November is upon us, and this month comes with an important reminder.
How can we make our actions, spending choices, and business plans have a bigger impact on the good in the world? This was the question on our Studio’s mind as the holiday season began rolling in. So, we knew for this month’s Beyond the Brand feature, we needed to speak with someone who put the mission to give back at the very core of their business. Enter, Drew and Carolyn Oxley of The Parative Project.
The Parative Project is an online marketplace making ethical shopping easier, and they are producing beautiful flags that you’ll want to put in every room of your house, made by women in India who have been freed from human trafficking.
As if this wasn’t enough, Drew and Carolyn are also finding ways to put this mission into action in their daily lives as well. Let’s hear how.
We are Drew and Carolyn Oxley—the duo behind The Parative Project. Parative is a collection of flags bringing freedom to women in India, and as of recently, a marketplace making ethical shopping easy and stress-free.
I (Drew) had always been drawn to independent t-shirt companies. In college, I decided to pull the trigger and got three graphic shirts printed. This was before social media; when local bands were the “influencers.” For the first several years it seemed like most weekends consisted of long van rides, shows, and photoshoots.
Then one conversation changed it all. Over lunch, my friend shared the realness of human trafficking and modern-day slavery with me. I remember walking away thinking I need to use the business to help build awareness for this important and unnoticed cause.
After Carolyn and I got married, the idea of flags came about while thinking of what flags mean and represent; a symbol of heritage, claiming territory, or surrender.
Similar to bands changing their sound, Parative has matured from a T-shirt brand to an ethical marketplace.
When we transitioned our production from the states to India, it didn’t sit right with us to turn around and give our personal money to brands that weren’t actively combating similar causes. From that point on, we were committed to shopping ethically for ourselves and our household.
Initially, we thought we would have to settle for “cause products” over “design products,” but through the years we’ve come to love many other brands doing great things. We couldn’t be more excited to share these brands through the marketplace and break the stigma of ethical shopping being too expensive or too much of a hassle to find.
It didn’t feel right to have a business founded on a principle if we weren’t going to uphold that mission in our personal lives. We decided that we had to start using our personal spending to support other brands with transparent supply chains. We made a decision as a family to do our very best to only buy things second-hand or that we knew were made ethically. The journey has been everything from…this is super hard, we’re crying at the mall to…it’s so fun looking for amazing ethically made gifts for our family!
If you’re willing to learn from anyone or anything, we believe you’ll stumble upon nuggets that will help push you forward. There have been times a parenting conversation with another dad has ignited a business idea, and times when a business convo has inspired a new rhythm to practice with my family.
Early on I didn’t give myself enough credit. I felt that since other people had more professional job titles than me they knew more than me. I doubted myself often and bought into the belief that my ‘non-corporate experience’ wasn’t enough. I wasted a lot of resources, to learn the hard way, that most people are just making it up as they go.
Parative goes through seasons for our family. At times we are so busy with our full-time jobs, and 4 kids that all we can do is sustain orders and just keep it running. There are times when we wonder if the business is worth it, but then we remind ourselves that even giving one woman in India a job away from human trafficking is worth anything we can do.
And, in other seasons, we’re able to give it more focus and attention. In these times we can devote a lot of energy to marketing and making the business grow.
Besides turning an idea into a physical product…it’s the people for me. I’ve loved getting to meet people at markets over the years and develop relationships with designers, photographers, and other makers. We recently created several new products with a local leather worker that we are super pumped about!
The flags are our signature product, and we love being able to give work to the factory we partner with in India so we will always make them. But, we are now shifting more focus over to the marketplace and we have a handful of brands queued up to bring into the project that we’re really excited about!
It doesn’t need to be perfect and learn as you go.
Ha! I typically ask this, not give recommendations. Off the top of my head…these have been the most impactful this year:
Books- The Culture Code and anything Patrick Lencioni
Music- Michigander Podcast- How I Built This, Smart Passive Income
Thank you so much for this feature. It means a lot that people care to hear what we have to say and share.
We’re on Instagram! You can also sign up for our newsletter over at our website where we share things we love in the ethical fashion world and other pieces that inspire us.
Thank you so much for sharing Drew and Carolyn, and to everyone reading for joining us. We hope this story sparks some do-gooding of your own, this month and every month.
Tune into our Instagram Live conversation with Drew and Carolyn to hear even more of their story!
Know someone who would be a good fit for this series? Please email us at email@example.com.
Want to be the first to know when a new interview goes live on the blog? Subscribe to our newsletter below. We’ll see you there!