UI students launch charitable clothing line

BY REBECCA MORIN | MAY 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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Four University of Iowa students came together to create a company that not only benefited themselves, but it also gave back to the community.

Widespread Threads is a start-up online clothing company that was launched from the UI Bedell Entrepreneurial Learning Laboratory in April.

Widespread Threads donates to numerous charities locally and nationwide. The students have invested approximately $12,500 to start the operation.

Two UI students, Jake Thomas and Jerid Schumacher, initially envisioned a smaller company in August 2012. At first, they planned to sell bracelets and have the proceeds go to charity.

“Last summer, my partner, Jake Thomas, and I wanted to have a project for the summer, and we thought we could sell bracelets for charity,” said Schumacher, a cofounder and chief movement maker.

Widespread Threads has a movement that supports the UI Children’s Hospital’s Silver Lining Program. The fund is designed to support families on extended stays at the Children’s Hospital with everyday expenses.

However, their vision expanded after adding two new members to their team, UI students Levi Maxfield and Taylor Grote.

“When they started laying the groundwork for the company, I was with the Air Force in Afghanistan, so I wasn’t a part of the initial stages,” Grote said. “When I got back, I approached them about running their social media and some marketing, and it ended up being a good fit.”

By adding a graphic designer and a social-media director, the company was able to expand its bracelet line to a full clothing line, Schumacher said.

“I thought bracelets would be cool, but I also thought that it doesn’t reach enough people,” Schumacher said.  “So we decided to sell both clothing and the bracelets for charity.”

One of the company’s newest charities is Kids in Distressed Situations. For every shirt that is sold on the company’s website, a children’s size shirt will be donated to an approved event by the charity.
Its first shipment will be sent this summer to local partner agencies.

Widespread Threads is based in the Bedell Lab, in which students are allowed to use the center for free and have access to an office, computers, and Internet free of charge, said Lynn Allendorf, director of the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Lab.

Widespread Threads showcased a table at the Business Fair on May 10.

Although companies are housed at the center, officials let the companies have creative freedom.
“It’s totally up to the companies what they do with their products,” Allendorf said. “But it’s been more and more common for entrepreneurs to not just sell their products but also give back to the community.”

Widespread Threads’ main goal is to become well-known throughout the community, Schumacher said. The company has a random act of kindness fund to help spread its name.

“The fund will allow us to give back to the community, so if we see a new charity coming up, we will donate $500 to kick-start it; it’s even as simple as buying someone’s lunch,” Schumacher said. “Our whole goal is to gain supporters not just customers.”

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