Meet MyClo, a new social enterprise bringing high quality American fashion to disrupt the headwear industry. As a college sophomore doing research on micro-finance in a small village in Honduras co-founder, Niranjan Kumar, saw first hand the major impact that micro-loans had for small businesses. He came back to the US dreaming of different ways to create a similar impact.
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and Public Policy, he teamed up with his good friend Devan Anderson, a Menswear Designer & accomplished Digital Strategist, to create MyClo. Founded on the principles of entrepreneurship, MyClo is an American made headwear company that purpose a $10 microloan for every item sold to entrepreneurs within the United States. In alliance with their nonprofit partner Kiva, they have already supported 11 Entrepreneurs and are ready to exponentially increase their impact in 2016.
Below is a Q&A with Co-founders Niranjan Kumar and Devan Anderson
Micro-finance is a big part of Myclo. How did you get started in the world of Micro-finance and what do you love about it.
When I was a sophomore in college, I saw a Ted Talk by the founder of Kiva that introduced me to the field of microfinance. Really inspired by the financial phenomenon, I later traveled that winter Honduras as a consultant, where I could see for myself the impact it had on rural communities.
While working in the small village of Pajarillos, I heard various stories from small businesses who had taken microloans to help expand their enterprises and income. On my flight back, I was truly inspired and wanted to incorporate this into my education. I took a few classes on social entrepreneurship, and really understood the basis of how microfinance is built. What really stuck out to me was the idea that it gave everybody an opportunity to succeed — the idea that businesses don’t have a chance to get started or grow, could be remedied by this tool. I’ve always been a fan of the “underdog”, and microfinance is the story of the underdog succeeding.
It took a little over a year to launch Myclo. Talk about that journey and some of the lessons learned from starting a social enterprise venture.
Our first priorities were to solidify a concrete brand voice and decide what our lead product would be. We knew from the start that we wanted to make a bold stance with the ethics of our brand; not tacking it on as an accessory, but rather baking it into the business at it’s core. Next we needed to launch with a product that was both unisex and adjustable, and headwear simply makes the most sense.
Our greatest lesson learned from creating this brand together is the strength of our partnership. The same way parents share the duties of raising a child and celebrate achievements together, Niranjan & I divide up the workload and share in the milestones of our growing company. It allows us to focus on the things that we’re both good at as well as bring two sides to approaching any and every challenge.
Why is Myclo unique and why can it find a special place in the hat game?
Niranjan & Devan:
The game changer for us is that we’re as much ethical as we are polished. Our color palettes and fabric choices are just as important to us as the business we support and the stories we share. And because of this, we’re building a loyal community of people who both have style and a heart of gold. In addition, there aren’t too many players in the hat space right now that have properly dominated the market. We fill that niche through our branding and storytelling, two strengths we pride ourselves on.
Did you contemplate other partnerships before deciding on Kiva to be the main beneficiary of proceeds?
Because I had been a longtime fan of Kiva, I really did not look into other organizations who would be receiving our microfunds. The first step I made was in reaching out to the Kiva Team in San Francisco, who were extremely helpful and on board with helping MyClo work out its process in providing microloans. By building the relationship early on, we were able to be part of specific events that Kiva held and really felt like a part of their family. This partnership has allowed us to create a dialogue between the small businesses we have given loans to and Kiva itself.
What is some advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs try to launch a brand with a social mission behind it?
It’s imperative that your social mission comes from a 100% real place. In other words, make sure that it’s something that comes from actual experience or that truly inspires you in some way. Lasting fulfillment only happens when you’re genuinely motivated to make a difference in the lives of others.
The biggest pieces of advice I can give is to be just as passionate about building the business as you are with the social mission. If nobody is buying or believing in the brand you have built, you can’t even begin the social aspects.
Use your passion of social entrepreneurship to help drive your business and don’t ever forget the first time you were inspired by your idea. Looking back, reflecting, and evaluating on that one moment will ensure you have the same drive every day to achieve your goals. With MyClo, we wanted to build something that was about recognizing the hustle, the hard work, and the grit it takes to be an entrepreneur. That’s why we support small business through every product sold — our hats represent that mission. The key is to find your calling and align it with your goals!