The most fun part about starting your own company is that there are no rules. No one to tell you what to do, no one to tell you no or that you can’t do something. It’s equal part awesome and terrifying. If you want to do something, as a small business owner, often you just do it and if you don’t know how to do it, you just figure it out. Sometimes it’s a great idea and often times it's a horrible idea, but you have the complete control to explore and pursue ideas to the end.
Most of our new ideas come from us exclaiming “why don’t we do this…..?!” and then often times if it's not ridiculed by the team, we do it.
So last year when we read an article in the Calgary Herald about how the Calgary Drop-In Centre was in dire need of gloves, mitts, toques, scarfs, warm socks we thought to ourselves “How can we use Local Laundry as a tool for next winter to help organizations like the Calgary Drop-In Centre?”.
We thought, well why we don’t make socks, scarfs or gloves but we do make toques! So what if we could donate not just money for toques, but toques themselves and engage our community members to partake and donate toques as well, and we thought “Why not?” So we decided to come out with the Giving Toque, a 100% Crafted in Canada toque, that for each toque we sold, we would donate one to a homeless organization, not just in Calgary but in other major cities across Canada.
Once we came up with the idea, we did what we do best when we get an idea. We don’t shut up about it. We told everyone! Everyday! Social Media, our wives, the local news, our retail partners, our pets and whoever else will listen or at least feign interest until we’ve run out of breath. I’m sure there must be 100s of people that were so sick of hearing about the Giving Toque from us. However, we were determined to not only get the word out there about our toques but the donation side of them too and the need that these amazing organizations have come every winter for winter items like toques and socks and gloves and scarfs.
The. Response. Was. Amazing.
Everyone was so excited to take part and shout out our story as well. From bloggers to soccer moms to 90-year old grandparents. Everywhere we went we got support, from our amazing retail partners to friends, family, and other organizations. People wanted to take part and see how they can help. We even got some corporate sponsorship to help our cause. Our friend from Ottawa, Suzy Kendrick, convinced her organization OPIN, to sponsor us in a post with the Ottawa Business Journal which has a reach of over 20,000 people!
With the Christmas season just after we announced the launch of the toques, they quickly became the centre of family Yankee Swaps or Secret Santa gifts because;
a) toques are always in need by not just people without a home in the winter time but EVERYONE WITH A HEAD
b) they are easy to get for people because they have a One Size Fits All aspect to them (unless you have a pumpkin for a head like me) but most importantly
c) when people gave our toques as a gift, they were actually gifting TWO toques. One to their giftee and one to a person in need that they may never meet or even see.
So with everyone’s help, we were able to sell over 550 toques! That is crazy, to sell 550 of anything is amazing. It went to show the power of having a strong and connected community that can buy into a crazy idea that two idiots come up with and see a direct impact in that community. We set out to order 550 toques to donate. We wanted to make sure that people did not think that this was part of a marketing scheme to “give away” 550 toques with Local Laundry branding on them to get free advertising or that we were just giving away all our defective toques. So we went with the warmest, thickest and most insulated toque that we could find that was within our donation budget. We left them completely unbranded. We didn’t want those in need of a toque to know that Local Laundry was buying them a toque but rather we just wanted those in need to get a toque! End of story!
Since we received so much support from around the country for this campaign, we wanted to spread the donation out to have an impact in other communities as well. We asked our friends in Ottawa what organization would need them the most in the Community of Ottawa and they offered Youth Services Bureau as a possibility. Founded in 1960, the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa (YSB) is one of the largest and most comprehensive non‑profit agencies serving youth in the Ottawa community. More than 350 caring professionals work from 20 locations across the city to deliver a vast range of programs and services that support at‑risk youth and their families. We were able to ship 200 toques to YSB to give out to the at-risk youth who utilize their services in the winter.
We did the same for Toronto and people suggested the Red Door Family Shelter.Since 1982, the Red Door has provided services for families and individuals who need safe and supportive emergency shelter. In the early 80's there was only one other shelter operating in Toronto. Responding to the growing need for shelter space for homeless families, the Red Door was opened in the basement of the Woodgreen United Church by a group of volunteers.They have now grown to be one of the largest family shelters in the city, providing shelter and support to over 500 families every year. To the Red Door Family Shelter, we were able to ship 150 toques.
Finally, we went back to where this whole crazy idea started and where our very first donation ever was back in 2015, The Calgary Drop-In Centre. The Drop-In Centre has been one of our very organizations to work with and support since Local Laundry was started. From our first donation of $100 to their Computers for Low-Income Calgarians (CLIC) to our annual tradition of donating our 100s of samples pieces and test clothing, the Drop-In Centre has been a supportive partner in most of our crazy ideas. We were able to donate 200 toques along with a batch of clothing from t-shirts, to hoodies and crewneck sweaters.
All in all, it was a terrifically fun campaign and one that we were shocked at the response but glad of the impact we were able to spark from the community. We can’t wait to include this as part of our annual campaign to continue to donate in need items to organizations that help the most vulnerable in our society. One thing that this campaign has taught us was that if you think you have an idea that could have a positive impact on someone’s life that you should pursue that idea and see it through until the impact has been made. There shouldn’t be anything, internal or external, stopping you from doing so, which is my favourite part of starting my own company; we have the ability to pursue crazy ideas like these and see where they go.
XO The Local Laundry team!