Advocacy and awareness for change seem to be a rising millennial trend, especially when it comes to their business. However, studies show that millennials’ dedication to changing the world around them is becoming more like the millennial way of life.
Whitaker founded the company with is his older brother as a means to become an entrepreneur and to contribute to the world around him. Their colorful t-shirt line highlights social issues such a world hunger, homelessness, war and gender equality–with every purchase benefiting someone in need. Each design is sketched with a cause in mind and bares symbolic meaning. Buying one tee or tank can provide as much as one pound of food for the poverty-stricken.
“We have helped over 1,000 people so far with meals, volunteer work, and donating. The feeling is priceless, “says Whitaker, “I feel like I need to do more and help as many [people] as I can. This is a good addiction to have.”
According to the Millennials Report, millennials are not solely virtually connected, like many baby boomers may like to believe, they happen to sincerely value the role they play in their communities.
While Whitaker does spend quite some time signed into facebook and twitter, as those are his main marketing tools, he says, it came with little surprise that the majority of his World Deeds fanbase happens to be millennials, specifically, millennial women between the ages of 18-24– making up 64% of his social following.
Black Enterprise caught up with Eric Whitaker to talk social entrepreneurship, his millennial supporters and World Deeds Clothing.
Tell me a little about yourself and what it is that you do for a living?
My name is Eric Whitaker. I’m originally from Palmdale California and now reside in Upper Marlboro, MD. By day I’m a General Manager for a fortune 500 company and CEO of World Deeds all the time.
How did you make the transition into entrepreneurship and why?
It was not easy making the transition into entrepreneurship. The first thing I had to do was recondition my mind. For so long I was conditioned to believe working a 9-5 was the only option. To do this I started reading; everyday for a year I read. Back then, it would take a week to get through a book–maybe more– but now a book every two days is the norm. Anything from finance, to biographies about how others have done it before. This was all helping me condition the mind and preparing for this task.
My father always wanted to have a family owned business that brings us all closer. While he said it, I decided to make the dream come true. While I’ve always had aspirations to be an entrepreneur, this extra motivation pushed me even more.
How does World Deeds work and where is your passion within its cause?
World Deeds is clothing with a cause. Every three months we come out with a collection that focuses on a different social issue. Whether it is hunger, poverty, gender equality, or war we want to not only bring awareness but take action. That is why for every purchase we donate to a charity that supports that cause. I have always wanted to help people in some way. I was a peer counselor since middle school and a psych major in college. This has always been my goal in life. This is a way for my family to be involved and make a difference.
Why do you think millennials feel the need to give and remain socially aware?
Millennials have grown up with technology, education, and an unbelievable amount of knowledge at their fingertips. They will be the most well educated generation in history. When you have knowledge you know giving back is the right thing to do. When you have the world at your disposal you have no choice but to be socially aware. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram have made it so easy to get almost instant news from around the world. With knowing what’s going on I believe people want to get involved and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Why do you believe women have gravitated towards your brand?
This generation of women are givers. We all want to be apart of a movement and we all want to be better than the generation before us. With this brand you can give back and know you are doing something good. You were going to purchase a shirt or a tank top anyway, why not purchase one that also donates a pound of food to fight hunger?
What was your big “aha” moment?
I met a gentleman through my father that owned his own t-shirt company for 15 years. He was a tough guy to talk to and really wasn’t willing to converse with just anyone. I asked him if it was okay for me to get his input on a few things and he scheduled a time for us to talk. I was thinking if he likes the vision than I might be on to something. He was instantly willing to mentor me and helped me with my first sale, which was 53 shirts to a business owner. This was before we had a website, or even the product. This gentleman was so on board he placed an order because it was for a good cause, and I then knew we might be okay.
To find out more or shop Whitaker’s t-shirts that give, visit World Deeds.com.