This Thursday for our weekly chat, we’ve reached out to one of our startup heroes, Sevenly.
Launched in June 2011, Sevenly has made serious waves that are changing the way we think about conscientious purchasing. Based on the simple idea that people matter, Sevenly pioneered the 7-7 Movement. Each week, for seven days, Sevenly partners with a new cause and sells masterfully designed t-shirts. Then, for each shirt they sell during that week, Sevenly donates $7 to help the people the charity serves.
We are in love with Sevenly because they are clearly on to something amazing with their for-profit, high-powered donation model. This is killer social impact entrepreneurship in action! How do they do it? Why do they do it? Who are these awesome people???
To answer these questins and, yes, to indulge in our fandom just a little, I called up Ryan Wood. Ryan is Sevenly’s Relationship manager and I peppered him with really tough fun questions. Read our whole interview below!
RW: Hello this is Ryan.
BE: Hey this is Becky, how’re you?
RW: I’m good, I’m good. Just hanging in the office.
BE: Is this still a good time for you to sit down and chat? I have just a few questions, so hopefully it won’t be too much of your time.
RW: Yeah, this is great.
BE: Alright, I’ll fire away. First up, I think the most enticing question I have percolating is…why the number seven? It features in your causes, the week-long sales, and the dollar amount you give per shirt sold. Is that just your lucky number?
RW: Well, the idea behind it was that we wanted a brand that really did something, that had great brand parallel and that also spoke to something significant. The founders, Dale and Aaron, are both Christians, so for them, the concept of heaven fit perfectly with the number seven. Perfect: you get a weeklong campaign structure and a straightforward business model, seven causes. It just made sense.
BE: I like that heavenly heart to Sevenly – letting it express the founders faith, but subtly. I’m interested in those seven major causes (Slavery, Water, Hunger, Aid, Poverty, Medical, Disaster). How did you pick those seven? What about others, like education?
RW: Right, so. What we did was take our time before we launched and got out into the field doing research. Our guiding question was really, looking at the world today, what are the seven most prominent causes or challenges that need the most attention today? Now, of course, everyone will have their own opinion, but our data, research, and interviews all pointed us toward those seven we feature on our site. Especially important are medical aid and sex trafficking prevention, which we learned after sending people all over the world.
Most poignant for me were the stories we found on the ground in Africa, though all the stories we found spoke to global issues. We came back with video footage that was mind-blowing. Heart-wrenching. Just, seriously life-changing firsthand information and this is what shaped us from the start. It became clear to us that as a company, Sevenly is not called to the causes. We are called to all those amazing people, who are called to the causes.
This really clarified our mission. We’ve gotten a sense of the challenges out there, we know there are really great charities out there, how does Sevenly get the word out and connect these causes with resources? And that was what we based our model on, focusing on connecting people from there.
BE: Wow. So, with that big idea infrastructure, how do you work day to day? How do you pick each week’s cause and set weekly fundraising goals?
RW: There are so many causes out there that need a little spotlight and could use some more support, so partnering with amazing causes comes pretty naturally. As for fundraising goals, that’s based more of a projection model. Basically, our weekly goals are determined by how well we think the campaign is going to do after the first day. We through the featured shirts up on our website, they go on sale on Monday and are up for a week. We have some baselines, and we’ll start out with a first-order goal. If that’s met, maybe we’ll bump the goal up to another level, say $12,500. Then maybe we’ll bump it up to $16,000. So it’s dynamic, usually meeting the first goal and then, as we gauge momentum, we flow from there.
BE: That’s awesome, so as interest rises, so do your goals. Makes sense.
BE: Hey, congratulations! June marks Sevenly’s first anniversary. How does it feel to have a full year under your belt?
RW: Yeah! June 13 was our birthday, it was pretty rad.
BE: How’s that year been?
RW: Ohhh, it’s unreal, but in the best way. Looking back, it’s been crazy. And looking forward, man. Like, I’m getting married a month and a half, another is getting married two weeks after me. Then, there’s another wedding a week after that. Right, so all these incredibly, life-changing things are happening to us all personally.
At the same time, Sevenly has been expanding and growing this past year at an exponential rate. And, on top of that, we have been so close to the impact we’ve been able to make. To donate over $500,000 in your first year – it’s indescribable how amazing this has been.
BE: That’s really interesting. With a staff all under the age of 30, what’s it like in the office? Do you guys throw Frisbees around as you design, analyze, wedding-plan?
RW: Haha, yeah. So our office is kind of quirky, just like our brand. We are very fun people and we’re all pals. Sometimes, we’ll all just randomly get up and go to lunch together. Or we’ll call an office Starbucks break. For inside the office, we have a little nerf football we pass around. We have a little mini basketball hoop stuck on our conference room door for basketball meetings. All this to make sure we have fun, we look forward to coming to the office and doing all this meaningful work to the best of ability.
You know, I personally skateboard in the office, which may not always go over well. But everyone has their thing to keep it uplifting, upbeat. But this isn’t just shenanigans. When there is work that needs focus or it’s crunch time, we all sit down, shut up, and just work seriously. We just know that output is totally compatible with not taking ourselves too seriously.
BE: What was one of the toughest lessons Sevenly had to work through in year one?
RW: Hm. Countless lessons. I think one of the most pressing things we had to not only figure out but master was how best to communicate and work with charities. I just found for me personally, a lot of charities can be challenging to work with. You only get by in a charity by really, really believing in what you’re doing. Which is obviously great.
The trick is trying new things, new unprecedented things like we were. Many of our charities would look at us and be like, “Sevenly, you’re a startup. Let us tell you how to do things.” Our backgrounds in marketing, strategy, social media, online platforms – it’s unparalleled, we reach millions. And it could be hard to make these different visions, ours and the charities’, always align. We just had to figure out how to stay comfortable with what we knew and envisioned while also working with charities in a way that constantly kept them confident in what we do, who we are, and how our model could help.
BE: So, as you enter year 2, you’re a startup, you’ve totally exploded this new way of giving and, like you said, you’ve seen exponential growth. When did Sevenly start on that successful path? When did you guys see your first break?
RW: I think it was just a labor of love. You know, our people are smart and dedicated. We got really good at cracking those Facebook algorithms, those Pinterest algorithms, the best posting times, which words, what imagery. We’ve become masters, and as we keep utilizing and developing that strategy, we’ve learned two major things. First, we generate a tidal wave of interest – but then rather than just letting that energy diffuse after the tidal wave, we have a very effective platform that gets the word out and gets people to stick around. As a result of that momentum, we have that following and a success we can pay forward to charities that need that kind of energy.
BE: Nice. It also seems pretty clear that you are speaking to people who really identify with the community you’ve created and with the idea of helping people. Who’s that average Sevenly customer? What are they like?
RW: There is a lot of energy around cause-based purchases these days. And, it’s interesting. 80% of Sevenly’s customers are women, 20% are men. Our age demographic isn’t as clear but, we’re mostly serving people who are 20 to 40 years old. So, recent surveys show approximately 82% would rather purchase something associated with a cause than another product without a cause.
That makes the question, how do make a platform where people can interact with causes they care about as they purchase products they’re interested in? It also really matters that there is something new and challenging for customers to find. One thing we do is provided that fast pace, that element of newness. We love TOMS shoes, but what do they sell this week? Shoes. Last week? Shoes. Next week? You know, it’s constant. Here, we put you in touch with causes across the spectrum, one each week. No redundancy here, a new product and new idea a new design each week.
BE: Makes sense. I want to go back to that quirky attitude Sevenly is famous for. I have 3 silly questions. Ready?
RW: Oh no! Hahaha, Okay, okay.
BE: Alright, Silly Question 1: What is Sevenly’s spirit animal?
RW: Uhhhhh….I don’t know. Can we have a mix of spirit animals? You know, like a liger? I think we’re a mix of awesome animals, strong to silly. Like, I’ll take a lion and a panda (for Brian, our always-laughing cutomer service dude), and maybe…I don’t know. I’ll leave it open for people to insert their favorite, awesome animal into our mix.
BE: Sweet. Along similar lines…Silly Question 2 is, what celebrity, living or dead, would you like to have as the face of Sevenly?
RW: Hmmm. I’m going to have to go with George Clooney, he’s really the whole package. First off, he really stands for what he believes in. Right, he went to jail a couple months back for picketing outside the Sudanese Embassy. So his heart for causes and his conviction for helping out is inspiring. Not to mention, he’s a good looking guy. He’d probably look great in one of our shirts…
BE: Las Silly Question: Is there a particular meme that really speaks to Sevenly?
RW: Hahaha. That’s for Brian, again. He’s live-chatting customers all day and sends so many memes through the office to the rest of us. With him in mind, I’d have to say ALL the memes speak to Sevenly. Like, literally.
BE: Alright, that about wraps it up for us. Just one last question: Like you, we’re interested in funneling interest and support toward important causes while connecting customers with amazing design. Do you have any parting wisdom for a young startup like Designed Good? Who are your top startup super-heroes?
RW: Always keep looking for inspiration and support. Gotta know and love TOMS shoes. Look into Project 7. Krochet Kids International. That’s three? Hm. Well, one more. I also love 31 Bits. Look into those awesome models. Always look out to find ways to connect with people who are out there already, figuring out challenges like those you face. What’s really cool about companies like us is that we really care about our impact. We’re really open to being friends and celebrating each others’ success. Tap into that for sure. And, welcome! Now, go find those folks online with huge followings.
Oh, the one thing I would share with you is to keep an eye out for Sevenly’s new launch. We have something big coming in about a week and half. Get excited!
BE: Oo, intriguing. Will do! And, thanks for talking with me!
RW: Thanks for calling. Good luck and bye for now!
To see this in action, check out Sevenly’s work this week. Since Monday, Sevenly has been showcasing this awesome shirt to aid Feed My Starving Children. In just over 3 days, Sevenly has raised $11,725 (and the amount is growing!). Dear interested readers, you still have four days to get your own and help aid hunger relief!
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