Spokane Journal of Business

Evoking inspiration

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Evoking inspiration
-—Staff p0hoto by Chey Scott
Jannette and Shawn Bendinelli say $2 from every T-shirt sale goes to a charity that a buyer selects from a pre-provided list.

If you're looking for inspiration, one might say Post Falls couple Shawn and Jannette Bendinelli have got your back covered.

With a line of T-shirts, the Bendinellis want to instill in others the importance of following a passion in life, and in doing so, finding a way to better one's community and the world.

The Bendinellis hope to convey that message and to inspire others to give back through their recently established home-based online business venture, Evoke Apparel Co.

"We want to evoke change in people's thinking or actions," says Shawn Bendinelli. "Our tagline is 'Wear what defines you.'"

Phrases screen printed onto the company's shirts say things like, "Do what you love, love what you do," "Dreams do come true," "Carpe diem," and, "Simple is beautiful."

Says Bendinelli, "Some people roll with brands because it's popular, but we want apparel that displays what people's passions are with inspirational and motivational sayings that are high design and that represents who they are."

Bendinelli says the website for Evoke—www.evokeapparelcompany.com—launched last November and currently sells T-shirts and hoodies in men's, women's, and children's sizes, as well as onesies for infants.

For each tee that's sold, Bendinelli says the company allows the customer to pick a charity from a list of more than 50 nonprofit organizations to receive a $1 donation from the sale of the shirt. Evoke matches that $1 donation, so the charity receives a total of $2. Evoke also pays a dollar to the artist who designed the shirts' graphics, he says.

"A lot of T-shirt companies will pay a one-time fee to use an artist's design, but we wanted to create something that would be a residual income, so we pay a dollar per sale of the item and that is for the life of the shirt," Bendinelli says.

He says some of the artists who've designed graphics featured on Evoke's shirts are based in the Inland Northwest.

Evoke's T-shirts average $25 each, while hooded sweatshirts are $45 and toddler- and infant-sized shirts are priced between $18 and $20.

Evoke also sells shirts on its site to benefit a designated Inland Northwest-based charitable organization. For the sale of those shirts, he says Evoke donates 50 percent of the item's sale price to the local nonprofit.

Recently, he says Evoke donated half of the proceeds from the sales of a shirt that said "Dreams do come true" to Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho.

Jannette Bendinelli has served for four years as an active volunteer with that organization, and the couple says that they hope to launch similar campaigns in the future to benefit other local nonprofits.

"Throughout the year, we will pick different charities, or if we have one come to us and they are doing a campaign, we will partner with them," Shawn Bendinelli says.

Because Evoke Apparel's online store has been live for less than six months, Bendinelli declines to disclose any sales figures, but he says the business so far has sold around 50 shirts.

"We are just getting things rolling; this is the kick start to trying to get it out into the public," he says. "We have gotten good feedback on the designs and the company's mission. Now we just need to get it out in front of people."

Bendinelli says all of the tees and hoodies Evoke sells are made from certified organic cotton, and the screen printing process is water-based and thus environmentally friendly.

The couple contracts with a Chicago-based company to print the designs onto the shirts and to fulfill orders, he says.

The couple runs the business out of their Post Falls home and are its sole employees.

Some of the most popular shirt designs so far feature Evoke's own logo, a square with four diagonal arrows pointing toward each corner, and designs that are themed around cycling.

Popular charity picks since the site launched include Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity International, and the Humane Society of the U.S., Bendinelli says.

A full list of the charities for which Evoke lets its customers select as the recipient of the $2 donation when they purchase an item are listed on the business's website. The list includes efforts dedicated to the environment, international relief, health care, youth support, cancer research, education, animal welfare, and human services.

Bendinelli says the organizations were selected based on ratings by Charity Watch and Charity Navigator, both of which are independent watchdog groups that evaluate philanthropic groups' financial health and operational transparency.

The Bendinellis say they hope to offer a feature on the company's website soon that allows customers to recommend the addition of more nonprofit service groups, including local organizations.

The idea for Evoke Apparel was born from another venture the Bendinelli's own called The Happy Human, which Shawn Bendinelli explains is a social movement intended to encourage people to find their passions, and to "be who you are, do what you love, and give from the heart."

The couple launched The Happy Human in 2010, and established Evoke Apparel as that venture's sister company to generate income for the Bendinellis and their two-year-old daughter, Chiara.

Aside from his and his wife's own entrepreneurial endeavors, Shawn Bendinelli is a managing partner of the Spokane-based film production studio, North by Northwest. Shawn and Jannette Bendinelli each are also highly involved with a number of nonprofit groups.

In addition to her work with Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho, Jannette founded a group last year called Creating for Community. The intent of the organization is to provide a creative outlet where its members can work on various arts and crafts projects, and the finished pieces then are donated to various community organizations.

The group recently donated baby blankets to a pregnancy center in Coeur d'Alene, she says.

Apart from the position he has with North by Northwest and his philanthropic businesses, Shawn Bendinelli is active with International Assistance Program, a Spokane-based nonprofit group. He says that group's mission is to provide aid to impoverished children, as well as assistance with water projects, micro-loan financing, and other endeavors in South America and Africa.

He says he might travel to Ethiopia this November to work on a project there with other members of the organization.

The Bendinellis say their upcoming plans for Evoke Apparel are to continue promoting the business through online advertising and local ad campaigns to create new customers.

"We are just excited for people to grab onto this concept and share their ideas," says Shawn.

Adds Jannette, "The hope is that people embrace what they want to do. There is nothing that gets me more excited than seeing someone do what they are supposed to do ... just to watch them do something and see that they enjoy it."

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