Holstee Founding Brothers Wear Their Heart on Their (Tee-shirt) Sleeves
Story contributed by Nicole Borawski.
In less than 2 years since inception, Holstee is acquiring fans and recognition for its eco-friendly, socially driven apparel line. What began as a pet project in May 2008 is now a full time endeavor for creators and brothers, Mike and Dave Radparvar.
Holstee, a combination of ‘holster’ and ‘tee shirt’, began as a simple idea between Mike, 27, Dave, 24, and part time partners, Fabian Pfortmüller, 27,
and Thianh Lu, 28. The idea for the first Holstee, was very practical in nature – they wanted a shirt with a functional pocket on it. The first prototype (hanging in their office) was a patch of cloth sewn onto an unsightly undershirt. Since then, the concept has matured. Neither brother had worked in fashion, so they’ve faced a steep learning curve along the way.
The Radparvars designed their business model to involve Kiva, an organization that micro-lends to entrepreneurs in underdeveloped countries. Ten percent of Holstee’s revenue will go to Kiva and customers will know exactly how much is being lent from their purchase. The brothers chose to lend through Kiva because of their transparency, vast pool of loan recipients, and potential for positive impact. Mike says, “They have created an incredible catalyst for the developed world to bring critical resources to the developing, in a way that no other organization has been able to do- we are excited to support them.”
“Micro lending is cycled through on a grassroots level into the community. The money distributed has a ripple effect that spreads throughout local economy,” says Dave. “It is the best way to infuse money –it is natural and organic, and creates business and jobs. There is a great domino effect. We feel super fortunate to cycle that good karma.”
The principles behind Holstee are the Radparvars’ ways to pay it forward, both economically and environmentally. Their shirts are made from 100% recycled polyester, a blend of post-consumer and post-industrial waste.
The brothers never saw themselves working in fashion or apparel design. Mike was working at a consulting company for 3.5 years before making the tough decision to quit. Dave also felt a void at his job, working at an interactive agency. He wanted a job where his personal values shined in the products he worked with. The brothers made the mutual decision to quit their jobs 6 months ago to launch Holstee full time. Mike explains that Holstee was a catalyst for something the brothers wanted to do for a long time. “Shifting from salaried jobs to a startup has required lifestyle shifts- though many of the concerns we had about taking this leap were less challenging than we had thought. In fact we both feel the lifestyle shifts have proven very positive.”
The duo is more cautious about how they spend their dollars—they're cooking and inviting friends over much more, biking and skateboarding everywhere, and hosting travelers from around the world in their East Village apartment to help alleviate their biggest expense, rent.
Mike and Dave suggest, though, that becoming active in the pay it forward revolution does not have to involve money. Just giving an extra thank you and giving people a reason to take pride in their work and life is all it takes.
With a new website fully launched, Holstee is broadening their product line and selling in East Village boutiques that share the brand's values. “We have a long-term vision, which took the form of our Manifesto on our website,” explains Mike. “It is what we want out of life and our company, and our daily inspiration. Writing the manifesto and having it on our site, and knowing that’s where we are going, is amazing.”
Nicole Borawski is a freelance writer and full-time creative recruiter in NYC often seen frolicking around the Lower East Side. Follow her writing and adventures at http://nikkiborawski.posterous.com/.