One year ago, Dan Gigante watched an interview with Blake Mycoskie, an American traveler who after witnessing children in Argentina going without shoes decided to create TOMS Shoes, a company that gives one pair of shoes to a child in need every time they sell a pair to one of their customers. This concept of one-for-one giving inspired Gigante to start his own company based on the same concept, but with its own unique product.
Today, Gigante is steadily building the foundation for You and Who, an internet-based company that produces artistic t-shirts with the one-for-one mission at its core. For every shirt that is purchased, You and Who donates an additional shirt to an organization helping those in need. Currently, the company is reaching out mainly to homeless shelters in various cities to start its network of clients. Thanks to the “All you can jet pass” from Jet Blue Airlines, Gigante has spent the past month traveling and working around the clock to reach out to organizations in Austin, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco.
The highlight of his trip came when he gave his first shirt to a man at a shelter in Austin. “I don’t know who was more excited, him or me,” Gigante said. “It was really moving and I left the building realizing that I made the right choice, that this was what I wanted to do.”
In addition to searching for shelters to donate to, Gigante is trying to find up-and-coming artists to create designs for the t-shirts. Artists will be compensated one dollar per shirt that is sold with their design on it, with a maximum of $1,000 earned per design. By producing designs for You and Who, the artists not only get exposure for their work, but they also can represent their home city and establish a connection with the less fortunate members of their community. “Shirts designed by Buffalo artists will go to Buffalo shelters, Austin to Austin, etc.” Gigante said.
He has organized Call for Artists events in every city, searching for individuals to help the company expand its product line. There will be a theme for each line of shirts created. The first theme, “New Beginning,” will feature designs creatively conveying the concept of a fresh start.
The Buffalo Call for Artists event will take place on Wednesday, October 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Sugar City in Allentown. Artists whose designs are accepted will have a small bio with links posted on the You and Who website and their name will also be credited on the shirt itself.
The Internet and social networking have played a huge role in the upstart of Gigante’s business. With such limited time to make initial contacts with artists, he resorted to craigslist.com to help get the word out in other cities. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have spread the news even further, sending the message out to artists and potential customers alike. “Two of my friends that bought shirts took the effort and posted a tweet and Facebook update about it,” Gigante said. “It kind of illustrated that people are proud when they buy the shirt, they want to let people know about the project and that they believe in it.” He plans to eventually add a feature to the You and Who website that will automatically post to a customer’s Facebook and Twitter when they purchase a shirt.
Gigante will continue to travel and work at making connections with organizations in other cities in the coming weeks. Rochester, Chicago, and New York City are ahead, and hopefully the list will keep growing. His goal is to get as many organizations involved as possible. “I’d like to get to the point where I’m releasing new shirts weekly,” he said. He hopes that the one-for-one giving concept will catch on locally in the same way it has previously on an international level. “If it’s something that could get some press across the world, it could happen here in Buffalo,” he said.