7%, Some Numbers, and the Greatest Fight
For the first time in our four-year history, this week, Sevenly is donating 7% of all Cause of the Week proceeds to our charity partner, Boarding for Breast Cancer. As you know, in the past we’ve always donated $7 per garment to the Cause of the Week. That $7 “give” is one of the things that defined Sevenly, and it’s helped us chase our mission to be the most charitable company in the world. So, 7% on a weekly campaign feels a bit different. It’s kind of like trying on a tank-top when you’re used to long sleeves.
First things first:
Our mission hasn’t changed. We still aim to be the most charitable company in the world, and we’re going to do everything we can to get there. And we still exist to raise funding and awareness for the world’s greatest causes. That social good stuff is hard-wired in our DNA, branded on our hearts, and it’s based on a belief that we can change the world. We are changing the world. You, us, and our gigantic community of good-doers.
The Sevenly soul is alive and well!
Which brings us to the business side of doing social good. Sevenly was born in June 2011. In Internet start-up land, four years is a long time, long enough to celebrate some massive victories for a small business ($4.4 million raised for charities! Over a million lives touched!), and long enough to suffer a few losses. To put it simply, over the last few years, Sevenly has been learning some inevitable truths the hard way. The biggest lesson might be this: It’s really tough to do business the right way when you donate 25% of your revenue. For us, it’s not quite sustainable.
Sevenly was founded, in part, with the goal of leading a generation towards generosity. We’re still doing it, and being frank at moments like this is part of that process. We’ll spare you the gnarly details, but we do want to be transparent. So, here are our basic numbers. It’s not everything, but it’s the math we’ve been staring at for a while:
Our average t-shirt costs around $14 to make. That includes the cost of the fabric, production, and the shirt itself (ethically sourced), original artwork, printing, and some handling fees. If you take that expense and subtract it from a $28 sale price, you’re left with $14 per t-shirt. Donating $7 halves that number, leaving $7 per average shirt sold to operate the business: pay rent, utilities, employees, and other significant expenses. Plus advertising, which is how we get the shirt into the market and spread the good word about great charities.
That formula won’t let Sevenly continue to do the bold, charitable things we aspire to do. So, this year, as with last, we’ve been considering, testing, and implementing possible solutions to a fundamental problem.
For one thing, we’ve lowered our operational cost. We were already running pretty lean, but we’ve lowered our overhead every month in 2015, having trimmed our operating budget by over 40%. Practically, that means fewer resources to dedicate to certain aspects of the business that we’d actually love to enhance. To put a point on it, Sevenly has a staff of just 15 people, plus a few friendly helpers, and a network of incredible artists. For all the things we do – marketing charities to millions of folks every week, making awesome products, running an eCommerce site – we can’t get much slimmer.
We’ve also adjusted our model. Last year, Sevenly started extending beyond 7-day campaigns and began offering prolonged Cause Collections, which enhanced our ability to promote charities. This summer, we moved Cause Collections to 7%, in an effort to make them sustainable. Starting this week, we’re testing a 7% Cause of the Week. (Already, you’ve helped in a big way on that end! Thank you for your support!) Throughout these changes, our rallying cry has been “Give Better, Give Longer, Give More.” For us, that’s the key: More awareness and funds donated over the long haul in a way that makes the long haul possible.
All of which brings us back to you.
We are sincerely interested in supporter feedback. Sevenly wouldn’t exist without your generosity, passion, and world-changing spirit. If you have specific questions, heartfelt comments, or recommendations for new causes and charities, please let us know. We can’t wait to listen.
In the meantime, we’re fighting on. Fighting the greatest fight. And as you already have, we’d invite you to fight with us. Fight for change, one week at a time.