Founders’ Fridays: Jonathan Torrey, Umano
Hey Rachael here again! Today’s featured Friday founder is Jonathan Torrey from Umano. We talked a little bit about the fashion label, the challenges he and his co-founder and brother Alex have faced, and their experience in Latin America.
Founder: Jonathan Torrey
Company Name: Umano
RP: Tell me a little bit about your startup:
JT: Umano is a fashion label with a twist. It’s all about the pockets. We’ve got one partner school in Mexico, two in Peru. The kids do the drawings, and 51 percent of the profits go back to the school in the form of books, desks, school supplies, all that kind of stuff. It’s a do- good fashion label where we focus on improving education and empowering kids in impoverished communities worldwide.
RP: Where did you get the idea come from?
JT: My brother and I have both lived and traveled throughout Latin America, and we were fortunate to spend a lot of time there and got to know the reality. We spent a lot of time with these kids, especially in more rural places. We wanted to be able to start something where we could make money and be able to help the community. One of the biggest takeaways we’ve learned is that kids there are very ambitious; they just haven’t had the opportunity or resources to get sometimes even a basic education. If we could do a little bit simply by improving the resources they have, we felt that they would be given a much better shot at reaching their dreams.
RP: What have been some of your biggest challenges that you have faced with getting Umano going?
JT: Everything from manufacturing, to dealing with operations, to sources and textiles, to the entire logistics of creating brand awareness and ultimately generating sales. It’s a brand new industry for us. My experience is in the financial world.
RP: What have you learned in the process of building Umano? Is there something you wish you knew now that you didn’t know when you first started?
JT: We have gotten a lot better at estimating realistic timelines. Everything seems to take longer and cost more than you originally envisioned.
RP: What would you say to someone who is considering taking their idea to the next level and building their own startup?
JT: That it’s definitely a lot of fun, it’s stressful, and it takes a lot more energy and commitment, so make sure you’re doing something you don’t mind doing a lot of. You will learn a tremendous amount in the opportunity and it will be one of your best growing experiences.
RP: Where do you Umano being in the next year? Do you think you think you will still be in Athens?
JT: We’ll definitely be in Athens. We are headquartered in Athens, both Alex and I love Athens (Alex is my brother and the other co-founder). We see Umano continuing to work with the University of Georgia in the way we have been working with them.
RP: How have y’all been working with UGA?
JT: We rely on a lot of the students to help us with everything from development to graphic design to brand awareness.
RP: What were you doing before you came up with this idea?
JT: I was working with the National Bank of Canada doing Latin American investments.
RP: So how did you end up in Athens?
JT: Both Alex and I went to UGA.
RP: What has been the high point in your journey of building your startup?
JT: Working with my brother and having the opportunity to help others.
RP: Do you have a low point?
JT: Stress…definitely, but then working my brother and having a social mission built into the DNA of our company makes it totally worth it.
RP: What do you do for fun?
JT: I haven’t had much fun time unfortunately but I used to do triathlons. Any type of running exercises is something I enjoy a lot, and traveling. These are some things that have been put on the back-burner for a little while.
RP: What is your biggest strength and how has that helped you in building Umano?
JT: We are ambitious and determined, and I think that has really been the key to overcoming the challenges and really going through the learning curve that a startup requires.
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