Every week on The Primer we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Joe Harawira, founder of clothing company Flo, which donates a free school lunch to a child in need for every product sold.
ONE: How did Flo start and what was the inspiration behind it?
I started Flo (‘flourish’) Clothing in 2015 out of a love of health and fitness, lifestyle fashion and a passion for giving back.
The goal was to combine quality lifestyle and activewear fashion with an aspirational goal to uplift underprivileged kids. In New Zealand, one in four kids go without the basics and that’s where we come in. Our mission is to ‘Level the Playing Field’ so all kids can flourish both in school and in life.
TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting Flo?
I’d always been fascinated by business and after completing an Executive MBA in 2011, I fell in love with social enterprise.
THREE: What sort of clothing do you produce? Who is the target audience?
Flo provides lifestyle and activewear clothing. My intention is to expand into yoga and performance wear clothing. In terms of target audience, Flo is a community where we don’t just aspire towards our own hopes and dreams, be that in health and fitness, business or family, but we also want to help others and we want to give back.
FOUR: Where and how does Flo source their materials and labour?
Products are sourced locally through AS Colour. They only work with reputable factories. We have a good partnership and they’re really supportive of Flo’s mission and vision.
FIVE: As a social enterprise, what kind of business model do you deploy? Have there been challenges being a social enterprise compared to being fully profit-run business?
We use a partnership model. Currently Flo partners reputable initiatives or charities doing amazing things for kids in need. Flo’s partners are Kids Can and Variety the Children’s Charity.
The idea to give away free lunches to kids for every purchase made was taken from the Toms Shoes one-for-one model which makes it easy to understand and market to customers whilst addressing the need. However, going forward I believe Flo must innovate to have the desired impact.
SIX: How many school lunches have you donated so far since starting Flo?
Just over 1,000. The impact has expanded to include sponsoring kids to access sport and recreational activities. Flo currently sponsors a young girl in Wellington to participate in these types of activities outside of school. Next year, Flo will have its own ambassadors go into schools to mentor kids. The impact aligns better with Flo’s underlying philosophy of ‘Move Well, Eat Well, Live Well’.
SEVEN: Do you have any other plans to scale/grow further and if so, what are they?
Yes. I’m about to start a crowdfunding campaign to expand into yoga wear and deliver greater value for kids in need. My campaign aims to raise $10,000. Ultimately, my goal is to create a brand that helps kids around the world.
EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a New Zealand start-up or business that you really admire right now.
42 Below. Great story of resilience, innovation and self-belief.