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Students start T-shirt company for activists

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Colin Prenger | Daily Wildcat

Colin Prenger / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Eliza said she will write this caption herself.

Thanks to a collaboration between a UA student and students from other institutions around the country, activists can combine charity with style.

A new clothing company, Serengetee, creates T-shirts with unique pockets made of fabrics collected from around the world.

Started by university students, Serengetee focuses on marketing to universities and has a strong online presence, with a website, Twitter and Facebook page where customers can post pictures of their shirts.

Its student cofounders come from around the country, and include Ryan Westberg, an economics junior from the UA and the company’s chief marketing officer as well as Jeff Steitz of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., Sean Yen, of Pitzer College in Los Angeles, and Thomas Carey, of Harvey Mudd College, also in Claremont.

Serengetee launched its website on Feb. 17, and the company sold more than 300 shirts in its first month.

While abroad on Semester at Sea last semester, Serengetee CEO Jeff Steitz collected fabrics from Africa, Asia and Central America. Now the company has more than 70 different fabrics from 20 different countries. Current Semester at Sea students are now traveling the world, increasing Serengetee’s collection.

“By connecting our tees to the world through our fabric pockets, we have given popular T-shirt styles an identity and a fashionable twist,” Westberg said.

As part of Serengetee’s “Half & Half” mission, the company donates 50 percent of its profits back to the country where the fabrics come from, with 25 percent of the profits donated directly to its partner charity in each country. The other 25 percent is invested in regional microfinance, infrastructure or small business investments.

Serengetee’s current featured charities include Starfish Greathearts Association in South Africa, which focuses on AIDS support and City of Hope Refuge, an orphanage in Ghana.

It also donates to the International Pediatric Specialists Alliance for the Children of Vietnam, the World is Just a Book Away in Indonesia, and Sustainable Oceans International in Australia and New Zealand. In Mexico and the United States, it donates to Simply Smiles, which helps provide aid to impoverished children. In California, it donates to Reef Check, which deals with environmental issues.

“Serengetee is working toward a sustainable future at home and abroad,” Westberg said
Matt Wasel, a UA economics junior, also decided to get involved after learning about the idea from Westberg.

“I honestly thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard and I asked if I could get in on it. The whole idea is really unique and giving back to the world is the coolest part,” Wasel said.

Wasel currently works on marketing Serengetee, promoting it to universities around the nation.

On Serengetee’s website, customers choose a unique fabric to be made into a pocket and pair it with their desired style of shirt, choosing from V-necks, crews, tanks and racerbacks. The company is now working on a system where customers choose the charity they wish to donate to when they purchase the shirt online.


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