Spotlight: How One Company Aims to Go from Selling Socks to Changing the World

Giving Back Business Story: How One Company Aims to Go from Selling Socks to Changing the World

Some businesses start with a major change or innovation. Others start with something small — like a sock. The Cause International is an example of the latter. But though the idea started small, the team still hopes it can make a big impact.

The clothing company puts a major focus on giving back to communities around the world, from Chicago to Guatemala. Read more about the business and its goals in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Sells apparel and provides custom options for schools and organizations.

Founder Antoine Taylor told Small Business Trends, “[We’re] an apparel company that sells to everyday people but also provides clothing for high school and colleges. For example, we have made sweatshirts and pants for a university softball team with their school logo and our help designing. We have done this for many schools around the U.S.”

Business Niche

Giving back.

Taylor says, “We give back a percentage of our profits to the communities in need all around the world and we have set up mentorship programs within the high schools we sells to that help those kids get to college. We are very big on working closely with the younger generation and teaching them about their future along with giving back to those in need. We also offer a lower cost for sports wear compared to other clothing brands like Nike or Adidas that schools might partner with.”

How the Business Got Started

Due to financial struggles in college.

Taylor explains, “Like many college students, I was thinking of ways to make quick money because I was watching my mother struggle to put me through school. The best idea I could come up with at the time was to sell socks. It was a generic idea and I doubted a positive outcome. I was wrong. I sold 512 socks around my campus within a week and that’s when my vision for an apparel company became real.”

Giving Back Business Story: How One Company Aims to Go from Selling Socks to Changing the World

Biggest Win

Starting its give back program.

Taylor says, “We traveled to south side Chicago all the way from California to give presents to the kids there, and also retrofitted a Boys and Girl Club. While I was there, a little girl walked up to me and said to me “Thank you for giving me my first Christmas” I didn’t need anymore convincing I knew this is what we should be doing. Just something as small as giving a child a Christmas is an amazing win. Because even though it was nothing to us, it was everything to her and that’s a huge win.”

Biggest Risk

Making a major charitable commitment.

Taylor says, “The biggest risk we ever took was when we planned on going to Guatemala to install water filters in villages and schools, the week before we were suppose to leave we were $4,000 short. If we couldn’t raise the money in time, we weren’t going to be able to go. Our backs were against the wall to come up with money. But in that short time we managed to sell socks, we even asked our university to help with the funding. It was probably one of the scariest times of our lives. We had a short time to come up with this money and we promised something to those people in Guatemala. So we had to make it.”

Lesson Learned

Emphasize the importance of planning.

Taylor explains, “If I could do anything differently I would definitely plan better. Guatemala was an amazing opportunity but it would have gone more smoothly if our team had planned better. I think that was probably one of the biggest things for us, planning was not our strong suit and we are working on that. We always get the job done, but with such a small team planning was a hassle and stressful. We could relieve all that just by planning and expanding our team.”

Giving Back Business Story: How One Company Aims to Go from Selling Socks to Changing the World

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Spreading the word and giving back.

Taylor says, “If I had an extra $100,000 for my business I would keep $50,000 to use for improvements within our company and to expand so that more people can understand who The Cause is. I feel if more people knew what we do then more would come to us wanting to help young individuals help make a change in society. Plus you get creative clothing for yourself so it’s a win win for both parties! And take the other half and give back to Somalia in Africa. We want that to be our next giveback trip after our trip to Greece later on this year. Because one of our co-founders is actually from Somalia so this topic is close to us. Somalia is going through extremely rough times especially the refugees. We want to partner with different companies to try to fix/improve different problems such as individuals dying from Malaria, and the education system.”

Communication Strategy

Getting issues out in the open.

Taylor explains, “So something unusual we do is, our team has a group chat with everyone that makes executive decisions. We use to meet every Sunday and look each other in the eye and say one thing we did not like about what one another did this week on our business. We would count out loud to each other and on 3 we would say what we did not like. For example we would say, “1..2.. dude I did not like your Instagram post!” We would laugh and then talk about it. When we talk about it we would be brutally honest with each other. Having that open communication with your team is very important. It helps you grow but also if someone is unhappy or someone is uncomfortable with a situation your business will not perform well. At the end of the day, we are all here to see The Cause International grow so we have to make sure we are on the same level and honest with each other 24/7.”

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Images: The Cause International, Facebook; Top Image: Antoine Taylor and volunteers with families in Guatemala, Second Image: Antoine Taylor

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.