1.) During your youth, you had the unique opportunity to travel the globe. How has that experience shaped you, your brothers and Apolis Activism?
My brothers and I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. Our parents knew we would never appreciate where we lived if we weren't exposed to different cultures and languages. From an early age we followed our parents' heart for non-profit efforts across the globe. Through those shared experiences my brothers and I have come to realize that our passions, strengths, and weaknesses are surprisingly compatible, leading us to work together. Yet the path of business we are on today is highly unexpected as there is no family experience in garment making. In hindsight we could have chosen to sell boats together as long as we were engaged in a business that was integrating the product with a purpose. Our vehicle for business simply needed to be connected to a lesson that pages of passport stamps taught us that despite the different languages, food, and plug outlets, is the same desire to laugh, learn, and provide for your family. Before we knew it, my younger brother and I were following our older brother's lead into fashion to create a brand that joins the hands that make a product with the hands that wear the product. And we anchored this concept in the brand name Apolis, which means a global citizen. Representing our belief that humanity, not flags and borders, but humanity is the common thread that unites us.
2.) What drew you to Invisible Children for creating the Philanthropist briefcase? Why is their approach more suitable to the ethos of Apolis Activism than charity?
After making two visits to Uganda with Invisible Children we are convinced that they are on the forefront of sustainable development. Invisible Children's previous assistant country director, Adam Finck, put it well, "We have been able to break stereotypes in the non-profit world by listening to the real issues at hand." Their intelligent approach lead us to source a 17.5 ounce Ugandan canvas through their cotton initiative and create the Philanthropist Briefcase. This partnership has created an opportunity for Invisible Children's cotton initiative by becoming an example of progress for the development of Ugandaâ€™s cotton manufacturing industry. This project is a great example of our desire to empower people through opportunity instead of charity in ways that go beyond business as usual. We pursue a sustainable model of creating opportunity through jobs instead of offering charity through donations in ways that empower people throughout the supply chain. This approach is the key foundation of any partnership we choose.
3.) Have you been able to witness first hand the social benefits for Uganda with the manufacturing of the Filson + Apolis Philanthropist Briefcase?
We are in the early stages of this project with the intention of creating substantial change. We are confident that the foundation we are laying will play a pivotal role in reigniting an industry that once thrived before the civil war in Uganda. Uganda is known for having some of the most fertile agriculture in Africa, and to be involved with this historical effort has been a privilege.
Our development partners are a direct extension of our brand. If they fail to provide credible channels through which people can be truly empowered, our brand suffers in the eyes of our consumer. So in order to ensure authentic and effective results, we need to be deeply involved with our partners every step of the way, allowing us to be equally responsible for any successes or failures. This dynamic has created a unique partnership with Invisible Children's Vice President of International Development, Ben Thomson. Ben has become an important voice on our advisory board and does a great job of summarizing our collective philosophy, "Philanthropy is at an exciting cross roads because people are beginning to understand that it can be more a part of our daily lives and not just an afterthought. Donating a percentage to the poor is great, but giving the poor access to opportunity is even better. Apolis is on the forefront of an era of new philanthropy by integrating sustainable development into their supply chain and bringing a whole new meaning to corporate social responsibility. The line between development and business is becoming blurry and consumers are beginning to see their role as they demand to know how, who and where their products are made."
4.) What has been the greatest success of Apolis Activism thus far?
That we can continue to love what we do on every front-- the partners, the people, the business, everything. I think that's rare in life, that you can work hard and do something meaningful and make a living at it and just love every single step along the way. But in business terms and in more traditional terms we have not really done anything yet. We want to see this concept be the norm, not the exception. And we think we can be a catalyst for that future. We are doing it in a certain niche within fashion. At some point, someone is going to step forward and do it in technology or the service sector or somewhere else. So I think our greatest success to date is enjoying a job that is gradually connecting developing economies to the marketplace with their product and story.
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