Senior Laura Ketchum’s two favorite scarves may be comfortable, but she likes these neck warmers as more than a fashion statement.
“(The scarves) are made slave-free … I finally feel like I’m promoting something that I actually would wear and support and pay money for,” said Ketchum.
Ketchum purchased her scarves from Kavalena Clothing, a small business start-up that celebrated its first birthday this month, signaling a year of working out its motto “look good, do good.” By donating the proceeds of its sales to organizations around the world, Kavalena Clothing helps people in need while providing shoppers with style.
Wheaton College students have gotten involved in the Kavalena mission, serving as interns after Career Services advertised last spring the opportunity for year-long marketing internships.
Ketchum is now a graphic design and photography intern at Kavalena, and senior Lauren Hurt is a marketing intern.
Ketchum said that her internship is “just a wonderful mix of serving Christ while getting a hands-on experience. I would highly encourage Wheaton students to check it out. It’s just a really cool company that directly wants to serve people.”
Hurt said, “One of my favorite things to say about Kavalena when people ask me about it is Kavalena is a clothing company with heart.”
Hurt further explained her draw to Kavalena saying, “I felt in my own way I was being a do gooder as well just by helping the company and its a good feeling to feel like your work is directly helping other people, people that we’ll probably never meet, but it’s cool to know that you are making a difference.”
Currently, Kavalena sells sweatshirts, tank tops and scarves. Also available for purchase is a bracelet called “the water bracelet.” One hundred percent of the proceeds from the bracelets will go to fund a well for a community in need of fresh water.
Kavalena’s website states, “With each piece of clothing we sell we provide one hour of clean water to an entire village, one day (three full meals) of food for a child and their family, one hour of physical therapy and treatment for orphans with cerebral palsy and autism, one day of school for a child in Ghana and one hour of aftercare for an individual rescued from slavery.”
To accomplish these goals, Kavalena partners with and donates to The Bright Connection, an orphanage in China; charity: water; A Better Life for Kids, a Kenya-based organization that provides young girls the resources to receive an education; the International Justice Mission; and Feed My Starving Children, a local faith-based organization that provides meals for impoverished families worldwide.
Founder of Kavalena Clothing, Valerie Nash, chose the organizations based on her personal interaction with them and “based off of their giving ratio ... so the majority of the money that you donate goes to what you’re actually donating to,” she said.
Nash also said that selling slave labor-free clothing, or products that are guaranteed to be manufactured in lawful working conditions and not in sweatshops that take advantage of their workers, is a top priority.
“I really wanted to make sure my clothes were not benefiting the people who were enslaving,” she said.
“The reason that I started the company was because I want to help people,” Nash said. “I think that life is too short to waste, and I really think that every day should be lived to help others and love others.”
Kavalena was launched a year after Nash spent time in China and visited an orphanage housing children with special needs. She noticed the lack of funding for the orphanage, but was impressed by the work being done.
“Leaving there, I just felt really compelled that I needed to find a way to make their life sustainable and make a way that they would have a continuous income, donations coming in. … Finally, about a year later, I came up with the idea for Kavalena,” Nash said.
In the beginning of their first year, Kavalena gave $500, 50% of their profits, to the orphanage in China that originally inspired Nash.
The name “Kavalena” is a combination of the first names of Nash and her three sisters.
“I designed the company to be like a family,” Nash said. “I really believe that the whole world should be a global family caring for each other and providing for each other’s needs, and so I named the company after my family.”
Hurt said, “The mission of the company drew me in. The motto, or the slogan, is ‘look good, do good,’ so we are all about being a ‘do-gooder.’ That’s … a little phrase that we like to say at Kavalena.”
Nash said the slogan “just popped into my head one day. … obviously I want the clothes to look good and feel good. ... I really want to build that mentality of doing good as a lifestyle, doing good every day to everyone around you.”
Nash said she has seen a recent increase in interest in the company.
“The message has really picked up … of being a ‘do-gooder’ in your everyday life,” she said.
Thinking back on the first year of the company, Nash said that one of her favorite things was seeing people inspired by the company and the idea of making the world a better place.
“Everybody wants to leave their fingerprints and their mark,” she said. “And I really feel like Kavalena is my fingerprint.”
Looking to the future, Nash says she’d like to see her mission expand.
“From the beginning I have always said that I would love to see Kavalena helping people in every country on every continent. ... I would love to see the company grow to be something as far-reaching as that,” she said.
Nash cited a quote by World Vision founder Bob Pierce: “Everybody is the answer to somebody else’s prayer.”
This is Nash’s hope for the money donated.
“I love that, because that is really what I want the money to be — an answer to somebody’s prayer,” she said.
“It was so cool to see that little things can have big results, and you just never know what a small gesture of faith can do in the hands of God,” said Nash. “He can multiply it so much more.”
Kavalena merchandise is available for purchase at www.kavalena.com. Kavalena is also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. They are planning to be present at Wheaton’s Advent Market on Dec. 7.
Photo Courtesy: Laura Ketchum
Printed in the November 16, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.