Connect
To Top

Meet Brian Poage of Aloha for People in Hermosa Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Poage.

Brian, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
During the middle of 2016, my wife, Emily, and I felt unfulfilled in our jobs. We both read Blake Mycoskie’s book, “Start Something That Matters,” and were immediately inspired to create a company that could provide a positive impact on people in need. We had a friend in the LA area that was from Guatemala and he told us about the terrible water conditions in his home country. Emily and I started to do our own research and discovered that the majority of water sources in Guatemala were unsuitable for human consumption and that the leading cause of childhood death was waterborne illness. We also knew that Guatemala was a fantastic country for unique and beautiful textiles that could be made into clothing. Emily’s background is in apparel design and merchandising and my background is in construction management. We decided to start our own apparel company. We would purchase fabric from Guatemala, thus hiring women in Guatemala to weave the fabric, and we would make the shirts in downtown LA, thus hiring Americans to manufacture our shirts. With every shirt sold, we would provide a child in Guatemala access to clean water for two years through a partnership we created with the Guatemalan company, Ecofiltro. They make water filters using clay, sawdust, and colloidal silver and put them into homes and schools.

Once we had a few prototypes for our shirts and the model figured out, we launched a Kickstarter to raise the $25,000 we needed to make our first 600 shirts. We were fortunate that all of our friends and family supported us immensely and we raised $8,000 in the first 8 hours and went on to reach our goal and get funded. We made the first 600 shirts and continued from there. At this time, we also brought our friend, Jeff Michaels, on board to lead our branding and design for the company. He has been a proud co-founder since the beginning with Emily and myself.

We then expanded our line to include t-shirts and tank tops made in LA using 100% organic cotton and featuring a front pocket using our Guatemalan fabric. We also expanded into surf fins, a collaboration a Topanga-based company called Sagebrush Bags to make surfboard bags, and long sleeve shirts. We also expanded our model outside of Guatemala to include partnerships in Nepal, Hawaii, and Los Angeles. To date, we source fabric from Guatemala, Nepal, and Hawaii, and make all of our shirts in Los Angeles. We have provided over 1,000 children access to clean water over the last three years!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road on this journey has been anything but smooth! There have been obstacles, roadblocks, and learning experiences every step of the way. A few memorable examples are when the men’s shirt grading was done incorrectly on our first run of 300 shirts and they were all cut too short. Pretty much anyone over 6′-0″ could not wear the shirts without showing their stomach. It was a nightmare! But, we were able to partner with a new manufacturer who helped us recreate the pattern and grading so that it was accurate and we made more shirts and exchanged any shirts that did not fit correctly to our customers. It was an incredible learning experience for us and now we have the fit dialed in.

We also had an entire run of Nepal pocket shirts have the fabric for the pockets sewed on upside down. Our Nepalese fabric requires one side to be visible because the inside of the fabric shows the weaving and not the pattern. Luckily, we noticed this immediately and our manufacturing partner was able to remove the pockets without damaging the shirts and sew them on again. It delayed a shipment of shirts to some of our retail partners, but we were completely transparent with them regarding the issue and they accepted the delay and appreciated our honesty and care for quality.

Aloha for People – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Aloha for People creates new ways to provide clean water and jobs to people in need. Everything we do centers around creating jobs and providing water. We specialize in partnerships with developing nations to manufacture fabric to make into our clothing and products to help provide meaningful employment, mostly for women, to help these people raise themselves out of poverty. We also partner with specific organizations who provide water access to people in need in the countries that provide our fabric. To date, we partner with Ecofiltro in Guatemala, Wine To Water in Nepal, the Surfrider Foundation’s O’ahu Chapter in Hawaii, and the Surfrider Foundation’s West LA/Malibu Chapter in Los Angeles.

I am most proud of our mission as a company. I am proud that we have stuck to our mission as our guide when expanding the brand and that we are helping to prove that companies can provide meaningful change to people in need. Our quality, our mission, and respect for the environment are what sets us apart from other companies. We choose to use quality cotton from our partner countries. We choose to use 100% organic cotton to make all of our t-shirts, tank tops, and long sleeve shirts. We choose to manufacture all of our products in California to provide jobs in our home state.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is directly correlated to the number of lives we can positively impact through our company’s mission. We recently took a few friends and family members down to Guatemala to hand-deliver water filters to children in Guatemala that were purchased through our shirts sales. It was one of the most fulfilling and inspiring moments of my life. That, to me, is success.

My ultimate goal is to continue building Aloha for People so we can employee more people and continue to make a positive impact on the world. Every year, I want our brand to grow and meet or exceed our sales goals. The more we sell, the more our story gets out there, the more we can help people.

Pricing:

  • Aloha shirts – $60
  • Pocket Tees – $30
  • Tank Tops – $20

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.alohaforpeople.com
  • Phone: 619-405-4551
  • Email: brian@alohaforpeople.com
  • Instagram: @alohaforpeople
  • Facebook: @alohaforpeople
  • Twitter: @alohaforpeople

Image Credit:
Alex Andino, Jarret Magno, Figlewicz Photography

Suggest a story: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in