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Sam Lewis found himself struggling with the classic college question: What would he do after graduation?
He thought about becoming a banker, doctor or psychiatrist. But those careers didn't quite fit.
"When I was in college, I was kind of at that breaking point where I didn't know exactly what was driving me," he said. "I knew that I enjoyed giving back, charity work, things like that. But I also knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur."
He found the answer — or what Lewis calls his epiphany — in 2010. He was lying in bed, trying to figure out his life, when the idea hit him. Lewis would create a social startup called Wear The Fund.
Social start-ups, he said, are businesses that have a purpose other than making a profit. So Wear The Fund fulfills his entrepreneurial itch while also allowing Lewis to give back to the community now — not later in life after establishing a career.
So he opened the company in April of 2012, and its first order was for 50 baby bibs that August.
Wear The Fund has two revenue streams. Most of the business comes from wholesale custom screen printing where it creates shirts for companies, schools and other organizations. This accounted for 95 percent of its business last year.
The other side of Wear The Fund is a retail clothing brand designed by Lewis, his two business partners and freelancers.
Wear The Fund is considered a social startup because it donates a percentage of each sale to one or all of its 11 nonprofit partners. Customers choose which nonprofit their donation is made to or they can divide the donation up among all the nonprofits. Lewis said 10 percent is donated from each wholesale screen printing sale and 20 percent from each retail sale. Last year, the company gave more than $7,000 to nonprofits.
"The fact that we were able to give back $7,000 in our first year before we even made a profit, it's what makes it worth it for us," he said.