#TheGoodTribe Interview with Dan Vandermolen, Founder of CHANGE Lifestyle & Apparel
What’s better than shopping from GOOD clothing brands that not only consider the environment, but also the impact of their decisions on their workers, suppliers, community and even customers?
Finding sustainable clothing brands that meet all these requirements takes a lot of time and effort. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a shop that’s already vetted clothing brands and only sold ones that were socially and environmentally conscious?
Cue, CHANGE Lifestyle & Apparel located in St. Jacobs, Ontario! CHANGE is a family-run shop that carries ONLY B-Corp certified brands. Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Each company is rated with a score which you can also check in the directory. That means by shopping here, you will be shopping with purpose!
From clothing to lifestyle products, you’re sure to find something you’ll want and/or need for your daily life. Shopping with purpose at CHANGE doesn’t just mean shopping eco-friendly and sustainable brands either, but also giving back to others. At CHANGE, with every dollar spent, 10% of that is donated to charity.
This week on #TheGoodBlog, we got to talk to Dan Vandermolen, the founder of CHANGE Lifestyle & Apparel. He’s authentic and super inspiring. Opening up a business in the midst of a pandemic is definitely not an easy task! Check out this week’s must read to learn more about CHANGE Lifestyle & Apparel and the amazing contributions they have made to their community!
1. Tell us about your journey and how CHANGE Lifestyle & Apparel began.
I was a manager at a very successful thrift store for a not for profit organization in the Waterloo region. I had been there for a number of years, and felt it was time for a change. I was offered a job in administration at a location that was supposed to be the job you want... good money, great pension, holidays...it checked off all the boxes. But from day one it was a bad fit. Nothing about them, just a bad fit. I was struggling with direction, and what kind of work on a day to day basis would let me feel some pride and help me realize value at the end of my daily activity. I was also suffering from my first real episode of depression. I had to take a leave, and re-evaluate a lot of things happening in my life.
Completely thanks to my wife, who is super supportive and straight up awesome, she encouraged me to go after starting my own business. I waffled on concept and what to sell, but always knowing the goal was to donate 10%. The more I researched, and the more I looked around at what was happening, and the more my son asked me difficult questions about why the world ran the way it did, the more I kept digging for long term value.
I was almost ready to start a thrift store model, but the problem is that thrift stores are mostly filled with fast fashion. It is keeping the items out of the landfill, very true and a great step, but it doesn't address the poor working conditions, the communities being affected, the process and the environmental impact fast fashion has.
That's when I came across B Corp, and what it stands for. I couldn't ever be an actor, because I can't get behind something that I don't believe in, but B Corp and donating 10% to help build community, that is totally something I can get behind.
That was it. From there it was just leg work, sourcing, learning, hoping and praying! And then deciding what we were supposed to do about this crazy pandemic. The concept was already underway before the pandemic started, but not nearly ready to start. I worked construction for a year during covid and then planned and built the foundation mornings and evenings and weekends until we had to decide if we were going to give up or start. So we started. We opened our doors on July 1, 2021 and so far the doors are still open. :)
2. From eco-living to sustainable clothing brands, I love that you sell only B-Corp certified brands, including The Good Tee! How do you decide which brands to carry?
We are about healthy living, healthy lifestyles. We carry brands and items that are going to help you be comfortable and active and feel good and have social value. But we sell only B Corp brands because it is a commitment to being better. It's not perfect, nothing is, but B Corp is the new base line for business, as far as I am concerned. But more than that I think it is what is expected of us. There is now a generation that has grown up with access to all the information. Not just what they learn in class, but what they learn on the internet.They know better, and we as the people with influence haven’t held ourselves accountable to make the hard decisions for their generation to thrive. I think it's time we did. The brands that we carry are trying to be better, to do better, to show that you can be successful while helping others to succeed. That's how we choose our brands.
Oops, sorry I kind of answered this a bit in the previous question. But to continue, I think that it is important to sell only B Corp brands because it's what we know to be a better way. The truth is that B Corp brands are not the cheapest items in the store. But that’s for good reason.
We have been programmed over time by the Amazons and Walmarts to consider price the most important category to grade a purchase on. And price is very much a difficult reality for many people of the world. But the simple concept of looking at a shirt that was made halfway around the world, and is now selling for $12 just doesn’t make sense. How can a company pay for proper materials, pay the workers properly, dispose of the waste ethically, ship across the word, and then still make profits on a $12 item? We know why that happens now. We could pretend before that we didn’t know, but now if you want to be informed, you can see what is happening anywhere in the world, what the effects of a careless business is doing, and what a culture that isn't accountable to others can create.
The intentional choice to shop ethically should be in everything we buy. And the more people of affluence that choose to lead by buying ethically, the better prices become for everyone, which means more and more are positively affected by the B Corp movement.
I was drawn to The Good Tee because of the knowledge and passion for conveying the message about how challenging life was for farmers in India. Being committed to something and not being scared to put it out there is the courage that is needed to show the next generation that you can make a difference. Ethically sourced, fair wages, these are concepts that should be mandatory, but they aren't. The Good Tee does this and more as part of the foundation of running an accountable business. That is why I wanted to work with The Good Tee. Passion and accountability.
We choose organizations that are regional. We feel that people supporting us and shopping in our community deserve to have the money stay in their community. We are using two areas of criteria to start: Youth and Education; and Basic Amenities (food, shelter, etc). We rotate to a new charity every 3 months so that we can keep sharing and give an opportunity to spread the funds around the region.
Well, in a nutshell, and this could make some people upset, I think capitalism is amazing. Its weakness is the redistribution of the wealth that creates the problems. Being celebrated for being the best at what you do is awesome, making lots of money while doing what you are good at is also great. Not being able to part with the money is what creates the gap that leaves people hurting.
I once had someone do an amazing visual for me about how we process spending. They had 10 empty cottage cheese containers in a tall stack. First 3 containers were pulled off the stack and he said “This is what you need to pay for your house.” He then pulled one off and said “This is for your car.” He kept doing that, each one representing something new like groceries, phone and utilities etc...until there was only 1 container left. Then he said “This last one, this is all you have left and now you need to decide if you’re going to give it to help others or keep it for yourself.” That's a hard decision. There are always good reasons not to give to others. Then he stacked the containers up again. He said, “Ok so here’s another way to do it.” he pulled off the top single container, and he said “Ok. Now give this away first.” Then he turned back to the entire stack that still had 9 containers and said “Here you go. This is all for you. Do whatever you need to.” It still gets divided up, you still have expenses, but you have chosen to take care of others first, and now you can be comfortable to do whatever you need to with your money.” It’s a matter of perception. What do you perceive to be the most important part of what you can do with your money?
I’m not telling anyone they need to change or do this, but you asked why we give the 1st 10%, and that's why. Because we believe it's what we should do, and if we wait until the end of the year we will for sure be able to find reasons not to give!!!7. What are you working on for the rest of 2021 and beyond that you can tell readers about?
Well, we are looking at surviving our first year! For sure we want to expand our in person engagement. We are continuing to host groups and parties in store, teaching about B Corp, learn about our charity partnership and then having local food and drink brought in while the group has an exclusive shopping time in store.
We are looking at adding more brands that represent what we are trying to do, and most of all, partner with new organizations that can help us grow our brand.
And lastly, if possible add more stores in a few areas around Ontario so we can spread the love and help people #beachangemaker !!
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