Dawn Taylor and Christina Eldridge made separate sojourns to foreign countries in staggering need of basic necessities such as food, water, clothing and housing.
In March 2012, they were standing outside of The Mixx restaurant near the Country Club Plaza when they decided to start a company focused on social change. They wanted a highly visible product with a good price point and a distinctive, artsy vibe. Dawn pulled her phone out of her purse.
“This was a lightbulb moment,” Taylor said. “We knew phone covers were going to be our mini-canvas to make a difference.”
They found a phone case manufacturer in California and an etching company in Blue Springs to brand items with their company name,Red Dirt
, which pays homage to the red dirt in Africa.
They launched their line of cases in April 2013 with designs by 17 artists, many from the Kansas City area, who donate their designs. They plan to reveal a new phone case each week throughout the year.
The women wanted to run a for-profit business with a philanthropic focus. Their mantra is “goods for good.” They both viewed water as the biggest need for impoverished people and concentrated on several organizations that provide clean water supplies and services to other countries. They settled onwater.org
, an organization based in Kansas City and founded by Gary White and Matt Damon that focuses on building partnerships with communities in need to provide services and money for safe drinking water and sanitation projects.
Taylor and Eldridge donate $5 from each $37 phone case purchase towater.org and according to the women, buying five phone cases or donating $25 to water.org
will provide one person with clean water for an entire lifetime.
“We hope this is a ripple effect,” said Taylor. “Access to clean water really helps everything fall into place.”
Taylor and Eldridge hope to expand their presence beyond their online store,reddirtshop.com
. Their goal is to have several Red Dirt goods available in retail stories in the future, but they believe that slow and steady wins the race.
“We know that commerce is the way out of poverty,” Eldridge said. “We want this to be a lifestyle brand that always has an artistic component and that helps to create jobs for people in developing countries.”
The phone cases are packaged in cloth bags with simple ties that are handmade by tailors in Mali. Popular designs feature artwork by local artists such as Tom Corbin and D. Ross, better known as Scribe.