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Colorado Startup Gives Back to Community

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My name is Tom Bull, and I live in Minturn, Colorado. I follow a podcast called “How I Built This” with Guy Raz and was listening to an episode in December about Tom’s Shoes. Their whole motto is “when you buy one pair of shoes, we donate one pair of shoes.”  I thought that was incredibly powerful.

As a ski instructor living in a mountain town, I never really had the expendable income to give back to the community that I live in, but I always really wanted to give back. There was an organization, too, that I really cared about and wanted to support. Vail has a great relationship with a nonprofit called SOS Outreach. They started in Vail 25 years ago and use outdoor activities like hiking, camping and skiing to teach leadership development to underserved kids. I was lucky enough to lead a couple of ski classes for their organization and was so unbelievably impressed with all they do for the kids. 

So last December, I decided to go for it and started a company called For Good Apparel. It’s modeled after Tom’s…when we sell a piece of apparel, we donate that same piece of apparel to SOS Outreach. I love the idea of the one-to-one donation and the value-add to a product you’re selling. I have some experience working in the retail space and in e-commerce, so all those factors came together to launch my company.

The first thing we sold was face masks made by a Denver-based business called Phunkshun. The masks are manufactured locally using a fabric called repreve that is made from recycled plastic water bottles. I chose this product to start with because the masks are a versatile and common product with a low cost of entry that can be used in the winter or summer. As a company just starting out, they offered a really easy entry point. 

The business was a side project for me until COVID hit. Suddenly the ski resort shut down and I was without a job. I hate sitting around not doing anything–it drives me crazy–so I started trying to figure out the best way to leverage this brand I had created to help more people in my community.

My original donation to SOS Outreach was scheduled for the Fall, before their program started in the winter, but with everything going on I pushed ahead.  And guess what?   We have already donated 150 face masks. We’ve also been selling hats with our logo on them, and the proceeds are going to purchase distilled hand sanitizer from a local company that makes it. We donate that to our community market, grocery stores and post office. To this point, we have given out 15 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Moving forward, we’re kind of expanding our product line a little bit. We’re selling shirts, and with the proceeds, we’re buying masks for the Colorado Mask Project. This summer we’ll be selling socks, and for every pair we sell, we’ll donate another pair to SOS Outreach. The way I see it is…the more apparel I can sell, the more help I can give, and the more good I can do.

Right now, the causes that we will be supporting beyond SOS Outreach will be COVID related. Once we regain a level of normalcy, there are other organizations that I would love to be able to support as well. We have a big problem with food insecurity here in the mountains and mental health issues that need to be addressed. Both of those are things that I feel passionate about. My hope is to eventually grow to the point we’ll be able to support all of those causes.

Because of COVID this whole project has evolved into something that I never imagined it becoming, but I’m really happy that it did. The support from my community has been so amazing. I’m refreshed and inspired by the number of people who have reached out and supported the product, sent thank you notes and told me they appreciate what I am doing. 

This community…these mountains…have given so much to me in my development as a human and it just feels so incredible to be able to give back. That’s been the best part of it all.

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