Umano is a clothing brand that uses children’s artworks as designs for its apparels. For every t-shirt sold, the brand donates a bag of art supplies to any youngster who might be in need.
Umano manufactures sustainable t-shirts that are made using wood from birch trees. The sewing, meanwhile, is done from a micro-modal, sustainably-derived fabric. As per the owners, this approach makes their clothing ‘freakishly soft’.
The brand focuses less on t-shirts and clothing, and more on assisting and empowering children. In 2016, Umano donated 10,000 art backpacks to children across the United States.
Umano was co-founded by the brothers, Alex and Jonathan Torey, who decided to launch this initiative after researching sustainable businesses.
The brothers believe that children should be taught how to think (and not what to think), and this belief is what served as the inspiration for Umano.
One might think that the brothers were not suited for entrepreneurship – especially an apparel brand – considering that Alex was employed by the CIA, while Jonathan was a banker. However, driven by a cause larger than them, the Toreys decided to carve out a new path for themselves – despite having no knowledge or experience in manufacturing, designing, or e-commerce.
They started their business out of their parent’s garage. Once they started donating the backpacks and interacting with children, Alex and Jonathan realized that the children had a lot of confidence and pride in their artwork, and using this art in Umano’s apparel would be an excellent way to bolster this mentality. The brothers, therefore, turned to Kickstarter for help, and were able to raise an impressive $30,000. They used this money to increase their warehouse space and boost their screen-printing capacities.
Is Umano Still an Active Business?
By the start of 2017, Umano had managed to donate 40,000 bags of artwork to children in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, the brand decided to end this journey and, by March of 2017, had officially shut its operations down.
How Did the Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Jonathan and Alex made their Shark Tank appearance during season seven of the show. The brothers were seeking an investment of $150,000 in exchange for a 15% stake in Umano – a company valuation of $1 million.
They opened their pitch by talking about their home and family. They tell the Sharks that they’ve decided to move back in with their parents, who now help them run and grow the business. They said that Umano was missing out due to a lack of available inventory, and therefore, the bulk of the $150,000 that they were seeking would be used to purchase and stock more raw material.
They aim to create high-quality apparel and use it to connect people to a bigger cause, and that they see their products as a ‘badge of pride and a pledge’. They distribute the fabrics, and Lori was particularly impressed with the fabric.
Every shirt costs around $11 to produce (including the cost of the backpack), and sells for close to $50. Umano sells its products online, as well as at Bloomingdale’s and other specialist boutiques. The brothers said that they had generated $105,000 in sales during 2014, and expect that number to go up to $250,000 in 2015.
Kevin wanted to know if Umano was a charity or a business, to which Alex replied that they were 100% a business, but were operating under the concept of ‘social entrepreneurship’. Mark backed the brothers, saying that the modern-day customer does not want to buy a t-shirt; they want to buy into a cause. Kevin retorted, saying that no business can sustain itself without profits, to which Mark replied that profits and cause go hand-in-hand. Alex assures the Sharks that the business’ margins allow for both.
Daymond wanted to know the brothers’ long-term business plan, to which Alex replied that they see Umano becoming a lifestyle brand. The Shark was also quite impressed at the fact that Umano had made it to Bloomingdale’s, since it is a tough nut to crack for new entrepreneurs. Alex said that it is the story behind the brand that allowed them to make such leaps. In fact, if they manage to strike a deal, they will use the money specifically to produce around 8,000 units for Bloomingdale’s.
Robert is the first to make a decision: he feels that the business is a tough one, which is why he would not like to partner Kevin and Alex.
Kevin feels that the business is still embryonic and is not investable at this stage. He is out.
Lori wants to be a part of the brand and its mission, and is willing to offer $150,000 against 25% equity. Daymond, too, thinks highly of Umano and its cause, and makes an offer for $150,000 in exchange for a 33.33% stake in the company. Mark felt that the business would need online help and a credit line – he was willing to offer both along with the $150,000, and wanted 20% equity in Umano. Mark also asked Lori and Daymond if one of them would like to join him in this deal, and Lori took him up on this offer.
The brothers thanked Daymond for his offer, but decided to go with the two-shark deal.
Even though the business shut down in 2017, Alex wants to take the lessons that he learned and use them to create businesses that could create an even larger social impact than Umano.
Are There Any Alternatives?
No alternatives have been identified for Umano.
Our Final Thoughts:
Alex and Jonathan launched Umano with the noble purpose of promoting art and craft among children throughout the country. Despite their Shark Tank triumph, the business shut down in March 2017, but not before creating a considerable amount of social impact. We hope that Alex is able to realize his ambitions, and the Torreys establish more entrepreneurial ventures that strive to change the society and country for the better.