Thanks for tuning in for this great episode on a social enterprise out of Miami! Our guest is Andres Restrepo, one of the founders of PalmEraMia, which is a fashion design company for athletic wear. Through their product sales, they support clean water efforts in Colombia. We learn why they chose Colombia and how they became so convicted about clean water for those without access. Stay tuned until the end of the show because we have our first Spanish rapper as our closing song on this episode.
Thanks for tuning in for this great episode on a social enterprise out of Miami! This is Romy, and I am honored to be your host. Our guest is Andres Restrepo, one of the founders of PalmEraMia, which is a fashion design company for athletic wear. Through their product sales, they support clean water efforts in Colombia. We learn why they chose Colombia and how they became so convicted about clean water for those without access. We have our first Spanish rapper as our closing song on this episode.
I want to take a moment to thank our listeners. Our team has grown over here at the Bonfires of Social Enterprise, and it is really about you, as our listeners, continuing to tune in. Thank you, thank you, thank you. By the way, don’t be shy! Reach out to us! Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram which are all at bonfires podcast or you can jump to the website and email us or put a note in the mailbag. The website is www.bonfiresofsocialenterprise.com We respond quickly, and we love to talk to you!
So, back to our topic of business and social good. I think Natalie has something about water for us in our Fun Fuel……
I’m Natalie Hazen and I am bringing you this episodes’ Fun Fuel.
Many people have taken to the longstanding sport of surfing, riding amazing ocean waves. But did you know that you can surf the Great Lakes?
Now it is different than surfing in the ocean, mainly because nothing will eat you in the great lakes which to me is a huge bonus! According to Third Coast Surf Shops website,
Waves on the great lakes are caused by the transfer of energy from the wind blowing over the surface of the water. Whereas ocean waves are primarily created by offshore storms far from the beach, waves on the Lakes are produced by localized winds associated with various weather systems in and near the Great Lakes region. The great lakes have plenty of wind year-round to generate some huge waves. Waves on the great lakes have been documented at over 30 feet in height. Unfortunately, these conditions have been known to be brutal and have sunk many ships over the years. So while the Great Lakes can produce very large waves perfect for surfing, keep in mind you may find those perfect waves in the harsh cold of winter.
So bring a good wetsuit, board, and courage to tackle these Great Lakes waves!
That’s this episodes fun fuel, now let’s join in with Romy and her guest.
Surfing on the Great Lakes – love it. Thanks, Natalie!
Okay, let’s drop in on my conversation with Andres and learn more about PalmEraMia.
Romy: Okay. Well, welcome to the Bonfires Social Enterprise.
Andres: Thank you. I appreciate it. Happy to be here.
Romy: I know. We've been trying to connect for a little bit. I'm really glad to have you on the show as our guest today. Let's tell all of our listeners what Palm ... and am I saying it right? Palm Era Mia?
Andres: That is correct. Some-
Romy: Palm Era Mia.
Andres: ... people say-
Andres: ... yes. Some people say Palm Era M-I-A because it represents Miami.
Romy: Oh, Okay.
Andres: Yes. Yeah, so let me tell you a little bit about it. We first started the company back in August of 2015. It was started by three family members. It's two cousins and I. We started it up just because we had a passion for fashion. We wanted to just make sure we did something about it. We had a passion for doing something different. We said, "Hey, let's give it a shot." At the time we were all looking to do something that mattered. It became more of an idea that we said, "Hey, let's put it out there. Let's see what it looks like." It was more of my cousins that started on the fashion end. I'm more of a business-oriented person. When they presented me the idea of what exactly they wanted to do, I saw that it was something that was a potential opportunity to do something that was worth it.
We started off by creating some shirts and hats. We started off by getting some guidance from people that knew about the world of fashion already. We were fortunate enough to find some people that guided us along the path a little bit. Then we decided that we not only wanted to do something related to fashion, but we also wanted to do something that mattered, that took care of a problem in the world. We wanted to help out. We decided to start looking for something that mattered. We found that there was a great need for water around the world. We had some idea that there was some countries in Africa and certain things like you get to see on TV where there's places where there's drought, and there's people that suffer from water scarcity, but then we realized the problem was bigger than we thought.
There's close to a billion people around the world on an everyday basis that don't have access to clean water. We said that could be a great cause because we can live without food for a while. We can live without shelter for a bit, as well, but if you don't have water within a week your body starts having big issues. We decided to take care of that immediate need and see what we could do. Now what we do is that we take 10% of profits and we donate it to those who don't have access to clean water around the world.
Romy: Wow, gosh. When you brought up the social side of it, was your team in agreement with becoming basically a social enterprise?
Andres: Yes, so we actually, as I mentioned, were family members. We were all raised to always be aware of those who don't have as much as you do, even if what you have isn't much, to be able to help out a little bit. Just to give out a lending hand and we thought, "Hey, maybe at some point when the brand does well, we should think of helping other people out." But then someone brought up, "Hey, but why don't we start helping since the beginning? We just make it part of who the brand is and help people identify to it." When we thought about it more we said, "Hey, that would be a great idea because what that'll do is, that'll bring additional value. When people buy something from the brand, they'll wear it with pride." That's where that came about. Since we thought about it that way, it was a unanimous decision across the board that we just wanted for it to be a portion of profits.
Romy: How do you-
Andres: It was very cool.
Romy: Oh, I'm sorry. How do you find your customers, both new and repeating, react to that? Do you ever get any feedback from that?
Andres: Yeah, so we-
Romy: From social about you?
Andres: ... yeah, we actually get a lot of people come on the site, and they like the brand. But we've found that what we've done not only helps people out and it's self-satisfying, but at the same time, like I was telling you, it does add that additional value to the people who are looking for something that's worth it, because they feel like they're not just buying a piece of clothing, they're wearing something that represents something good. They feel that they can ... We've had people that tell us, "Hey, look. I like your shirts and I like shirts from somewhere else, but I really appreciate that you guys are doing something for the world, so I went ahead and got something from your site." You get people giving us feedback all the time. We tend to post videos on what we've done for the cause. People have great reactions to it. They're very excited about what we're going to do next.
Romy: Wow. While we're still on this social mission side of your organization having to deal with water, how did you go about selecting some of the organizations that you partner with for the water portion?
Andres: Right. So, I as a ... My career is as an accountant. My mind tends to be very logical, very within-the-box, as compared to my cousins, which are more on the creative side. We actually kind of make a pretty good team because we offer kind of both sides of the spectrum, my side being more logical and seeing it from what-fits-in-the-box kind of point of view. We decided to look for someone that could show that whatever was donated was actually being used for the cause itself, that it wasn't being used for something different because as many people see it when it comes to charity, unfortunately, there's people that mishandle whatever funds they receive. We wanted to make sure that it went to somewhere where these funds were actually being used properly.
At first, we started donating directly to Charity: Water, which is an organization based out of New York. They're very clear about where their funds go. They use it to directly build the wells for basically areas or ... what do you call it ... regions and little towns where they don't have access to clean water. We started donating directly to them, but as part of what we wanted to do, we wanted to get more directly involved. We didn't want to just donate the money. We wanted to be a part of what was going on, go to communities and directly make contact with these people so we can understand what needs they truly have.
At first, we donated to Charity: Water just because we didn't have the resources to be able to visit these communities. We did that for the first year and a half. Actually this past year, we transitioned from donating to Charity: Water to actually going to a community that needed access to water through an organization that we had met. This organization
... that this gentleman was raising funds for his organization through a 5K. We wanted to participate, so we went to the 5K to help him raise some funds for his cause. We had a direct conversation with him. He told us what he was doing. We thought it was a great idea because we are from Colombia in South America and so was he. He was directly trying to help out some communities in Colombia. We thought, "Hey, that's a territory that we actually see that needs a lot of help, so why don't we give this a shot?" We had a conversation with him to see if we could visit the community itself. He was actually looking for volunteers to go help out.
We transitioned from donating to Charity: Water to actually going to the community this past November. It was actually very representative because we were able to go during Thanksgiving. It was a great time, of in a way of giving thanks for all the people that had helped out throughout the year and purchased anything from the brand, to be able to bring all those funds we had gathered to be able to help out a community in need. It was actually really nice.
Romy: Wow. I love that organic and authentic part of this story that you're from Colombia, and you ended up reconnecting right back there. It's a nicer, more natural fit. I think sometimes we ... those of us in social enterprise and impact investing ... sometimes we can get trying too hard to do the right thing, and there is something in our own history, or our own backyard, or something nearer to us that is actually a better, easier fit. That's interesting.
Andres: Right. It was definitely very nice. We were [inaudible 00:11:51] being from Colombia, still having family members there, and still being very connected to the country. Even though we had heard there's areas in the northern part of Colombia that ... they're desert regions ... that we knew maybe didn't have as much access to water, but they've always been there all their life, but unfortunately the past few years they've had years of drought. There's actually areas where there's ... One of the areas that we visited, there was three years without rain. From the news and what they tell us in that area, there was a portion in that area where we visited, over that span of three years, around 15,000 children died. It's something that is a very serious problem, even in a country might have the resources to help, but they're just, unfortunately, they're not getting to the right area, so, yeah.
Romy: That statistic is unnerving. Yeah.
Andres: Yeah. It's tough news. We decided. We're like, "Hey, we have to try and do something. These are our people. We've got to try to do a little bit at least."
Romy: Oh, yeah. Well, that's powerful. That really anchors a "why" in your mission there. Boy, I could go deep-diving into that one, but let me make sure we talk about your great product line. You have both men's, women's, and accessories. Let's kind of jump over to what I call the bonfire or the heat engine that makes this all work, the business side of it. Let's talk about your product line.
Andres: So as we started on the brand, we slowly started making our name for ourselves. We've become known as the streetwear brand with a charitable mindset. We started off just with t-shirts and hats. Then we slowly started exploring other areas. We started coming out with some sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts, and we've gotten to the point where we have some great products. Now we have jackets. We have some hoodies, some bracelets. We've made accessories, fanny packs, shoulder bags. We have plenty of nice things. We've always focused on creating great quality. As we do that, we've also slowly started venturing into new materials. One of our great products right is, for example, a gentleman's jacket that's made out of neoprene, or other people know it as scuba material, which is what scuba divers use for whenever they're diving in colder temperatures.
Andres: Yeah, so the jacket is a great feel. It's very smooth. It's great for weather. It's a little bit of whether you're in an area like us down here in south Florida where we only get a little bit of winter, just on the occasional night that drops into the 60s, 70s, or also I was recently out in Colorado in an area where it was around 30 degrees. It felt great, as well, because what that material does is that it doesn't allow the outside temperature to affect, I guess, how you feel. It just kind of keeps that out. It's like an insulator, which is very good. It's also great for traveling because it doesn't wrinkle up.
Romy: Wow, nice. Nice. Yeah, so in the website right now. I'm going to give them the website a couple of times. It's palmeramia.com. Anyone who's interested in listening to the podcast right now can jump on and look what Andres is saying. Beautiful, beautiful clothing there.
Andres: Yeah. And then also, you can find us on all our social media websites. It's also PalmEraMia, which is P-A-L-M-E-R-A-M-I-A. We're constantly updating you on what we're doing, and what we have coming up new collection lines. We're trying to come out with a new collection every three months or so for every season. We have some exciting things coming up for this spring, a little more formal attire. And then also for the summer, we have something that's going to be really exciting. It's going to be the big collection for the year, so look out for that.
Romy: That's great. I'm sorry I took you off your track there with the website, but let's keep going. There's women's clothing, too?
Andres: Yes, so actually now in the summer, we came out with the first women's collection. We offered some great ... we're starting to venture deep into a more cut-and-sew world, which is more specific into what we wanted to do, diving deeper into different materials, as I was mentioning. We also have a ladies' jacket that's very fashionable. It's great for a casual night out or a nice dinner, as well. Everything is based around comfort and quality. I'm sure you'll be able to find something there. We have some hats for ladies, some joggers that are great for a nice workout. We have a lot of different things.
Romy: How did you begin studying price points?
Andres: We actually have a few brands that we've looked at as we've started growing, just because we wanted to learn from those who have done it already. Not only that, but just decide what our area of competition is as we're venturing into this world, and just looking around to see what's out there, and just learning from the business, like I said, learning from founders of companies that have already done it. We try to learn the best from each one. Not only that, but listen to what they've done already, and learn from their mistakes to try to avoid it, and to try to take the best path. As we've gone on looking to the brands and see who has similar items, we decided to set a price point somewhere between. But even though there's always that temptation of pricing your products a bit higher because the pricier they are, or the more expensive they are, not only the more profit we get but the more we can help out.
But we also wanted to model the brand after something that was affordable for everyone because growing up we always some brands that we looked up to, that we really liked, but unfortunately, at times they were too expensive for us to be able to get anything, just because maybe we weren't making our money, and we had to ask our parents for it, or even when we did start making money, it was something that just wasn't financially available for us. What we decided to do was to set a price point that was affordable for everyone while we could still grab a little bit to be able to help the cause side of it, and be able to take out enough to be able to keep the company growing, as well. It's just a constant juggling of being able to get the brand to the correct price point so that the customers are satisfied, and it still seems very attractive to them, while still having our goals in mind, if that makes any sense.
Romy: Yeah, it's hard. Retail is tricky sometimes in fashion, but it's great where you guys are priced. It's inviting. You don't want to be ... especially when you have a cause ... you've got to mark it up enough to continue with your cause, and have the math work for your business so you can keep your doors open. But that's great, you guys are a beautiful shop. We're excited to see what happens here in the future. What's your growth plans? Let's kind of dream big with what you know at this moment, your truth is a moment.
Andres: We're actually very happy about how far the brand has come...