Founder Focus: Feeling Good and Doing Good
“Each month I’m putting the spotlight on Founders with purpose. A series which shows us all what’s possible when we’re driving with a purpose at the core of our business.
This month I spoke to Sarah Jordan from Y.O.U Underwear. Sarah’s passion for her purpose echoes that of retail brand Patagonia. Sarah not only shows integrity towards the organisation’s purpose, but every element of it’s manufacturing.
Here Sarah shares her story of how she discovered her purpose, and the actions they are taking as a social enterprise to ensure they are truly living and breathing their purpose.”
I’m Sarah Jordan, and I never expected to be an underwear entrepreneur. In 2016, I visited Uganda to run a marathon, and as part of the experience I did some volunteer work in the community. During my time there, I came face to face with a problem I didn’t expect – people not having access to underwear. I saw numerous women and children being excluded from school, work and their communities, all because they didn’t have underwear. Instead of getting my knickers in a twist – I knew something had to change. That’s why I founded Y.O.U Underwear with a Buy 1 Give 2 promise, meaning that for every item we sell, we donate 2 pairs of underwear to Smalls For All who distribute it across Africa and the UK, mainly to vulnerable women and children.
In some communities it is estimated that 1 in 10 girls miss school on their periods due to a lack of underwear and sanitary products. Without proper period protection, they’re left with no choice but to miss school – up to 12 weeks a year.
So far we’ve donated over 15,000 pairs of underwear to Smalls for All. One of our main goals as a business is to donate 23,000 pairs of underwear by 2023, and we’re well on our way to achieving this. Y.O.U stands for Your Own Underwear, because everyone should have exactly that!
I had no experience in fashion, retail or sustainability – so once I returned from Uganda, I had a lot of research to do. I quickly discovered the devastating effects of conventional cotton on the planet and its people. Our organic cotton underwear is softer, more durable, better for skin and for the planet, than underwear made from conventional cotton.
With this in mind – and after diving deep into the murky world of Fashion, I knew that Y.O.U Underwear had to be manufactured ethically too. This led to us working with India’s leading ethical and sustainable manufacturer to produce our underwear. The factory employs over 1000 workers over 3 factories and operates under SA8000 certified social standards. This means, in addition to the basics – such as no child labour and working hours/minimum wage compliance – that the factory provides things like overtime compensation, incentives and Freedom of Association for all its workers. They’ve also got a number of extra initiatives of their own, providing transport, meals and health planning for workers, as well as funding for their children’s education. I was lucky enough to visit the factory in May 2019 to witness the operations for ourselves and meet the team!
Four out of five women have low self esteem when it comes to their bodies. This is why all Y.O.U underwear is designed to be comfortable and stylish across a broad range of body sizes and shapes, and why we are working to be as inclusive as possible in our photoshoots and never airbrush our images. We actively promote body positivity through our brand imagery and marketing strategies. We’ve even hidden inspirational messages inside our pants to remind you that You Make A Difference!
My purpose is to empower women through giving back, representative marketing, ethical manufacturing and sustainable materials. Our motto is ‘Y.O.U Underwear lets you look good, feel good and do good’ – and our core values are intertwined throughout our business.