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Saving the World, One T-Shirt at a Time

Saving the World, One T-Shirt at a Time


by


Red Dirt Shop sells stylish products while donating money for clean water projects.

When customers buy an iPhone case or a T-shirt from online retailer Red Dirt Shop, they’re also purchasing something even more valuable: a year’s worth of clean water for a person in a developing country.

A portion of every product sold is donated to Water.org, a Kansas City-based nonprofit that enables water access in Central America, Africa and South Asia.

Red Dirt Shop’s founder, Christina Eldridge, was inspired by nationally known companies like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker, which have made “buy one, give one” an essential part of their business models. Customers, Eldridge believes, prefer companies that not only sell great products, but try to make the world a better place.

“They choose it every time,” Eldridge said, “and they’re willing to pay 20 to 40 percent more for a product that makes a social impact.”

In its first years of operation, Red Dirt Shop has attracted a devoted following of fans who appreciate its philanthropy and its lineup of stylish T-shirts, messenger bags, water bottles and other products.

Eldridge hires artists from across the country to create designs for many of these products. And recently, Red Dirt Shop began selling scarves woven by Guatemalan women and wallets and other leather goods from Kenyan artisans.

“It brings us great joy to work with these artisans in developing countries,” Eldridge said.

Red Dirt Shop reflects its founder’s background. She originally worked for the nonprofit Saint Luke’s Foundation. She has also led three medical missions to Mali in West Africa, so she understands the needs that developing countries have.

But Eldridge also had an itch to do something in the for-profit world.

“It was just one of those lightbulb moments,” Eldridge said. “What if we created a for-profit business that had a good purpose to it?”

Red Dirt Shop began as an online retailer, but last winter, Highwoods Properties invited the company to set up a pop-up store on the Country Club Plaza during the fourth quarter. By January, Red Dirt Shop had sold out of practically everything, Eldridge said.

Red Dirt Shop’s products could soon be found in more brick-and-mortar shops. Eldridge is working with national retailers to place them in boutiques, starting with the West Coast.

Meanwhile, Red Dirt Shop recently launched its spring line of products. Over the summer, the company will introduce a few home products for sale.

Eldridge is taking a careful approach to growing the business, but eventually, wants to be where TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker are.

“That’s really the long-range goal,” Eldridge said. “To be a nationally beloved brand.”

James Hart

Written by

James Hart is a freelance writer based in Kansas City.

Categories: Company to Watch

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