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Students' clothing company makes a direct difference

Pupils from Self Reliance School

Making a purchase that includes a charitable donation often comes with an element of doubt about how much the recipient receives, a problem that inspired two University of East Anglia (UEA) students to set up a company with a very tangible impact.

“Like many people, we’ve made ethical purchases and wondered how much of our money actually went to the charity concerned,” said Nick Hartshorn, a third year PE student. “As part of his International Development degree, my co-founder Fabio Falter visited Cameroon, where he volunteered in the Self Reliance School for orphaned and vulnerable children and saw that many of the pupils, aged 8-21, had no basic educational equipment.

“On his return, we came up with the idea of selling T-shirts and donating a rucksack filled with stationery for every purchase made rather than cash. That way, our customers know that they’re making a direct difference with every T-shirt that they buy.”

The young entrepreneurs received the support of UEA’s Student Enterprise team in establishing their company, Theta Alpha Sigma. “They helped us to produce a business plan and a brand as well as providing initial funding of £500 to enable us to buy stock and develop our website, thetaalphasigma.co.uk, which launched in December,” said Nick.

Finbarr Carter, UEA’s Enterprise Development Officer, said: “Fabio and Nick saw a need and used their energy and initiative to fulfil it, so we were delighted to support them. It’s an inspiring example of how students can make a difference through enterprise.”

Each long-sleeved T-shirt also saves 7kg of greenhouse gases in its manufacturing compared with standard production and all items are made in accordance with the Fair Wear Foundation, guaranteeing fair wages and a safe and healthy working environment.

“So far, our customers have mostly been fellow students who like our product and want to support the cause, but we’re hoping that the launch of our website means that we can widen that base and help more children in more schools,” said Nick. “It’s very rewarding to make such a direct impact.”