Fed up with their positions in finance and real estate, friends Omri Bojko and Jason Sochol embarked on a quest to find something more meaningful to do, and thus created the The Vanity Project (TVP) in 2011. The two Northwestern grads had begun volunteering for non-profit organizations around Chicago after being inspired by Sochol’s mother’s fight against breast cancer, and in the process discovered a pattern among the merchandise created for various fundraising events. “We noticed that the charities’ funds were always being drained into creating the merchandise for their events, especially those T-shirts that are always too boxy and that no one ever wants to wear afterward,” says Bojko. “We thought, wouldn’t it be great if someone could create T-shirts that measured up to these awesome causes?”
“We saw the place for something mutually beneficial where charities could raise money and simultaneously people could support their favorite causes with T-shirts they’d want anyway,” says Bojko. “The Vanity Project is a platform that non-profits can use to do that. We are a non-profit merchandise solution.” Working on a case-by-case basis, TVP has grown by collaborating with charities such as Twist Out Cancer and The Story Pirates.
Each collaboration is tailored to the charities’ individual needs. However, the basic model is that TVP helps charities tweak or redesign their logos and then takes on the cost of buying and printing the shirts, which most non-profits struggle to afford. After the tees have been printed, TVP crew also works with the organization to spread the word, including selling the merchandise through TVP’s store and other retail locations. At the end of every quarter, TVP gives the charity 51% of the profits from their merchandise.
Jenna Benn, founder of Twist Out Cancer, a non-profit that uses social media to bring cancer survivors together, was one of TVP’s first clients. “I had just started Twist Out Cancer and we partnered with The Vanity Project as a way to get our name out at some of the big events we had been planning,” says Benn. “Now that we are more established, we are thinking of designing yoga mats and yoga pants.”
To purchase a T-shirt or to learn more about The Vanity Project, you can go to their website.