“Generally people want to do good.” With Penny Bauder & Emily Waddell Manning

Generally people want to do good, so educating consumers on how to match spending money with their values is a great way to encourage people to make a positive impact. If people start thinking about the story behind their goods this could revolutionize the way people buy, increase sales for small businesses, and encourage more […]

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Generally people want to do good, so educating consumers on how to match spending money with their values is a great way to encourage people to make a positive impact. If people start thinking about the story behind their goods this could revolutionize the way people buy, increase sales for small businesses, and encourage more companies to incorporate socially responsible practices into their business models.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Waddell Manning

Emily Waddell Manning is the 24 year old founder of the online social impact boutique Give a Damn Goods. During her time studying social entrepreneurship at Belmont University, Emily launched The Honest Consumer, an ethical fashion and sustainable lifestyle blog, to encourage followers to harness their purchase power and make a positive impact through conscious consumerism. After growing the blog, she launched Give a Damn Goods to create eco-conscious statement t-shirts that encourage people to care about the greater good, practice self love, and start mindful conversation. Today, Emily lives in Seattle and has expanded Give a Damn Goods to include products from other socially responsible small businesses encouraging shoppers to purchase products that make a difference.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Igrew up in Richardson, Texas, a suburb just outside of Dallas. I have always been a creative entrepreneur. At the young age of seven, I crafted and sold bracelets to my family members to save up money to buy my first American Girl Doll. My bracelet business was followed by my funky flip flop business where I would decorate flip flops with crazy fringe, bedazzled jewels, and just about any other gaudy décor you can think of that screams early 2000s. The flip flops were truly one of a kind. My friends and I still laugh about it. In high school I fulfilled my love for creativity and entrepreneurship by teaching piano lessons to neighborhood elementary school kids.

I ended up at Belmont University and started out as a music business major because I didn’t really know what to study. I liked music and business always seemed to be my thing, but little did I know this was the completely wrong fit for me. After feeling totally lost my first semester of college, some of my dorm-mates suggested I try the Intro to Social Entrepreneurship class. I learned about businesses giving back and using socially responsible practices, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be part of the force for good using business to change the world.

You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of modern-day slavery behind our consumer habits. While I was in college I learned about human trafficking along with the harsh realities the fast fashion industry impacting developing countries and the environment. This inspired me to look more into consumer habits and start asking questions about where my products where coming from, if the people who made them earn a livable wage, and what kind of impact did it have on the environment?

Give a Damn Goods encourages consumers to recognize their purchase power. My goal is to get shoppers excited about what they’re buying by sharing the story behind the product and connecting consumers to their goods. When I first started Give a Damn Goods, I was just selling my sustainable t-shirts at craft fairs. Craft fair shoppers would see my bold Give a Damn shirt and stop to ask, “Give a Damn about what?” This created an opportunity to share that the t-shirts were ethically made in partnership with a Haitian social enterprise and crafted with organic and recycled materials. Shoppers always love the story behind the tees and are able to purchase with confidence knowing their t-shirt was made with respect for the garment workers and the planet.

Generally people want to do good, so educating consumers on how to match spending money with their values is a great way to encourage people to make a positive impact. If people start thinking about the story behind their goods this could revolutionize the way people buy, increase sales for small businesses, and encourage more companies to incorporate socially responsible practices into their business models.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

As a sophomore in college I started working as an event volunteer for a local social enterprise, BRANDED Collective. BRANDED Collective is a jewelry company that provides job training and employment opportunities for survivors of human trafficking. I worked alongside the co-founder, Lauren, to sell jewelry at craft fairs and I loved every second of it. The opportunity to connect with customers and share BRANDED Collective’s mission was incredibly powerful. There is something special about witnessing the lightbulb moment shoppers have when they learn how their purchase could have a positive impact. Through these craft fairs I met more small business owners that used their business for good and more customers who truly cared.

Since I was studying social entrepreneurship, I noticed a lot of college aged kids were drawn to the big social enterprises such as Toms and Giving Keys, but didn’t know about the small ones. This led me to launch my blog, The Honest Consumer. I figured if I highlighted small businesses doing good my fellow classmates would be interested in supporting the brands too. The blog grew and expanded quite quickly.

Through it all I knew I eventually wanted to start my own retail based social impact business, but as a college student I didn’t want to take on too much. Less than a year after I graduated, I launched Give a Damn Goods with just a small amount of inventory featuring my Give a Damn t-shirt design. Eventually I was able to expand the inventory of my online shop to include accessories from other socially responsible brands. Now I’m able to support BRANDED Collective by selling their jewelry through Give a Damn Goods. It’s really cool to see my journey come full circle.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

My “Aha Moment” was a bunch of pieces of my life coming together at once. I felt like the universe was telling me to go for it. As I mentioned before I’d always loved working craft fairs, connecting with customers, and sharing stories of social good. After college I was doing my own thing monetizing The Honest Consumer and working on some freelance projects, but I felt I needed another revenue stream. One day I came across, Allmade, my blank t-shirt supplier who does incredible work in Haiti.

Before my last semester of college, I went on a study abroad to Haiti and witnessed the impact of social enterprises in a developing country. These businesses were providing steady employment opportunities, allowing individuals to lift themselves out of poverty, and encouraging community members to support their own families. I saw first-hand how the purchases we make in America could positively impact these businesses and lives of those in Haiti. When I came across the t-shirt supplier working in Haiti, I felt like it was meant to be. I’d always been a doodler and dabbled in graphic design with my freelance work, so I designed a few Give a Damn tees and it all started to come together. I hope one day I’m able to make it back to Haiti and actually visit the t-shirt factory.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

The first step I would encourage anyone to take is to network. When I launched The Honest Consumer as a sophomore college, I would connect with social enterprises and interview their founders for my blog. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. I was just a college student working on a passion project. By the time I graduated college my network was HUGE. The network I created became one of my greatest resources. Anytime I had a question or felt out of my comfort zone I knew plenty of other social entrepreneurs I could ask for help. It’s important to have a network filled with positive people who uplift you, business owners in different industries, and a community you can trust. Somedays it can be draining advocating for social change, so to have a network that can lift you up when you’re struggling really makes a difference.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

When I was registering my shop name with the state, I was originally planning to call it Honest Goods as a spin-off of my blog, but the name Give a Damn Goods came to me in my sleep one night. The next day I called to see if I could change the name. They said that I’d called the last possible day I could have changed it. It was like Give a Damn Goods was meant to be. A few days later I received a call from the state and they said “ma’am are you sure you want to proceed with the name Give a Damn Goods? It could get denied for profanity.” I laughed and said I wanted to proceed even though Give a Damn Goods could get shot down. I knew I wanted to proceed because the entire mission of my shop was to encourage consumer to give a damn about what they were buying and the impact our consumer habits have.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

When I launched my first round of t-shirts, I was doing local craft fairs in the Seattle area. A lot of craft fairs are outside and the weather can get pretty rainy. After a long day with not many sales I was ready to go home, so I started taking down my booth. I set an open container of tees on the curb under my tent and went to pull my car around to load up. I forgot about the tees and started taking the tent down to put it in the car. The water that had been collecting in the top of the tent drenched the open box of tees I’d left on the curb. It was a mess. I quickly learned just how valuable inventory was and to load it in the car first.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I’ve had some incredible mentors throughout my entrepreneurial journey. My social entrepreneurship professor Dr. Bernard Turner really impacted my journey. I loved his classes because most of the time they involved going out in the community and learning from others. These hands-on learning experiences with other social entrepreneurs helped me discover my passion. When I launched The Honest Consumer, Dr. Turner believed in what I was doing and pushed me to further my knowledge by interning at the Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance, attending a few social impact conferences, and studying abroad in Haiti.

Lauren Carpenter is a co-founders of BRANDED Collective. I volunteered with this incredible lady for three years. We spent a lot of time working craft fairs together. Lauren is a wonderful friend and mentor. She taught me pretty much everything I know about connecting with customers, selling at craft fairs, and successfully sharing the mission of a brand. I’m really glad I’m able to continue supporting BRANDED Collective by selling their beautiful jewelry at Give a Damn.

Nicole Booz is the founder of Gen20, a successful blog providing resources for young adults. Running a blog is a lot more work than people think and it’s great to have a friend like Nicole who understands. Nicole has been really helpful in providing feedback and ideas to help The Honest Consumer grow. She always has great advice, gives her honest opinions, and is my go-to when thinking of a new idea.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The owner of a sustainable company e-mailed me to inform me that I had positively impacted one of his employees. He explained that during a job interview the applicant said she was inspired to apply for a job with his company because she followed The Honest Consumer. The Honest Consumer had inspired her to seek out companies that had sustainable practices in their core values. He kindly thanked me for using my blog to highlight socially responsible brands and sending a valuable applicant his way. This was a really cool experience to hear that I helped inspire somebody’s career path and passion for sustainability.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. When brands choose to outsource abroad, they should be held accountable for the conditions of the factories, treatment of workers, and everything that goes on though out their supply chain. Back in 2013 the Rana Plaza factory collapsed killing over 1,100 garment workers. Many popular “American” brands were using this factory to make their clothes, yet they were not held accountable for the unsafe building conditions, lives lost, or damage. The lack of transparency causes abuse throughout the supply chain. If big name brands would make sure the factories they’re partnering with are actually paying livable wages, treating employees with respect, and help create a safe working environment, I think this would make a big difference for factory workers in developing countries. As a changemaker it is important to remember the people who make our clothes are just as human as the people who wear them.
  2. Our society can help by being conscious of how we spend our money. Every time you make a purchase that money is going to support that company and their values. Consider researching a brand to make sure they have socially responsible practices before buying. Don’t hesitate to reach out to brands and ask questions about how an item was made, where it was made, etc. When customers show interest in the supply chain, I believe it helps hold brands accountable and lets them know that their customers care. Fashion Revolution has some great templates for asking brands about their supply chain.
  3. Leaders and community members can work to recognize the difference between a minimum and livable wage. Just because garment factory workers receive a minimum wage does not mean this is an amount of money they can live off of. We have to consider living costs such as food, shelter, clothing, and necessary items. Some of these workers have families to raise. These people are human too and deserve a livable wage.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish somebody would have told me, you don’t have to know what you’re doing, you just have to start. When I first launched my blog and people started calling me an entrepreneur, I kind of felt like a fake because I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. Eventually I learned that entrepreneurship is trial and error. You learn as you go. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing and it’s okay to ask for help. I think if somebody would have said this to me early on it would have helped my entrepreneur self-confidence.
  2. Learning who to take advice from and when to listen to your gut is one of the hardest things you have to do. I’m lucky to have so many mentors and loved ones who want to be part of what I do, but at the end of the day I have to remember it’s my business. Last year when I was launching new t-shirts I designed my Star of the Shit Show tee. I always called myself a shit show in college. I love being imperfect and embracing this has helped me love myself. So, the idea behind the design was to encourage people to embrace the messiness of life. When I was showing the Shit Show design to some of my close family and friends, I had a few loved ones who voiced their opinions saying people wouldn’t want to wear that and it wouldn’t sell. Good thing I trusted my gut because the Star of the Shit Show t-shirt has been my best seller for the past year.
  3. It’s okay to ask for help. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur can be challenging. Just remember there is strength in learning when to step back and ask for help.
  4. Mentors are key. Whenever I have a new idea, I always have to run it by a mentor. I think mentors help keep you grounded. Running a business can be tough, but having a positive group of people who understand and are able to lift you up can be powerful.
  5. You can teach yourself SO much online. Ask your mentors for online class recommendations, watch YouTube videos, and just dive into learning as much as you can. I think the more aspects you understand about your business the better.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Do what you can with the resources you have. Making a positive impact looks different for everyone depending on where you are in life, but we can all do something small. If everyone in the world chose to focus on one small thing, these would add up to make a big difference.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would absolutely love to share a meal with Emma Watson. Obviously, I’m a fan of her acting, but the way she has used her celebrity platform to advocate for equal rights, sustainable fashion, and feminism is inspiring.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’d love for readers to follow along! Feel free to follow my blog The Honest Consumer on our websiteFacebookInstagram, or Twitter. You can also follow my e-commerce shop Give a Damn Goods on our websiteFacebook or Instagram page.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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