HALFUNITED: FIGHTING GLOBAL HUNGER

COEUS interviews sibling duo Carmin and Christian Black, founders of HALFUNITED.  HALFUNITED creates socially conscience fashion merchandise and donates exactly half of their profits to feeding kids in need.   What inspired you to start HALFUNITED? Carmin and I have always loved fashion. Growing up, a motto our mother would tell us was “Pain is beauty”. Ha ha. Our mother is an interior designer and had previously worked for companies like Gucci and Prada. On the flip side, our father was a minister while Carmin and I were growing up so helping people was always #1. Before HALF UNITED I attempted to start a tee shirt line but had no idea how difficult it actually was. At the same time Carmin was interning with TOMS Shoes. When Carmin returned from the road with TOMS we decided that we would pursue creating a fashion company that helped the world. We saw that there was a need to help the hungry so that’s what we did. What does “HALFUNITED” mean? How did you come up with that name? At HALF UNITED we give away HALF of our profits to feed kids in need and we do that by UNITING with our supporters to make the change. Myself: Christian Black: Creative Director at HALF UNITED. I do all of our graphic design and maintenance of halfunited.com. I also maintain our social media accounts and blogs. My #1 passion here is t-shirt design–an area where I am ever growing. Everything I do is really a learning process and I’d like to think I’m getting better as I go along. Sarah Brown, HALF Operations: Sarah is a list maker. When it comes to events, budgets or traveling, Sarah is #1. Sarah really keeps Carmin and I inline and keeps the office moving forward. Sarah has a long history in business where as Carmin and I don’t. Sarah is very hard working and very wise and is a vital part of HALF. We also have an amazing team of Interns: Kate is very hard working- always willing to go the extra mile and do whatever we ask of her. Allie has a heart for helping people and is our lead giving intern. Always comes into the office with a smile on her face. Mike is our lead accounting intern. Mike has been a VERY important part of the team and is a very hard worker. Rane came along with Mike as an accounting intern and has done an amazing job. He is a very positive person and very hard worker. Caitlin has been a trooper when it comes to making bullet necklaces and being somewhat of a jack of all trades. How did you start this company with only $200? My sister and I had very little money. We have never taken an investor or a loan. We literally started HALF UNITED with the money we had in our pockets. When we began we didn’t really know what we wanted to be. All we knew was that we wanted to feed people in need every time we sold a product. In the beginning we were purchasing things from the dollar store and painting on them and selling them at art festivals- things like mugs and kitchen towels. Ha ha. But people were buying these things! What we really wanted was to be an apparel company so slowly saving up from the sales of these TERRIBLE products we were able to start painting on tees and make make-shift necklaces. Our next step was getting tees screen printed then Carmin, my sister, came up with the fighting hunger bullet necklace which has been our staple piece since. What were some of the difficulties you experienced with starting a new business? The obvious problem was and is income. Working full time on something that you’re not making money doing. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep our team motivated having to work for free but the truth that with every product we sell someone in a much worse situation than us is being helped keeps us going! Another is working with your sibling. It’s been quiet a journey working with my sister! We had many fights but, along with that memories that I wouldn’t change for the world. Who helps keep HALFUNITED going? Our core staff is made up of 3. Carmin Black: Founder. I am always impressed with Carmin’s work ethic. She is really the driving force behind HALF UNITED. She’s a talker and I’m thankful for that because I’m not. She is always reaching out and meeting important people and is really great at making decisions. Carmin’s fashion sense has been vital to HALF’s success as well. Mostly everything you see in terms of accessories and women’s apparel was dreamt up by Carmin. What countries are supported through your initiative? USA, Liberia, Africa, Fiji and Cambodia. Do you believe the success of your company is directly linked with people’s innate desire to help those that are less fortunate? I certainly have established more of a faith in humanity from seeing the hearts of people not only from our online sales but by meeting our supporters at events we attend- peoples true passion and enjoyment for what we are doing here at HALF UNITED. Are your pieces carried in stores or you only available online? We’re available both online and in retail stores in 18 States. You can see every retail store we’re in at http://halfunited.com/stay-connected/retailers/ What incentives do you offer your customers to get active and help the fight against hunger? When you’re wearing a FIGHTING HUNGER Bullet Necklace or a HALF UNITED t-shirt you’re a part of a team. You become a part of the HALF UNITED family of world changers and Hunger Fighters. The cool thing about our necklace is that the bullet is a bold statement. It encourages fruitful conversation and demands an explanation. Once you start explaining what it is, that it is a symbol that represents fighting hunger, it increases awareness of the world hunger epidemic and encourages change. How many children are fed through your efforts? To date over 55,400. Do you use recycled materials or would ever consider using recycled materials? All of the bullets used in our Fighting Hunger Bullet Necklaces are recycled from practice shooting ranges. We love the idea of using recycled products. In the future we would certainly like for recycled items to be a staple of HALF UNITED. What organizations do you work with? We work with Feast Down East and The Food Corps here in the US, the More Than Me Foundation in Liberia, The Northern Christian Training Centre in Fiji and Empowerment Advocates Int. in Cambodia. So, you use a tracking system to account for each product sold. Can you explain in more detail how the tracking system works? From every item we sell we take 50% off the profits and put it into a feeding account that we then distribute evenly between the 4 countries that we feed. We have a killer intern team of accountants that really make sure that with every item we sell we are setting aside 50% of the profits. That is #1 for HALF UNITED. Who are your main supporters? North Carolina as a whole has really gotten behind us. Young, Socially conscious consumers- fashion minded people. What types of people generally purchase your product? People between the ages of 18-34 typically purchase our products. Socially Conscious people like our products and what we’re about. Our audience somewhat reflects what our staff enjoys. Things like surfing, skateboarding, music, fashion. What other ways are you helping to end hunger besides selling the apparel? The sale of our products is what allows us to feed the needy. We are constantly looking for new ways to feed people and get involved. We have a presence at local schools where we plant gardens that teach kids about healthy eating- we are locally turning excess food from grocery stores into 3 course meals- we’re feeding school kids and encouraging education in Liberia- we’re providing an income to Cambodian children and providing gardening supplies and healthy foods to an orphanage in Fiji. What can we expect in the future from HALF UNITED? We have some big things in store that we cannot release yet- plans that could possibly change our lives and those we feed forever! We are working on expanding our necklace line- designing a spring line of HALF UNITED clothing- you can find us this year at the Warped Tour and possibly a few more things involving music that are in the works Do you have a blog/any other social networking sites? You can follow our journal at halfunited.tumblr.com. We love twitter and instagram: both usernames arehalfunited and of course on facebook.com/halfunited How would one donate to your organization? You can donate at www.halfunited.com/donate