Ever feel like you can do something more with your online business? You can. Check out this feature on Volusion customer, Draper Therapies, to be inspired by their philanthropic efforts that are truly making an impact.
In troubled economic times, it’s easy to put ourselves and our profits ahead of others.
But for Draper Therapies, working toward the common good has been in their business model for years. Since the company began in 2003 from their breakthrough work with a smart-fiber called Celiant®, Draper Therapies has used their time, energy and product line to help speed injury recoveries in animals and humans alike.
Draper Therapies stems from their parent company, Draper Knitting Company, a family owned and operated textile mill that has been in business since 1856. With 150+ years of experience in textiles and community outreach, Draper Therapies is in a prime position to share their passion to make the world a better place.
Wondering how you can spin your ecommerce site into a charitable powerhouse? Take some clues from our interview with Kat Wojtylak, Product Manager of Draper Therapies.
Tell us how you got started with your business.
Kristin Draper is the founder and president of Draper Therapies. When she was introduced to the revolutionary fabric, now called Celliant, she was a skeptic like everyone else. After giving a small piece of development fabric to an injured friend, she was surprised to hear that after only a few hours, her friend’s swelling was relieved and her recovery accelerated.
Kristin then began to think that if this product could work on humans, then the benefits might also work for her friend’s horse. We did round after round of product testing on the aging horse, who responded with both affection and increased performance. Even her aging Basset hound found climbing three sets of stairs every day a bit easier on his arthritic hips. We were amazed!
Kristin started giving everyone she knew pieces of fabric to try, from polo wraps on her sister’s knee replacement to her brother in law, the medic, in Iraq. Her son started wrapping his minor hockey and lacrosse injuries in Celliant and was always ready the next day for practice or a game. As the positive feedback continued to come in about decreased swelling and reduced recovery time, it became our mission to bring this holistic option to equine, canine and human markets to help with whatever ailed them.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first opened your business?
When Draper Therapies was first started, the biggest challenge was getting this new, and at that time, unproven, technology into the marketplace. Kristin also had limited knowledge and time when it came to running a business centered on equine products over and above her normal duties, so it was hard to find a balance.
Fast forward quite a few years later, and now we have a larger customer basis and companies like Reebok and Adidas who have launched apparel lines with the Celliant technology. Good things come to those who wait.
Tell us a little more about the philanthropic work performed by you and Draper Therapies.
Draper Knitting Company, with their longstanding history here in Canton, MA (since 1856), has always been in support of their surrounding community. Whether it’s making fabric donations to local children’s organizations, pet shelters or reaching out and supporting the events and groups in the community, we do it all.
So when I was added to Draper Therapies, I wanted to continue what Draper Knitting had been a part of, but wanted our efforts to directly affect our targeted markets and stand for all the elements that make up our core. I had cancer back in 2006 which has greatly affected my personal life, but something I was greatly motivated to do something about as well. I became involved with the Spencer Bell Memorial, whose focus was on a young man named Spencer Bell who died of adrenal cancer, an orphan cancer (not so well known or widely affected) at a very early age.
After talking with the head researcher, Dr. Gary Hammer at the University of Michigan who is not only looking into treatment options, but also looking to spread the word on these types of cancer, we knew we had found our match when it came to giving back.
Kat and Dr. Gary Hammer
The Draper Philanthropy Project was set up to have funds go directly towards making forward movement on adrenal cancer research. Because of where this disease wreaks havoc on the body, the research provides movement in similar diseases for horses and dogs, which fits so perfectly into all we were doing.
To really solidify everything, we had designed a blanket which keeps the therapeutic effects of our core products, but which also supports these initiatives: “Draped in Health, Wellness, Life and Love.” We also have bracelets which help support the cause and bring heightened awareness to all that we’re doing. 100% of the bracelet sales go to the Spencer Bell Endowment Fund and 50% of the Draped in Health blanket sales go there as well.
We keep some money aside to continue forward on spreading the word, but also to attend and even sponsor events centered on these ideals. I keep a blog up to date on news and advancements in cancer research as a whole, but also the events we’re attending to support Spencer Bell and/or the University of Michigan. Each package that goes out from our warehouse includes a pamphlet explaining more about this disease and our efforts. We speak about this project as much as we are able to, bring donation boxes and products to each show we attend and get involved with other fundraisers that go to support this cause as well.
What is the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced from your philanthropic work?
The biggest reward from all of this is getting to make a donation to the Spencer Bell Endowment Fund and knowing that no matter how little that amount is, every dollar goes directly to the source in helping to eventually find a cure for such an unknown type of cancer. I’ve actually been contacted by our customers who have had family members go through adrenal cancer or any type of cancer and through that we establish these awesome connections that bring us way beyond a product sale.
How do you go about balancing the business-side of your company with your philanthropic efforts?
I don’t believe there is a conscious balance because it is a part of who we are – there is no separation. We found something we were passionate about and something we could speak honestly and openly about. It’s about integrating all that we believe into the core values of a company (our Draper Dogma as we call it). These ideals are personally a part of us, so we can be passionate about what we do, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
Draped in Health Bracelets to help support the Draper Therapies Philanthropy Project
What advice do you have for online business owners who are looking to philanthropic work into their business model?
Above all, choose something you are passionate about and that you “light up” when you talk about, making sure your employees or any of your representatives know the story and can be as equally passionate. Beyond that, it’s important to have complete transparency. We’ve seen a lot of companies get burned because they were donating a percentage of total proceeds, but no one knew when that actually took place and if it did. The major piece of advice we offer, is to make sure the organization you’re working with KNOWS about what you’re doing and is in full support. So if you’re affiliated with an organization, get a letter from them to document your relationship and intentions, have them help you spread the word initially so there never is a doubt in your customer’s minds. Just be honest and true.
We’d like to extend a big thanks to Kat and the Draper Therapies team for sharing their story and insights with us. More importantly, we’d like to thank them for reminding all of us that we have the power to make a difference with ourselves and our businesses – we hope that you’re inspired to do the same, just like Draper Therapies continues to do.