When we buy into a brand today, we want to head home with so much more than just the physical product. We want the added knowledge that we’re also investing in the future of our world from reducing global waste to helping those in need. If this sounds like your buying habits too, well, you’re not alone. Data shows that “nearly seven in 10 U.S. Millennials actively consider company values when making a purchase.” We truly believe that brands who build purpose into their business plan are the future.
That’s why we were thrilled to hear about Yvonne Niami. The former real estate mogul (her father owned a construction company) turned fashion designer has been donating 10% of net proceeds from her brand n:philanthropy to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), the ASPCA, SPCALA, and other local animal charities for the past 15 years. Not only that, their entire office volunteers at the CHLA several times a year. “We close up the office and bring toys to the kids on the cancer floor,” she tells me. “It’s so rewarding. The lovely children, parents, and nurses are always so grateful. We are grateful to be able to volunteer and donate the way we do because of our customers who buy our product. We are so thankful for our consumers. We couldn’t do this without them.”
So, how do you build charity into your brand and still make a profit? We tapped Niami to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how it’s done and why she felt driven to create a brand with a philanthropic mission.
How did you come up with the concept for n:philanthropy?
I donated to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, SPCALA, and ASPCA for many years before I started n:philanthropy. When I decided to start a fashion brand, I knew it had to have a give-back aspect and that its name should say this loud and clear. n:philanthropy gives back 10% of net proceeds to pediatric cancer research and animal abuse prevention.
Why did you feel driven to create a brand with a philanthropic mission?
I think every brand should give back to whatever cause they are passionate about. If they can’t give funds, they should volunteer their staff’s time. Close up shop for half a day once a month and go volunteer somewhere you feel strongly needs your help.
Do you think there is a movement in the marketplace now? Have you seen the change in consumer behavior towards supporting brands with a purpose?
I definitely have and am so happy to see this movement. I think great brands like TOMS, Patagonia, and others have paved the way, but I love that n:philanthropy is the first edgy-cool brand to follow this trend. Our consumer likes to live their life, party a bit, drink tequila with their friends, but has a big heart and cares about the mission behind the brands they buy. They shop consciously and educate themselves on what these companies do to better our world.
How different is it creating a brand with a purpose?
For us, it was easy. Our entire team truly cares about giving back. Creating n:philanthropy with its give back component was a no brainer for us, we were already living that life, we just added fashion to it.
What were some of the initial struggles/challenges you had to overcome when building n:philanthropy?
Just like any new brand, there’s always a stage where you’re working to really get your company out there. In our first year, I couldn’t get people to stop calling us Philosophy. I love that beauty brand, but I was constantly reminding people that our brand is n:philanthropy not Philosophy.
How did you structure your margins to include the charitable part and still be competitive?
We always try and hit 65% margins. This gives us room to sell to stores and have enough to donate.
What would you recommend to other brands/founders who want to make this part of their plan too?
Find the charities you are passionate about. It has to start from there. It can be giving back to animal abuse and cancer, like us, or maybe it’s helping our veterans (another important and worthy cause) or helping to stop hunger, donating to environmental causes, etc. Find what’s near and dear to your heart and align with an organization you can give to, volunteer with, or both like we do.
What advice do you have for young founders starting a business today?
The most important thing is the base of where your business starts from. It has to be from your heart. If it starts from a super authentic place, you are already many steps ahead.
What mistakes did you make along the way that you learned from or even benefited from?
Oh yes, many mistakes and tons of learning curves. Anyone that tells you they started a business and there were no downfalls is lying. There’s always some struggles but hopefully nothing you can’t come back from. Just learn from it and move on.
Do you think every brand moving forward should have a philanthropic purpose? Share your thoughts and favorite value-driven brands below.