.
During his college years, Chang interned for San Francisco’s Chinatown Community Development Center, which provided housing for local, underprivileged Chinese immigrants, and saw firsthand how much change a small, non-profit could bring to the local community.
Inspired by his own volunteer experiences, Chang knew that he wanted his first start-up to be focused on helping to grow and give back to the people as well.
While interning at the Chinatown CDC, “I felt that being a part of a community and being a good citizen [was] not enough,” Chang said.
According to a report on America’s worst charities that was collaborated between the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting, the American Breast Cancer Foundation donated only 5.3 percent of the millions of dollars they raised for charity, Kids Wish Network spent 2.5 percent, and the Cancer Fund of America spent a mere 0.9 percent on direct cash aid.
Aware of this disappointing outcome from large organizations, Chang made the decision to work closely with smaller nonprofits that really understand people’s needs.
“[I didn’t want to be] controlled by outside forces that wanted to take advantage…we really want the spirit [of RIPEBRAND] to be pure and be focused on the mission,” Chang said.
You should “Do Good, Feel Good, and Look Good,” as the company tagline says.
In addition to RIPEBRAND’s mission, Chang set out from the very start to support three main causes of youth, poverty and health, because these are the most evident problems that the LA community face on a daily basis.
Unlike the big-name companies, RIPEBRAND donates 50 percent of its revenue to local nonprofits. When purchasing a t-shirt on the website, you can choose to donate to one of the three causes that you feel most passionate about, or you can choose to “Spread the Love” and donate an equal portion to each.
RIPEBRAND has partnered with the Free Arts for Abused Children, Philanthro Productions, and the Busted Foundation to support the causes.
Unlike most charitable organizations, RIPEBRAND doesn’t simply make donations and hope for a better change. Chang builds a connection between nonprofits and passionate individuals.
“We do our due diligence on finding more nonprofits and causes, and connect with nonprofits we already work with [to offer] different types of opportunities [people] can get involved with,” Chang said.
For those that want to get involved but don’t know where to start,RIPEBRAND offers direct volunteer opportunities through their website to give people a convenient way to reach out to the LA community.
Chang hopes to launch a large, social media app program that allows RIPEBRAND users to interact and share photos of their volunteering experiences, wearing RIPEBRAND’s t-shirts.
“RIPEBRAND uses...social and website technology to consolidate the different needs into one place,” Chang said. “As much as we love Twitter and [other] social media platforms, we are still people and we still have to go out and help others, so connecting the online world to the offline world is where clothing and fashion comes in.”
All RIPEBRAND shirts are eco-friendly. The t-shirts are twice washed, once with a vegetable-based dye, and are preshrunk and form-fitted for the most premium, softest quality of fabric.
The t-shirts are also made of 100 percent ring-spun, jersey cotton that is almost all grown and manufactured right here in California.
In consistency with the core dynamics of RIPEBRAND, Chang decided to manufacture the shirts in California because he believes, “if we’re going to be local and preach local, we should get [our t-shirts] locally made.”
Chang was inspired by the idea of growing and “ripening” as a person and growing into a more “mature and better version” by helping others, just as fruits and vegetables ripen.
RIPEBRAND currently carries three, brightly colored t-shirts: Zucchini, Pomegranate and Grape, and will be releasing more t-shirt designs in the near future. Follow RIPEBRAND on Facebook for future, exclusive contests and to keep up with great opportunities.
So, which fruit or vegetable will you choose to wear? Take your pick at www.ripebrand.org and make the pledge to start growing with the RIPEBRAND community.