By Ted Nuyten
Ivory Ella a Direct Seller of fashion, is coming up fast in the Business For Home Momentum ranks and as the company is rather new for most people in the Direct Selling industry we re-publish an Forbes article about the company.
The review page for Ivory Ella is here.
“The Abercrombie & Fitch moose, the Ferrari horse and the Twitter bird are logos that have elevated those animals above the rest.
While many logos have heartfelt or whimsical backstories, most brands merely appropriate these creatures for their own financial gain without giving back to the habitats they roam.
This is not the case for the online clothing store Ivory Ella and its elephant logo.
Founded in Connecticut nearly 16 months ago, the clothing company has donated more than $600,000 to Save the Elephants, a Kenya-based research conservation organization that, according to its website, works to “stop poaching, thwart traffickers and end demand for ivory.”
To gather that money, the five co-founders set aside 10 percent of the company’s net profits for Save the Elephants and more than 10 other philanthropic organizations, said co-founder John Allen, 23, over email.
“We noticed an overwhelming outcry towards elephants from the general public,” Allen said. “People were absolutely obsessed with them whether it be how cute a baby elephant is or cruelties that come with poaching and abusive training. Seeing this outcry, we wanted to give the world something they would not only want to wear (something that’s cute and fashionable) but something that also stood for positive change and making the world a better place.”
The Ivory Ella journey began in the spring of 2015. Co-founder Matt Fiano, 38, was teaching business at Montville High School in Montville, Conn. His side hustle was building social media followings for brands. That is how he met his four other co-founders. At the time, Allen was running a clothing retail business called Boho Outfitters out of his parent’s basement in Media, Pa.
Allen noticed that one of his rings featuring an elephant sold far better than anything else on Boho Outfitters’ site. Additionally, social media posts with elephants had begun to go viral; this was around the same time HBO released a special about elephant treatment in the circus. As Boho Outfitters grew and became more automated, Allen and his business partner Jacob Castaldi talked about starting their own brand with Fiano rather than continue retailing wholesale products (which was the gist of Boho Outfitters).
Castaldi and Allen uprooted themselves almost overnight and moved to Connecticut.
“Up until a month before launch, we had never met in person,” Fiano said. “Try telling your wife [that] two college kids are coming to live in your house until further notice and you’ve only met them once.
It truly was an insane time period in my life. I’d get up at 5 a.m. to get ready for work as a teacher. Work till 2:30 then immediately head to our shop to work till 2 a.m. John would be awake shipping packages in my basement as I was getting dressed and running out the door to work. I’d do that basically every day for two months until the school year ended.”
The summer of 2015 was a whirlwind of success for Fiano and his co-founders, largely thanks to the social media expertise each person had collected.
The company promoted its launch night to a group of 30,000 people over email and teased its products on Facebook through photos and giveaways, said co-founder Ryan Duranso, 23.
“We want the consumer to feel a warm, positive feeling every time they interact with our brand,” Duranso said. “And the key to it all is amplifying of our customers experiences through our social media so that we’re not only selling Ivory Ella products, but the feeling and sensation that comes along with it.”
The site opened shortly after midnight, April 18, 2015. The following day, the company ran a trending campaign on Twitter around the hashtag #ivoryella.
“We didn’t realize when we scheduled the campaign it was the same night as the American Country Music Awards, but we were able to get our hashtag trending above the awards show anyways,” Fiano said. ”Those two moments combined really did it for me. We’ve been rocking steady right from the minute the site went live.”
The company moved from a basement to a 800 square foot box, then to a 3,000 square foot store front and then to two 3,000 square foot spaces. In June, the company moved to a 32,000 square foot space in Westerly, Rhode Island, after earning the state’s Qualified Jobs Incentive Tax Credit Program. Ivory Ella was awarded $380,000 over the next five years.
Ivory Ella employs 40 full time employees and a seasonal workforce of over 100 people. It’s gone from manually printing 200-300 shirts a day to making over 3,000 pieces. The fulfillment team has grown from shipping 100 packages a day to shipping over 1,500 and upwards of 7,000 a day during holiday season.
The exponential growth has bolstered the company’s humanitarian efforts. Ivory Ella has donated $28,841 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, $21,826 to the American Heart Association and $16,287 to Homes for Our Troops.
Ivory Ella follows in the footsteps of other successful for-profit companies that give back in some way. Toms Shoes (founded in 2006) donates a pair of shoes to a poor child for each pair sold while Warby Parker (2009) works with a non-profit called Vision Spring to donate glasses to those in need.
On July 23, a group of employees from Ivory Ella traveled to the Save The Elephants camp in Samburu, Kenya, to see firsthand what its funding had provided. The group, which included Allen, visited the Lorubae Primary School, which has about 500 students. The money from Ivory Ella helped build a fence around the school in order to keep its students safe and eliminate distractions. This won’t be the last trip the company makes, Allen said.
“Education plays a major part in saving elephants and stopping the ivory trade so to see how such a small thing as a fence can influence and help that was truly an unforgettable experience but we took home many other important things from our time there,” Allen said.
“We went on scouting missions in the Save The Elephants plane to look for elephants whose tracking collars didn’t function properly, we spent a day in the life of a ranger whose job it is to walk countless miles everyday in order to deter poachers and other destructive practices such as burning trees for charcoal. We got to see elephants close up and really see first hand how extraordinary these beings are.”