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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Buy a shirt, provide an education

At 5 years old, Dieu lost both of her parents. She now lives with her grandparents, who have a very low income. Her grandma, the family breadwinner, recently fell ill and could no longer provide for the family; consequently, Dieu was unable to afford an education. This is where Thought Threads came in.

UC Davis students and an alumnus came together and over the past year and a half have developed a business plan for a nonprofit organization called Thought Threads, which now financially supports Dieu’s education.

“Our main mission is to subsidize education for students in developing nations,” said senior economics major Leo Thom. “We feel that education is something so basic and so primary.”

The organization raises money through the sale of T-shirts, hence the name Thought Threads. Thom, one of three co-founders, had an interest in the fashion industry and in charity and wanted to combine the two.

“We try to team up with a team in the area and a local designer,” Thom said. “It’s an easy way to give back and we think people can relate to this, especially being on a college campus. And you are going to buy clothes anyway, so why not have those funds go to a good cause?”

Co-founder and senior sociology and Asian American studies double major Daphne Nguyen is currently supporting two of her cousins who are going to school in Vietnam, which is why Thought Threads efforts are focused there.

“I became a part of Thought Threads because I wanted to pass on the opportunities of an education that I was able to receive to others who are less fortunate than I am,” Nguyen said in an e-mail.

Nguyen also agreed with Thom that the organization makes it easy for people to give back and it also applies to a lot of different people.

“Thought Threads is a great idea because we are trying to do good in a creative way that allows a lot of different people to become involved,” Nguyen said in an e-mail. “From designers, to students, families and friends, anyone can be a part of all aspects of our organization.”

Thom, Nguyen and a third co-founder, Bryan Hutchinson, a senior managerial economics and Spanish double major, came up with the idea of selling T-shirts to help subsidize education in other countries just last year and immediately wanted to put it into action.

“We are entrepreneurial people and we wanted to channel that to a positive goal. So we started talking about starting a nonprofit and decided this would be the best way to give back,” Hutchinson said.

The three co-founders met in their co-ed professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, and said that being part of it has helped them expedite the start-up process, such as introducing them to Calvin Chan, a 2006 graduate in computer engineering.

Chan, now the president of the organization, heard about Thought Threads when he visited the fraternity and offered his expertise in starting a business to the young entrepreneurs.

“I think that education is really important; that’s one of the main reasons why my parents emigrated here from Hong Kong,” Chan said. “I feel fortunate because I know that there are a lot of children out there who do not have the opportunity, so I want to give them the opportunity to learn and go to school.”

While the organization is still in the beginning stages, having sold only a handful of shirts due to supply and printing difficulties, both Thom and Hutchinson said they have high hopes.

“If we have to put a monetary goal on it, in our first year we hope to generate at least $10,000. [It] sounds like a really large number compared to what we have raised right now, but I think that’s because we haven’t been out there yet,” Thom said. “We’re starting small, but have big plans.”

These big plans include expansion to other countries and eventually more than just sponsoring children: creating an entire foundation and even a school, Thom said.

With such big plans, it may seem questionable that a group of college students can pull off something this large, but Thom said that college is the best time to begin something like Thought Threads.

“People are often hesitant to start up something while they are in college but I think that being in college is the best time to start up a company just because you are around so many different ideas and perspectives,” Thom said. “Don’t wait; if you have an idea just go with it.”

Thom, Nguyen and Hutchinson certainly didn’t wait, and now a child in Vietnam is receiving the funds for an education, thanks to Thought Threads.

“Everyone in their heart has love, whether they want to show it or not, so buying a $20 shirt can help a little girl in another country go to school when otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to,” Hutchinson said.

The team said that by supporting children and their education, they would be indirectly helping the community as a whole.

“There is a huge correlation between education level and poverty level, meaning that a majority of impoverished communities don’t have kids that graduated secondary education,” Hutchinson said. “Not only are we helping the kids, but we are helping the community with future generations, one step at a time.”

To purchase a Thought Threads shirt, visit www.thoughtthreads.org.

DEVON BOHART can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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