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MU students’ Web site provides environmentally friendly merchandise

Monday, August 11, 2008 | 5:24 p.m. CDT; updated 7:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 11, 2008
The owners of environmentally friendly Factory Green, entrepreneurs and MU pre-med seniors Jack Short, left, and Daniel Lyons.

COLUMBIA — Since the launch of their Web site, factorygreen.com, in late April, entrepreneurs and MU pre-med seniors Daniel Lyons and Jack Short have taken a passion and turned it into a business.

Factory Green offers environmentally friendly clothing and houseware items. The company aims at providing low prices for their target market of young adults ages 18 to 25.

"We had a guy from Canada write us the other day and tell us how much he likes our Web site and company. Overall, I think we've had an enthusiastic response from people so far, and we're just having a lot of fun with it," Short said.

In the upcoming months, Factory Green will update their Web site and have a new marketing campaign focusing on online and word-of-mouth advertisements. Short said the company avoids advertising with flyers as a way to emphasize the environmental values of the company. The company averages 10 to 15 orders daily or about 100 orders per week.

In the fall, Factory Green will also make additions to product lines.

Lyons and Short hope that buying items on their Web site will encourage people to think differently about other small things they can do to be environmentally helpful.

"If people see something they like on the Web site and buy it, we hope it may make them more aware of going green and encourage people to make more environmentally friendly choices in their life," Lyons said.

The majority of the company's sales are from apparel. T-shirts range in price from $15 to $25 and small household items like shower curtains and clocks range from $20 to $30.

Lyons and Short are childhood friends from the Kansas City area. They came up with the idea to start Factory Green after studying abroad in Europe for a semester. Lyons and Short saw the European lifestyle firsthand and how it deals with issues such as alternative transportation options and cars and wanted to bring a piece of their experience back to Columbia.

"In Europe, there isn't just a green movement, it's more of a green lifestyle," Short said.

As part of their environmentally friendly mission, Lyons and Short get apparel from a factory in India that employs workers under fair-trade conditions. The factory reduces carbon emissions in the atmosphere by 85 percent by running on wind and solar power. Additionally, all apparel is made from 100 percent low-impact and organic cotton and printed with environmentally friendly ink. Factory Green cuts down on their environmental impact by reducing shipping costs by using recycled boxes or Cradle to Cradle boxes to ship orders. The company also packages orders with recycled tissue paper and limits the number of stops and side routes that orders take.

The apparel designs are made by MU art students who are friends of Lyons and Short.

"It's made by college students for college students," Lyons said.

The company's most popular item, which has accounted for approximately 10 percent of sales so far, is a T-shirt with a stick figure standing with a speech blurb that says "WTF" standing next to a tree stump. The shirt represents the logging industry and the idea to preserve trees.

When searching for houseware products for the company, Lyons and Short communicate with the company to see how "green" they really are by looking at transportation methods and the quality of the product. Lyons and Short also sometimes order products before purchasing mass amounts to check the products out for themselves and have a group of their friends and MU faculty test the product to see if it is something they would be interested in.

"We have to ask ourselves, is this stuff cool? Is this something people are going to want to buy?" Short said.

The business also gives a portion of its profits to the United Nations Water for Life program. According to the organization's Web site, the main goal of the group is "to promote efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015."

"We wanted part of our business to go back to philanthropy and liked the United Nations Water for Life program because it cleans the most natural resource, water." Lyons said.

Factory Green plans to make a donation to the United Nations Water for Life at the end of the fiscal year. Short said that so far the company has earned $400 to $500 to give to the organization.

Short said they have several investors in the company.

Short sees the project as a "full blown corporation" that will continue as he and Lyons go through medical school and beyond.

"My favorite part about this process has been taking a passion of mine and putting it into action with my best friend," Lyons said.

 


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