Hub Stories: Playing Matchmaker with a Socially-Conscious Slant

 

[Names]: Danny Bocanegra and Josh Furnas

[Organization]: Selfless Tee

[Areas of Expertise]: Non-Profit Crowd Funding with Cause Inspired Apparel

[Online]: http://www.selflesstee.com



Danny started Selfless Tee as an ambitious UAlbany undergrad. He sold shirts with the word “Buzzkill” printed on backs, raising funds to buy 1,000 mosquito nets for villagers in Kenya. That’s a far place to go, you ask him “Why?” and he’ll tell you he’s just paying it forward. This idea goes back to the Greeks, revived in our times by Benjamin Franklin: “I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you…meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him.” This’d sound better if it rhymed, but it gets the point across: do good for people because people did good for you. That’s what Danny did and, with the founding of Selfless Tee, he has kept on doing it at Hub SoMa for a solid nine months strong.

He was the first in his family to go to college in the last three generations. Playing a Division 1 sport helped his case, but if we want to talk about help that was simultaneously impactful, we look to the people who helped him get there. He was Daly City-raised in a neighborhood where odds were against him getting the MBA in New Venture Development now under his belt. What got him through, he says, were the supportive individuals who helped “many of [his] dreams come to fruition.” Now, how do you pay this back? Not monetarily, especially since these individuals demonstrated genuine selflessness in their help (not to mention how many checks this’d amount to).

Instead, Danny took a more altruistic route: “I had absolutely no clue how I would be able to repay them for how they impacted my life. I naturally became interested in business, making money because I never had any. I also had this deep and sincere obligation to help others as I had been helped.  The two passions collided toward the end of school. I was done with summer workouts for football and created a summer for myself that purely reflected my characteristics of something I learned afterwards had a name, a ‘social entrepreneur.’” The result was the “Buzzkill” Project and, consequently, the birth of Selfless Tee.

Josh is the second half of the business. He’s a part-time bartender that makes drinks on the side so he can pursue his true passion: applying electronic gaming strategies to real world markets to creatively help others. Josh grew up in Upper State New York, a region of the US that boasts a lot of four things: maple trees, glacier lakes, corn and cows. He grew up in a household where there was no going out past six, no girls or TV in the bedroom, and no high risk sports that end in the hospital. Josh found diversion in computers—strategy games in particular—and picked up the skills that are now the creative force behind many of Selfless Tee’s business strategies. Problem-solving, attention to detail, and methodical strategizing were things he picked up through osmosis as he relentlessly aspired, as many kids do, toward gaming masterdom. No wonder his approach to business is game-like, engaging customers and partners in an innovative way that “the philanthropic side of e-commerce is lacking,” Danny notes.

Their business is rock star apparel, tees in particular, though not tees for rock stars but by rock stars of the graphic design world. This is how they work: Danny and Josh match one world-class designer with one non-profit org to create cause-inspired t-shirts that raise money and awareness. Causes range from free bicycles for the poverty-stricken to alleviating homelessness to fighting world hunger to opening HIV/AIDS clinics abroad.

They’re matchmakers with a socially-conscious slant, providing these lucky non-profits with all the money and resources needed to make these fundraising t-shirt campaigns possible. For two weeks they do crowd-funding like mad, getting the word out to these non-profits’ networks and supporters to buy shirts, support the cause and tell a friend. A fortnight later, it’s money in the bank for the particular cause of choice.

You talk to these guys and you think: “What does my shirt say?” I’m wearing a purple button-up with sleeves rolled up that I once wore to a “Dead Celebrities” party dressed as Bruce Lee. It’s the sort of shirt that says “I do business, but look at my sleeves!—I’m a kick back kinda guy!”

Selfless Tee shirts say more. Selfless Tee shirts tell stories, like the one they made for Shining Hope for Communities that shows a young African girl becoming a strong, community-oriented woman thanks to the educational systems Shining Hope supports in the Kibera slums in Nairobi. “That’s the point,” Josh says, “That the designs aren’t just meant to look just pretty, which they do. They tell a story, something you can wear and then reflect on with others. ‘Oh, guess what, I know there’s a story behind it; there’s a meaning to the apparel I’m wearing.’” These shirts are fair-trade-friendly, made with 80% organic cotton and 20% recycled polyester, and they’re Threads-for-Thought comfy to boot.

“T-shirts have become the universal symbol of how the individual expresses themselves,” says Danny. Selfless Tee provides apparel that captures thoughts and ideas beyond the individual, launching them into that talk-worthy, higher-order sense of global community. This is where Selfless Tee stands today: an altruistic for-profit whose means of operations give its leaders the opportunity to make their younger selves proud. Their new website launched Monday, September 5th. Check it out at www.selflesstee.com, and let them know what you think.

And, for the record: “You can say we have a man crush on Tim Nichols.” He’s got the best looking shirts at the Hub they claim and is one of the best things about working here. “I like being around Tim Nichols,” Josh smirks, “So, the time that I can spend between projects with, for or around Tim Nichols is something I can enjoy.” No reservations here.

Cheers!

Jasen, Your Hub Stories Writer

———
Jasen Talise is an intern writer for the Hub Bay Area. He is a fourth year studying Rhetoric and Theater at the University of California, Berkeley. His interests range from existentialist philosophy, competitive hip hop dance, to the culinary arts. This past year, he was a contributing writer for Issues: The Berkeley Medical Journal.

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One response to “Hub Stories: Playing Matchmaker with a Socially-Conscious Slant

  1. Pingback: Hub Berkeley Weekly Roll Up: Speaking of Teamwork | Hub Bay Area

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