Common Thread

A Hermosa Beach duo combines style and cause with a new business venture.

Both in their mid-20s, entrepreneurs Emily Sansom and Brian Poage saw an opportunity to launch an apparel company, create jobs and provide clean water to those in need. Founded less than a year ago, Aloha for the People created shirts right here in Downtown Los Angeles using hand-woven fabrics from Guatemala.

“We wanted to create a company that could provide jobs in our partner country as well as here at home,” explains Emily. “We really like creating jobs in our own city.”

With every shirt sold, Aloha for People provides a child in Guatemala access to clean water for two years, thanks to their partnership with the Guatemalan-based water filtration company Ecofiltro. Guatemala was selected as the first partner country because of its rich history with textiles and its severe water crisis. Nearly 95% of the water sources in the country are not suitable for human consumption, and waterborne illnesses are one of their leading causes of death.

To raise the initial capital to make 600 shirts and provide 600 children with clean water access, the duo launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised $25,000 in 30 days. “This got us off the ground with pre-ordered shirts and donations from both people in the LA area and around the world,” shares Brian. “We have had fantastic support from local Southern California stores who have partnered with us to sell our shirts, including Soil Home & Garden in Redondo Beach.”

Brian and Emily were inspired to start their business after reading Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes. “We hoped we could truly provide a positive impact for people while making aloha shirts that are unique and represent the Guatemalan culture,” says Brian, reflecting on the journey. “Consumers are looking for companies to stand for more than just profits in today’s market. They are willing to pay more for a quality product that works to improve the world. Patagonia and TOMS have proven that this model can be successful, and I hope that we can do the same.”