Quoleshna Elbert wants to get — and give — the most bang for her buck, she said.
“I’m the person who wants to kill three birds with one stone,” explained the founder of Community Local, an eco-friendly T-shirt brand based in Kansas City.
Such drive is hereditary.
“We want to be able to go deeper than a conversation with our products,” added Elbert’s mother, Victoria Bowman, who this spring launched her own company, Bow Designs by Spherea. “We want to be able to reach not just the mind, but the heart with what we’re offering to people.”
It begins by recognizing the impact makers can have on the environment and social systems around them, the mother-daughter duo said. A recent conversation about the United States being among the world’s most wasteful countries struck a nerve with Bowman, she said.
“That really took me aback,” she said. “How is it that we’re the land of plenty, but we waste so much? Trying to find a solution is where our businesses blend together.”
Humans can remain the No. 1 priority even if people also work to protect the earth in all they do, Elbert said.
“That’s how my faith plays into it,” she said. “You read in the Bible that human beings are supposed to be stewards of this earth.”
Community Local strives to do its part by using fair-trade, eco-conscious T-shirts produced by Kansas City-based GOEX, an offshoot of the Global Orphan Project.
“Each shirt has six plastic bottles in it, which is pretty astonishing,” Elbert said of the 50-percent post-consumer plastic used in the fabric blend. “The other half uses organic cotton that was raised here in the U.S., which is also an eco-friendly product.”
Working with GOEX, a Christ-oriented printer with a social mission, specifically allows Community Local to take a multi-faceted approach to helping their fellow man, she said.
“It’s about understanding how we impact our ecosystems and how our social systems impact us individually, but I also want to empower people to remember their responsibility to their communities and the world around us,” Elbert said. “With Community Local, you’re buying a T-shirt, but you might not realize that the sale helps support workers in Haiti who are earning a living wage to make them.”
The products now are available through Community Local’s website, as well as via a Kickstarter campaign recently launched to help defer startup costs. Elbert also sells her message and wares from a mobile pop-up shop, she said.
“Less is more,” Elbert said. “You don’t necessarily need to have a storefront, even though it’s helpful. Mobility allows you to go wherever you need to go using the resources you have in the best way you can.”
Creating with a purpose
Bowman took a leap of faith with Bow Designs by Spherea, she said.
Making artificial or “forever florals” long has been a hobby, but it took the push from her daughter and a friend to spark the idea for a business emphasizing the arrangements’ sustainability, Bowman said.
“You can put them in the darkest corner and they’ll bring light to a space,” she said. “They’re low maintenance. You don’t have to water them. And they stay beautiful indefinitely — you just have to dust them every so often.”
Coming from a career in corporate paralegal, accounting and administrative work, Bowman’s eyes light up as she discusses the naming conventions and inspirations for her designs.
“It’s a passion,” her daughter explained, “but she’s a generous person by nature. … Her heart is in making sure she’s giving more than a product — she wants to give an experience, something special to reflect that every person is a special creation of God.”
“We’re very much about giving more than what you see on the surface,” Bowman added.
The end goal is to inspire a sense of community with both women’s products, Elbert said.
“We’re creating with a purpose: to bring people together for something more than just networking — for growth,” she said.