GoGuys Who Give Back
For These Two Young GoGuys, Generous Philanthropy is In Their Genes
Meet the two rising stars in the e-commerce space who successfully
rallied 13,000 college students to help kids fighting cancer.
What started out as an unassuming college project six years ago, Minneapolis-based Love Your Melon, a company that creates and donates knitted beanies for kids battling cancer, has reached an annual income of $31.5m, landing at #106 in last year’s Inc. 5000. Co founders Zachary Quinn, 26, and Brian Keller, 25, explain why their grassroots, benevolent business gets so much love – and success. In the beginning, the millennial-run company would donate one beanie for every sale. Today, it donates 50% of profits to non-profit partners in the fight against pediatric cancers. But, it’s no secret about what makes Love Your Melon so meaningful and financially rewarding, as recently disclosed to Inc. Magazine’s Editor at-Large, Leigh Buchanan.
Quinn owes much of the company’s success to his socially-conscious upbringing. His parents own and operate a few restaurants in the St. Paul area and would selflessly serve Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners every year to the area’s homeless community. His mother spent much of her time cooking for non-profits Feed My Starving Children and Kid’s Café, and in high school, Quinn and his friends would made PPJ and turkey and cheese sandwiches for those living on the streets.
Quinn met Keller in an entrepreneurial class at the University of St. Thomas where they were assigned to start a small business that would garner a profit by the semester’s end. They figured on entering the beanie biz due to the frigid, unforgiving temps of the Midwest during wintertime. The course only required they spend $750, but the pair raised an impressive $3500 in small loans from friends and family. Tom’s Shoes’ globally successful “buy one product-donate one product” business model resonated with Quinn, so they ordered 400 beanies, based on Quinn’s design, from a small knitting mill in Portland, Oregon and hired a professional embroiderer to sew on Love Your Melon patches on the front. That Thanksgiving weekend, they sold the first 200 of what would be hundreds of thousands of beanies from a small table outside of one of Quinn’s family-owned restaurants. In December, they distributed 200 beanies to cancer-stricken kids at the local children’s hospital.
With an almost-instant taste of entrepreneurial success, the boys were feeling the just-bitten high from the business bug. So, Quinn began feverishly working fund-raisers and golf tournaments, developed a website and Facebook business profile, and even had a billboard erected on Interstate 91, which attracted the attention of an interested investor who put up another Love Your Melon billboard for free! Today, 13,000 students at 850 schools have personally delivered beanies to kids with cancer, while also accompanying them on fun excursions, like helicopter rides and amusement park trips.
But, it was that famous bus tour that rolled them onto the sets of the Good Morning, America and Today shows. While they effectively recouped 44 times their investment, their aging Portland knitting mill was unable to keep up with the demand, forcing them to seek out other U. S. vendors. Able to pay back borrowed money from friends and family within months (the most being $500.00), while starting an inventory growth investment strategy with financial power player J. P. Morgan in 2016, Love Your Melon primarily operates on pure cash flow. Being in the black never looked so bright.
Within 18 short months, they were able to gift 45,000 beanies to kids, while donating 50% of profits to pediatric cancer non-profits working with families. Today, the magnanimous young men have started the Love Your Melon Fund to help support charitable partners, plus pay for the campus ambassador program, including the fun, superhero costumes its volunteers wear when visiting the kids in the hospital. Love Your Melon donates roughly 15,000 beanies to newly-diagnosed kids each year. And, it’s more than the warm, humble headwear. They’ve naturally expanded into creating knitted blankets, scarves, pillows, mittens, and more. While 80% of the company is e-commerce -based, Love Your Melon engages in custom projects for Facebook and Ernst and Young, as well as selling in boutique shops and big-name retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Von Maur. Quinn is happy to announce the upcoming opening of their first corporate store in North Loop, Minnesota. But, for Quinn, it’s still all about the kids.
Good job, GoGuys!