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Alumni create philanthropic clothing company

| Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Three brothers, all Notre Dame graduates, created an apparel company called Free World United in November, with the idea that “every dollar earned is a dollar that gives back.”

Company co-founder Francisco Diez, class of 2003 said the company was created to be “a source for fundraising, a different option for nonprofits to raise funds and to engage their donor base.” Free World United creates apparel collections and unique landing pages for a handful nonprofits that range from wildlife conservancy to the support of children in developing countries. When a customer purchases one of Free World United’s T-shirts, $10 goes to the designated nonprofit.

Diez said the inspiration to create Free World United came from the brothers’ love for their home country of Ecuador. That’s how the group started working with the Galapagos Conservancy, their first nonprofit.

“The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador, and our parents have a tourism business there,” Diez said. “So we’ve always been close to the Galapagos Islands, and we’ve grown up with the issues facing the Galapagos. So we wanted, initially, to help the Galapagos any way we could. When we started thinking about it — we all have business degrees from Notre Dame, so we put our heads together and said, ‘you know, we all actually like design,’ and that led down the path of creating T-shirts … and that’s where the whole idea of Free World United took shape.”

Word of mouth spread the company’s name from there, Diez said. This spring, Free World United created a campaign for Earth Day called Earth Day Army. The company hoped to raise funds for the Galapagos Conservatory and the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund. A late start hurt Free World United’s efforts, but the company plans to continue the fund into 2015, Diez said.

“We turned the Earth Day Army into a year-long campaign, that is going to build up all the way until Earth Day,” he said. “Now that we have an idea of the dynamics of working with … our network and the length of time it takes … we realize that we need to start this way ahead of time. And building it into a year-long model is going to help us create the sort of snowball [effect] that we want.

But this campaign is just the beginning, Diez said.

“We want to, essentially, grow from being an apparel company to, I would say, a lifestyle company,” he said. “Where most of your everyday products, we’re going to offer in our store, and every single one of them is going to give back to a cause.”

Giving back to the community is at the core of Free World United’s mission, Diez said.

“We grew up in a — I guess you could say a Third World country. I guess for the last 20 or so years Ecuador was considered a Third World country,” he said. “Everyday, you see poverty, and you see how the rainforest is being cut down, and how a small economy tries to cope with growth by doing things that maybe shouldn’t be done. But when you grow up in a place like [Ecuador], you feel that you have to give back for all the things you do at some point.

“People in First World countries, they love to give back … what we want to do is take that spirit but offer it on a day-to-day basis.”

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