Startup Spotlight: York Apparel
With York Apparel, you can do good while looking good.
A for-profit, social enterprise based in Lansing, York Apparel is as committed to helping the homeless as it is to the bottom line.
When Josh York started York Apparel, he had a simple mission. He would sell hats. And, for every hat sold, he would put a hat on the homeless. Today, it has grown into a clothing line that has donated over 850 items of clothing to the homeless both here in Lansing, and all across the country.
Where the Idea Came From
Josh has always had an entrepreneurial mind set. Even in high school, he used to make t-shirts and sell them to friends. One day, while working at ACO Hardware (where they sold the plain, knit beanies), he decided to buy a few, slap his name on them and sell them to his friends. He wore one to a concert where his band was playing and the idea grew from there. Three concerts later, he had sold out.
He also knew right from the beginning that he wanted to do more than make money. The issue of homelessness was something he had always been interested in so it seemed only natural to combine the two.
The Problem He’s Solving
Besides helping his peers that have cold heads and an eye for fashion, Josh is working to help a demographic with a much greater need; the homeless. So, for every one item of York Apparel sold, Josh donated one clothing item to the homeless.
To Josh, it’s more than a clothing company, it’s a social movement. His goal is to make the world look better, and make sure the money goes back into helping the neighborhood.
What Excites Him About the Problem
Josh chose this particular cause because of time spent working in Detroit. He’s always been fascinated with how the homeless live their lives, by their stories, and the how they still survive, despite what little they have.
His first donation was made to a man in Cedar Village in East Lansing and since then he’s had the opportunity make donations in multiple cities, taking his product with him wherever his band plays.
While the project is mostly self-funded, Josh has received help from many different organizations including The Hatch, LEAP, pitch competitions, and Michigan State Marketing Mix (which provides him with a free marketing team).
While York Apparel is steadily growing, and has gone from being hand-made to being produced in a factory, Josh wants to make sure everyone knows, “The homeless side of it IS the company, without it, there is no York Apparel.