The York Project: Clothes with a Conscience

By Jane Whitttington on September 11th, 2016 / Comments

For Josh York and Will Taylor, it’s about more than simply creating a successful business. Through their company, the York Project, these young entrepreneurs also keep their eyes on the greater good. As their business grows, it rewards not only them but also helps the homeless in communities throughout the Midwest. As York says, “I was always taught to think globally and act locally.” With part of the money they make designing, making and selling clothes, they purchase tote bags, fill them with necessities for the homeless and hand them out in locations like Detroit, Chicago and New York City.

Josh York says, “I started out screen printing shirts for my band in 2012 and from that started a fairly successful screen printing business. But I decided I wanted to start making my own clothes, and I just started printing my name, York, on shirts and hats. I began selling them to my friends and then put up a website and starting selling them online. I was continuing to do this on a small scale and then, last January, I was asked to join the Conquer Accelerator.”

The Conquer Accelerator is a program through Michigan State University that partners with the MSU Foundation, Spartan Innovations and the MSU Federal Credit Union. It is designed to help both new and established companies make their way through the difficulties of becoming successful by guiding businesses through the planning and growth process, offering mentoring from professionals and a series of educational presentations. In addition, those selected for the ten-week program receive $20,000, workspace and resources to allow their startup to grow. The program itself receives five percent straight equity from the companies selected.

Through the Accelerator, it was suggested to York that he find a partner, and, about three months ago, was joined in his venture by Will Taylor who had very recently created his own company, Free Will, which also made and sold t-shirts and a few other clothing items. Taylor took over the marketing while York continued with production and operations. York has graduated, and Taylor is a senior at MSU this year.

Taylor says, “I’ve been so busy with York Project that Free Will has taken a back seat for the time being.”

He continues, “Since our demographic is basically students and a few years after that, we have concentrated most of our marketing on social media and developing an inviting website. We sell all of our products only online, so guiding people to the website is the main focus of our marketing.”

York says, “I was always taught, through my family and my church, to give back to the community. This idea is important to me, and, using the Tom’s shoes model of buy one, give one, I began donating to the homeless in various communities. In Detroit, we partner with an outreach called P B and J. Every week, they go out into the neighborhoods and give away food and other necessities. We buy tote bags and fill them with some things the homeless need and hand them out. But we go other places than Detroit; in fact, we have done this in 21 cities.”

Within the next week, they are operating a pop-up shop in the Old Town section of Lansing and hope to explore the option of pop-ups in other communities.

For more information about the company and a look at their product line, go to www.yorkproject.com You’ll not only have access to some attractive and well-made shirts and hats, you’ll be helping someone too.

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.