umano entered the Shark Tank on November 20. Brothers Jonathan and Alex Torrey pitched their charitable apparel company that has kids design the products. We spoke to Alex about the business, whose name means ‘mankind’ in Italian. Here is what he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
Jonathan and I have always had the entrepreneurial bug. Our a-ha moment came when we realized you didn’t have to choose between doing well and doing good. As cheesy as it sounds, we like to say we were put on this earth to be social entrepreneurs. Our parents are both educators so we knew we wanted to empower kids by giving a backpack filled with school supplies. We believe that art educations is not about learning to draw, it’s about learning to see.
Their Charitable Component
Our mission is to empower kids to unleash their creativity. With every product you purchase, umano will give a backpack full of school supplies to empower a kid. We collect drawings on all of our Giving Trips and call it our virtuous cycle. The whole idea really revolves around one kid’s art empowering others kids because of one kids drawing, another kid can receive a backpack full of school supplies.
Working With His Brother & Their Parents’ Work Ethic
Working with my brother is one of the main reasons why we started umano; Jonathan and I wanted to create something together. I couldn’t image making this journey with anyone else; it just wouldn’t be possible. It is like children’s author and illustrator Marc Brown said, ‘Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.’ Our parents are the hardest working and most supportive people on the planet. They’re our role models and there is no doubt that my brother and I are the way we are because of my parents. My brother and I approach umano knowing we’re not the smartest in the room, not the best connected, certainly not the best funded, but we will out work everyone—that attitude and work ethic comes straight from our parents.
Plans for the Future
Our goal is to give 20,000 backpacks by the end of 2015. There are 20 million kids in the US living in poverty so our even bigger goal is to give 10 million backpacks by 2020 so we can help empower at least half of those kids. We hope to see our brand’s giving expand to have the biggest impact possible and hope to grow our product line to be able to showcase kid’s art in more ways.
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