Part of what makes our job so awesome are the people, businesses and organizations we get to work with. The stories we learn about from day to day are intriguing and always keep us motivated. One organization that has inspired us lately is Unlock Hope. They provide healthcare, better food options and a safe place to live for a group of girls in a hostel in Hoima, Uganda, which enables them to educate the girls. They believe this is the first step in ending a difficult cycle of poverty in Africa.
We recently got to ask Dallas Harris, founder of the organization, some questions while he and part of the Unlock Hope team are on the road selling merch and introducing people to Unlock Hope at music festivals.
How did Unlock Hope come to be?
“Unlock Hope has been around for about 2 years in it’s current form. I have started a couple of other companies with similar missions over the past 8 years until I found a story and product that really connected with people. It all started when I watched the original Invisible Children documentary. I immediately started researching ways to help the people of Uganda and started a company called Feed Just One based on the Mother Teresa quote that says ‘If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.’ We donated a ton of meals through shirt sales but wanted to do even more. After learning more and better understanding the needs of Ugandans I discovered that education – especially for young girls – is the most important thing to them. It gives them hope and a future.”
“The keys have a double meaning. They are in the shape of Africa and symbolize unlocking hope for the girls at the hostel that we support. Also, many kids in Uganda have a little locked box where they store their belongings so they wear keys on strings around their neck and I wanted to create something that people here could wear in solidarity and remind them of the difference they are making in their lives.”
How did you end up partnering with Think Humanity?
“I did lots of research into tons of organizations that work in Uganda both large and small and found that many organizations simply don’t use their donations wisely. It’s pretty unbelieveable how efficient Think Humanity is. They are able to use 99% of all donations for program expenses by utilizing a volunteer staff.”
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
“The biggest challenge is being a small but growing company and trying to manage all aspects of the business. There are so many different tasks that come up that you would never think of and kind of just have to learn as you go. I don’t have any employees aside from people helping out for the summer tour so I do a little bit of everything. I recently started having Threadbird handle the online orders and fulfillment so I’m very thankful for that!”
You’re on the road this summer. What does that tour look like for Unlock Hope?
“It’s very challenging and rewarding! Up until this point all of the sales have been online so it’s been great to get to meet and connect with the customers in person. We are doing 12 music festivals this summer and hope to add more events in the fall. The hours are very long and there’s four of us crammed in a passenger van along with all of the merch and displays but we are having a great time!”
What is your favorite story or experience since starting this adventure with Unlock Hope?
“I love getting notes and cards from the girls at the hostel in Uganda! It’s always great to hear about their lives and learn more about their experience. I also love sharing the story with people and letting them know how easy it is to make a huge difference in someone’s life.”
What would you tell people who are passionate about a cause and want to take a step towards making a difference?
“Just go for it and learn as you go! I started by ordering 36 shirts and selling them on MySpace out of my one bedroom apartment and now it’s grown so much. Pick a cause that you are truly passionate about and it will make the difficult times and hard work so much easier.”
What’s the best way for people to help Unlock Hope?
“Aside from ordering the products and supporting the cause financially it is a huge help when people share it with others!”
We want to give a huge thank you to Dallas for chatting with us. We love learning more about what drives our customers and Unlock Hope is definitely doing big things. Find out more about what they’re up to on their site and Instagram. And be sure to check out their available merch on the online store.