Better Business

Yoga-apparel company turns profit into compassion.
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Yoga-apparel company turns profit into compassion.
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Some people give generously to charities that support their beliefs. Others donate their time to a cause. For three Oregon yogis, however, writing a check or

engaging in onetime action was not enough. Instead, the trio founded a for-profit yoga-apparel business to raise funds for yoga-based nonprofit

organizations.

Hip Citizen Apparel (hipcitizen.com) sells clothing as a means of financially supporting its

cause: The company donates cash and clothing and uses profits from the sale of clothing to host fundraising events that support their chosen organizations.

The company's first fundraiser, in July 2006, benefited the Art of Yoga Project (

target="_blank">theartofyogaproject.org

), a nonprofit that brings free yoga instruction to girls in the juvenile justice system. In October Hip

Citizen will host a fundraiser to increase awareness about the benefits of yoga for people with substance addiction, according to company cofounder

Christopher Johnston. Each fundraiser includes a fashion show of Hip Citizen Apparel's yoga line, talks by experts in the field, and a yoga class.

"The inspiration for the company came out of our yoga practice, and we're trying to infuse every part of the company with that spirit," says

Johnston, who founded the company in 2005 with his wife, Danielle Avila-Johnston (who designs the clothes), and their business partner, Mariane Corallo.

"Yoga, for most people, typically begins on the mat. But it naturally moves into the rest of the world the deeper their practice goes."

The ancient yogis called the spirit of giving, or compassion, karuna, and appropriately, Hip Citizen Apparel's 2008 line of cotton pants, hoodies,

tees, and camisole tops is emblazoned with that Sanskrit word. The fabric is purchased domestically from companies that have sound labor practices (American

Apparel and Bella have been vendors), and the owners strive to keep prices low (pants and tops retail for $35 to $40). And to cap it all off, a holy

person—often a yogi—blesses each piece of fabric, Johnston explains. Native American shamans and religious ministers bestow blessings, too.

Johnston says that being profitable and being able to donate significant proceeds to nonprofits is an ongoing balancing act, and that the partners have yet

to take salaries, although that step may be necessary at some point. But he is committed to the Hip Citizen mission. "Doing business by this business

model is like a balance pose," he says. "You need to relax, stay focused and grounded, and recognize that balance is not an end state but rather a

journey."