About a year ago, in November 2009, Julio Anta and David Merida launched the Humility Now brand with a simple purpose: to serve the homeless community in Downtown Miami. Since then, they’ve hosted four large-scale volunteer events, rallied against and beaten a law that would have made it illegal to feed the homeless in Miami, and launched their t-shirt project — a buy-one-give-one model inspired by concepts like TOMS Shoes. They are inspiringly active on Storenvy and other social media channels, and their promotional work has paid off: Their shirt sales have steadily increased each month, and profits from sales allow them to organize more volunteer events and reach more people. This is how they do it.
Storenvy: Ever since we first found your brand on Storenvy, we’ve been big fans of the Humility Now concept. What inspired the work you do?
Julio Anta: For the past few years, before David and I even met, we had both done extensive work with the homeless. He had worked with different Church groups to organize feedings, and I had spent time dumpster diving to collect food to feed my friends living on the streets and got to know their stories in the process. It was their stories that inspired us to start something that would bring hope to our community’s homeless population. During our time of getting to know our homeless friends, we noticed Church groups and government organizations giving out food and water, but treating the homeless we had met and loved like animals. In their eyes they were sub-human. This was totally contrary to how we knew the homeless should be treated and worked with. I’d read the Bible and seen a Jesus who was homeless himself and said that whatever we did for the least of these (the homeless, widows, orphans, etc.) was like doing it for Jesus himself! I’d argue that if anyone — no matter what religion you practice — were to run into Jesus on the street today, you would not treat him like an animal or feed him government cheese! Humility Now is our answer to this treatment of the homeless and the idealistic and hopeful example of doing it a different way. It’s proof that a 19- and 20-year-old can make a difference in their communities for people often ignored and given up on.
SE: Could you tell us a story about one of the people you’ve helped through Humility Now’s work?
JA: Anyone we’ve ever been able to help has always been through the compassionate work of our amazing volunteers. Here’s one story: At our first volunteer event, we met a woman completely handicapped, in a wheel chair, with sores all over her legs, begging for help. She had become easily bruised and would bleed often. Fortunately one of our volunteers that day was a doctor. For almost an our she examined her, treated her guerilla-style with napkins and Purell and taught her how to treat her sores. Today, she’s doing a lot better because of our volunteer!
SE: It can be awkward to encounter homeless people on the street. How would you recommend that we treat people with respect when we’re simply passing by?
JA: I think the best advice I can offer is to see yourself, your family and those you love in the eyes of the beggars, panhandlers, and homeless living in your city. If you’re at an intersection and a homeless person is asking for change, roll down your window and give it to them. Don’t worry about what they do with the money, just know that you did your part and what they do with the money is between them and their conscious. I always prefer treating someone to a meal in a public place, but a lot of times that isn’t possible. When it comes to being on the street and alone, especially for females, a nice smile and hello should suffice. Even with males, we always recommend feeding the homeless in groups. Not because the homeless are more susceptible to acts of violence, but because you’re an outsider entering into someone else’s community. A community with no walls or boundaries. It can get dangerous at times. SE: The Humility Now brand kills it in social media, on Storenvy, Twitter, Facebook and more. For cause-based brands like yours who need a marketing boost, what advice would you have for them? JA: Wow, thank you for the compliment! All I can say is be everywhere and stay current. Living in a time where social media has become the new tastemaker for what’s new, in style, and trending, we have a unique opportunity to promote at all times of the day, with relatively no budget, anywhere we have access to the internet. There’s really no reason why a great idea can’t get off the ground when you work hard and take advantage of social networks. Anytime we have a volunteer event or release a new product we take it straight to our networks to promote. The rest of the time, we’re constantly posting quotes relevant to homelessness and poverty, as well as spreading the word about our organization. The minute you let one of your networks sit stale, you lose followers and your audience. At any time you can be spreading the reach of your brand through the use of social media.
SE: What makes Storenvy right for Humility Now’s online store?
JA: Even before we started the clothing line aspect of the organization, I had been a big fan of Storenvy and knew that’s what I’d be using for our online marketplace. I love the idea of a social shopping community. Being able to follow stores and like products makes perfect sense to me. I don’t know why everyone else isn’t doing it! It’s great for brands who want to promote and get their name out there, and great for consumers who want to stay up to date with their favorite brands and see what their friends are liking as well! We’re big fans of social media at Humility Now, and Storenvy is a huge part of it!
This fall, Humility Now is releasing a series of artist collaboration tees, the first of which was the “Do Good” tee in collaboration with Koji. For release in the coming week is an awesome looking tee designed by James Heimer.
You can join Humility Now’s movement to serve the homeless with humility and respect by buying a tee — for each shirt you buy, Julio & David give one personally to a homeless person in Miami — and you can get their updates by following them on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.