T-Shirts Doing Good: Tees at Risk

So I was a little skeptical when I read that Tees at Risk is a for-profit organization, and when I voiced my concerns via twitter I was contacted by one of the creators.

Apparently Tees at Risk is  a new type of non-profit that stradles the line of being a for-profit (below is the email in its entirety explaining how that works).

These are cool for two  reasons:

  1. Tees at Risk markets t-shirts featuring innovative and thought-provoking designs by current and former teens at risk. Their primary goal is to give current and former at-risk youth a positive outlet for their creativity, and to distribute as much money as possible to selected charities that focus on helping troubled or disadvantaged youth.
  2. Each shirt has a small QR code as part of the design. Anyone with a data-enabled smartphone can take a picture of the QR symbol on your shirt, and instantly access the captivating "Story" behind your cool Tees at Risk design.

Ps. I didn't realize that when I started T-Shirt Time Tuesdays they would be such a hit. I'm set up til June. That's legit.

Thanks for your interest in us!
We started Tees at Risk as a "B Corp" and we have just been notified by B Labs (
www.bcorporation.com) that we have passed their certification test and we will be a Certified B Corp soon. A B Corp is a new type of company- a "hybrid" between a non-profit and a for-profit- it's technically for-profit because it's not registered with the IRS as a non-profit, but it provides one or more types of social benefit as part of its corporate charter.
(If you're not familiar with B Corps I can provide you with even more info on them but it's a really interesting topic, very important for the new social/entrepreneurial company wave we're seeing.)
We didn't need to be a 501c3 non-profit because we don't take donations - we actually give donations. Our whole business is to make a sell t-shirts, not to actually provide services directly to youth- so it's not necessary or relevant for us to apply to the IRS to be a non-profit. The B Corp system was created for companies just like ours. (In other words, shareholders of a "normal" for profit company like the GAP could actually sue the company and its managers if the company gives away as much as we do to charity- by being a B Corp we have put in our charter, and our current and future shareholders have agreed, that part of our mission is to give significant portions of income/sales to designated charities.)
In terms of the amount, we don't disclose this publicly for a few reasons. It's part of our commitment to the nonprofits we designate as beneficiaries that we won't disclose how much of the shirt's sale price we give to the nonprofit. But suffice it to say that in our B Corp certification test, in the "charitable giving" section, the highest category was ">50% of profits or >5% of sales" and we are well above that %. Our goal is simply to drive as much money as possible to our chosen beneficiary charities after covering our costs, and we are committed to giving those charities a portion of each sale - not something vague like "proceeds go to..." or a "a portion of profits go to..." - they get a check for every shirt we sell, from the first shirt.
 One final thing about our relationship with charities (such s the National Runaway Switchboard)- just to be clear, we have no "business" relationship with them; meaning- when we pick a charity to be the beneficiary of a shirt, we ask for nothing in return. If we get art from a teen who is affiliated with or serviced by a certain program (e.g. the Zula Center) then we are inclined to have the proceeds go to that organization. But if we get "free agent" artwork- art submitted by a teen, without designating which organization they would like to benefit- then we are free to pick one. That's what we did with NRS- we got a piece of art that we loved (the "Bolt") - and called the NRS and asked them if they'd like to have the honor of being the beneficiary. In those situations we simply pick a non-profit that we feel does good work and matches the values of the types of organizations we'd like to support and the story behind the shirt.
Sorry so long- but it's a unique model and deserves explanation.
If you have any other questions please let me know!
And please follow us to stay up to date- we are just starting out but already getting some very interesting traction.



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