When UT alumna Hayley Swindell was still in college, she and her sorority sisters set up pop-up shops on South Congress Avenue, selling clothes they rarely used to whomever was willing to buy.
Once they sold everything, Swindell and her sisters took the money they made and donated it all to local nonprofits. This experience helped Swindell create her socially responsible online boutique, The Hip Humanitarian.
“People don’t usually know what socially responsible means exactly,” Swindell said. “What I tell them is that each of our products that we sell online and all the products in our boxes have to meet standards. They either have to be fair trade, eco-friendly, organic or come from a company that is extremely philanthropic in some way.”
After graduating in 2012, Swindell founded her business when she decided she needed to turn her love of philanthropy into a living. This October, The Hip Humanitarian launched online.
Although there are individual products for sale, the main feature The Hip Humanitarian offers is a “subscription box.” Customers can sign up for different payment plans to receive monthly boxes that come with pre-selected items. The boxes come in three different styles to offer a more-tailored product to each consumer. The choices include The Minimalist, The Hollywood and The Free Spirit.
“The boxes’ purposes are to introduce people to all the amazing ethically made products out there,” Swindell said. “A lot of the time they don’t get as much attention as products mentioned in like Vogue.”
The Hip Humanitarian’s online store also offers a wide range of lifestyle products such as jewelry, cosmetics and home décor. Kahina Giving Beauty, a line of organic beauty products that donates a percentage of profits to support programs that improve women’s lives, and Canvas Home, which sells home décor made of eco-friendly materials and gives 10 percent of its profits to organizations supporting artisan groups, are some of the vendors featured on the website.
“The companies that produce these products are not nonprofits,” Swindell said. “They’re creating jobs and sustainable ways of life for people that wouldn’t have them otherwise. That’s the good that they do. Of course, all their materials and products aren’t made in sweat shops. They’re made responsibly and in good conditions.”
Sam Wakefield is a co-founder of Crystal Creek Moonshine, a local distillery that donates a percentage of its profits to Glimmer of Hope — an organization that aids impoverished Ethiopians. Wakefield helps Swindell discover and research the products she wants to include online or in the boxes.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult to find high-end products that also do good for the world,” Swindell said. “But it is. You really have to search, and that’s part of our mission … to help make that process easier for people who don’t have the time.”
Wakefield said people’s response to The Hip Humanitarian has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People love the whole idea,” Wakefield said. “It just seems like a more sustainable way of doing business. It also brings these smaller brands that are good into the limelight where previously they don’t have the budget or means of larger companies.”
Eventually, Swindell hopes to have a physical store.
“We would like to get to the point where we can donate a percentage of the profits to somewhere,” Swindell said. “That’s definitely where we see things going. We’ll just let it grow and continue to expand so we can do more good.”