A visit to Burlington’s Nordstrom by a product buyer for Barnes & Noble has not only led to a new selection of products in the bookstores at some Boston-area colleges, it may also lead to hungry people in Boston getting something to eat. Founded by brother and sister Carmin and Christian Black, Half United sells accessories including necklaces, bracelets, and earrings with half of the profit on every item sold being donated to charities that fight hunger.
The siblings celebrated their company entering the Boston market by appearing at the Simmons College Barnes & Noble bookstore Monday. Originally, they had intended to donate half the proceeds from the items sold during their campus visit to charities Half United already supports, but the events surrounding the Boston Marathon led to a change in plans.
“We decided to give the proceeds from this event to support the Boston Rescue Mission, said Carmin Black. “Not only does this organization feed children in need in the Boston area, but the Mission’s director was running in the Marathon when the bomb went off.”
Half United began in 2009 after Carmin spent time working for Toms Shoes traveling the country on a speaking tour. Toms uses a “one for one” model where it gives away a pair of shoes for every pair it sells. Since it began, Toms has given away more than one million pairs of shoes in over 50 countries.
Although Half United was inspired by Toms’ one for one efforts, the company uses a different philanthropic model.
“It never made sense to say that if you buy a product, we give one meal away because in developing nations a meal can cost between 7 and 25 cents,” Carmin said.
After the company’s launch, Half United’s products were picked up nationally by Nordstrom and it was in the Burlington Nordstrom that a Barnes & Noble buyer saw the items and decided to bring them to Simmons College, Boston University, and Yale University in New Haven. Instead of simply selling to students and donating the profits to its existing charity partners, the Black siblings plan to create campus clubs so students can direct funds to local organizations.
“We want to fund projects in Boston. For every necklace we sell, we give the students $17 to give to local organizations,” Carmin said.
The Half United necklaces, with their signature bullet, are meant, according to the Blacks, to take something negative and turn it into something that transforms lives and provides a hope for a better future.
“The recycled bullet casings used in our ‘Fighting Hunger’ necklaces represent our customer’s fight against hunger. The symbol is powerful and meant to strike conversations,” Carmin explained. “Anytime someone says the bullet casings are offensive we think, ‘awesome!’ That’s the whole the point. Hunger is offensive, it should offend us all.”
Half United uses recycled bullet casings from target ranges in its necklaces.
“Our casings have never harmed anyone or anything and they can never be refilled to one day do so,” Carmin added.
Half United’s products are now on sale at Simmons, Boston University, and Yale. These are the first campus bookstores the company’s products will be sold in.
Most Half United necklaces sell for between $28 and $40 with prices varying based on type of chain and whether the purchaser wants an anchor charm. The company has given away over 63,000 meals in 22 countries, including the United States.