Alok Appadurai is the American social entrepreneur behind Fed By Threads, a social business endeavoring to tackle the issue of food-insecurity in America through fashion. Adding a spin to the one-for-one model, Fed By Threads translates the purchase of one item into 12 donated meals through its support of Feeding America and the Community Food Bank Of Southern Arizona (CFBSA). Alok recently spoke with SocialBusiness.org to share his social entrepreneurship journey so far and to shed light on his latest venture!
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
Fed By Threads was born out of a need for us to have a shirt designed for our African Dance & Yoga studio in Tucson, as at the same time as we were learning about the vast hunger challenges facing 48 million food-insecure Americans including 16 million children. We realized we had to do something! While there are many incredible projects that focus on hunger and other issues internationally like in India, my fatherland, and beyond, we wanted to focus our focus right here in the United States, to raise awareness, and meet our goal of providing 1,000,000 meals over the next 3 years!
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
Personally, I have been a social entrepreneur at heart since I was young, recognizing that business could be used to create social, environmental, and economic change! Prior to launching Fed By Threads, I had run my own firm in clean energy that targeted technologies which convert garbage into electricity and fuel. So Fed By Threads was really a natural extension of my belief in creating positive action through business. It really doesn't have to be a hard leap for anyone to make, it just takes a desire to do something beyond making money that helps people, even in small ways. They add up.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration comes in so many layers over a lifetime. Obviously, TOMS shoes has been an incredible leader and beacon for other social entrepreneurs. I particularly gravitate to the fact that the founder of TOMS didn't raise outside financing and was able to run his company with less financial pressures, even if it meant bootstrapping it more. That was so very encouraging to read! I've also been deeply affected by compassionate world leaders like the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa who stood up for what they believed in and advocated for peace between peoples. That takes courage and we hope Fed By Threads would be something any of them would be proud to wear!
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Advice from others is the best reset I can imagine! There are only so many ideas in my one brain but once I sit down with close confidants whom I trust, I am energized with actionable ideas and feedback that make me so excited to get to the office! Oddly enough, ever since I was in college, I have the tendancy to walk up and down hallways bouncing a tennis ball to help me think and sort through my ideas. It is a way of taking a break from the computer and letting my brain digest, while also probably annoying the heck out of those around me. We all have our little tricks to help us 'reset' I guess!