Merit on Plans for Detroit Expansion and Project 26By Benjamin Seidman on May 14th, 2015 /
It’s been over a year since Michipreneur checked in with Merit, a cause-focused lifestyle brand in Ann Arbor whose purpose is to change a statistic: 1 high school student drops out of school every 26 seconds. That number adds up to 7,000 drop outs per day and around 1.2 million high school drop outs every year. For this startup, 20% of all revenue goes towards funding college scholarships.
David Merritt, Founder and CEO, has a vision beyond selling clothing. Although Merit does want to sell amazing products, there is a bigger reason why they do what they do.
“It’s a narrative, a message, and a story that we are trying to tell and to connect with other like-minded individuals who believe that Detroit’s future relies within people, not just in a building or a landscape, but within people themselves,” said David.
Regarding the startling numbers Merit aims to make a difference. This reality is the inspiration behind “Project 26,” the shirt and project that Merit has partnered with Ugmonk, an independent lifestyle brand, to make it possible. Jeff Sheldon, Ugmonk’s Founder, and David are longtime friends and wanted to connect on this project to spread awareness of high school dropout statistics. The two decided that for 26 days in a row, they would highlight 26 influencers across the world who would post a creative Instagram picture to spread the importance the message using #Every26Seconds.
Day 15 is underway and many fascinating influencers have posted using the hashtag, engaging others to join the movement by making available the Project 26 t-shirt and share their pictures as well. That link can be found here. The duo partnership believes that with proper teaching, opportunity, and resources, that decision to drop out of high school does not have to be made.
“It’s bringing in new eyes, totally different demographics, and a totally different network together and raising awareness of the vision and message,” David said.
And Merit is not stopping there. They are currently working on an expansion to Detroit.
“We’re working on a big idea of opening up a Detroit space and combining both our for-profit and nonprofit arms,” says David. Merit plans to develop a youth development and workforce training center. Merit aims to expand their reach from their current 20 students to about 100 students per year. With more students, Merit is excited about an expanded curriculum that is in development.
Right now, it’s all about getting ready and set for launch and having an effective plan in place.
“We are really excited about being a small piece of an amazing movement with amazing individuals and entrepreneurs that are in Detroit and make a lot of impact for the community,” he said.
David’s “small” piece to impact his local community is making waves across the world with their current Project 26. The campaign might also help them penetrate more into the fashion industry. If you are not in New York, Los Angeles, or Paris, it’s a process to build relationships within the fashion industry. Resources in Michigan are few and far between.
“I’m sure it’s a lot easier than it was 20 years ago when you didn’t have the internet. You just have to work at it and not stop until you find something,” said David
And, Merritt has advice for other entrepreneurs. He says that knowing why you started something in the first place and believing in that purpose is extremely important to get you through the trials and tribulations that you are bound to experience.
“Sometimes sales don’t go the way that you want them to. You will encounter tough challenges and you will have to rely on why you started and what you are trying to accomplish,” he said. “Have faith in the vision bigger than yourself and include people in the community, the country, and the world who have that type of vision.”
Til next time, Merit. See you in Detroit.