UMANO Phone Interview: “Rock a Pocket. Empower a Kid.”

By: Venita Aspen

How did you come up with the idea?
We’re a brother duo, and we knew our social mission from the jump. Our parents were both teachers and it was a given that we would focus on education. The concept came from the desire to want to do something. We believe that one does not have to choose between doing well and doing good. We don’t have a background in fashion but were inspired by game changing moments while learning about social entrepreneurship.

How do you choose each Pocket Artist?
Virtue cycles start and end with a Giving Trip and we collect drawings. We come back with 800 or more drawings, and start looking at each and every one. We find the drawings that will do the best as PocketArt and then go to work, but one rule protects the drawing- we don’t add or take anything away from the drawing.

Since the designs are created by children will you be coming up with a children’s line anytime soon?
Yes, currently about 95% percent of the business is women’s merchandise and we have a small men’s line but are very interested in coming out with a kid’s line.

Which schools, how do you decide that?
We do a village profile: We work closely with Giving Partners both in the U.S. and overseas. Right now we have two schools in the US- one in Athens, GA and one in Harlem, NY- and three in Mexico, Peru and Haiti.

How has this inspired you since you started?
Hands down, the best part of the job is the Giving Trip. It is very difficult as it is self funded. We provide the backpacks, the supplies; we schedule the trips, transportation and flights if necessary. As fun as it is to do everything else, the Giving Trip is still always the best part. You come back tired and exhausted but your spirit is uplifted.

Are they only available to purchase online?
umano has been available on since last year. We just launched in nine Bloomingdale’s stores this August – six in New York and three in Los Angeles. umano is also available in specialty stores nationwide.

2011 is when we started as a passion project. We had full-time corporate jobs and would do this on weekends. Eventually business activity increased and we started calling in sick to work. Soon after that we made the leap to do it full-time and we’ve been doing it for two years.

Being self-funded presents a unique set of challenges, especially in fashion. It’s not like the tech world where there is a huge surplus of money to be invested in projects. But we do what we can and as much as we can. Even with the obstacles, we believe in this mission and every day we work to spread the “Rock a Pocket” movement.

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