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ASB: Dressing for a Cause - starting a not for profit organisation with Everlasting

Written by Anna Paterson


Many people want to make a positive impact in the world. For Anna Paterson, she wanted to make women feel special.

“Growing up I was not terribly secure in myself. When I worked in styling, I wanted to work with more women than just those who could afford a stylist. I know, as a mum, that I don’t have a ton of money to spend on myself, but I like looking nice and I know it makes a difference to me. I wanted to help all women feel better about themselves.”

Being a mother was the catalyst. As Anna raised her children, she became increasingly aware of the amount of clothes that were being used before being discarded, the outfits that would only fit for a few months before no longer being useful to her. It got her thinking about clothes in general, and how to better circulate what had already been produced. From these thoughts, Everlasting was born.

Selling pre-loved clothing at a flat, never-varying cost, Everlasting is a not for profit organisation. All profits after costs are donated to related charities or back into the organisation.  Of course, starting a charitable trust isn’t easy, and Anna didn’t know where to start.

“I was completely naïve. I didn’t know what it would look like, I just knew I wanted it to be a not for profit model. I talked to quite a few people for guidance and they’d say, ‘you can structure it like this or like that and eventually you can turn a profit’ but it was important for me that all money returned to women and to their families.”

“But through talking to people I learned what I needed to do. Starting a charity, you need to get a constitution and you need to get a board and it requires a fair amount of process to ensure accountability. People need to know that you are actually doing what you say you’re doing. That was a huge learning curve.”

Anna credits much of her success and ability to navigate this process to her support network. On her board advising her was a cousin who works at PWC. Two others were long-time friends, one who worked internationally as an accountant and the other who had a wealth of digital marketing knowledge. Another was a speaker at an event Anna was so impressed with she approached her on the spot.

“I’m very lucky that I have a ton of talented knowledgeable people in my life that I can call on, with skillsets that complemented my goals. I think that’s what it’s about, to surround yourself with great people. I trust the people I am working with, and they believe in what we are doing, which might be the most important thing.”

“Initially, I had the idea and was in middle of setting it up with a friend when everything fell through. Everyone had already started giving us clothes, so I had to do something. My husband turned to me and said, ‘get your foundations right, make sure you’ve got a really solid foundation, and don’t do anything until you know what you want’. So instead of launching into it I spent six months journaling and visioning it and trying to figure out what exactly this could be.”

That preparation paid off. The response was immediate. Anna had told friends for months before launch, so they’d been supplying her with clothes; her garage was full top to bottom. Even then, it was a whirlwind. Sell outs and lines around the blocks, all with just social media to get the word out. To avoid queues and cap the total number of attendees (and ensure safety guidelines in the sale space are adhered to), ticketing was introduced. The most recent event sold out in less than a day.

“We won’t always do that model; we will continue to mix it up. During those six months of visioning and dreaming I read an article about being a disruptor. I quickly realised that I didn’t want us to be thought of as an op shop. Op shops are wonderful, but I want people to know how invested we are to ensuring all women have access to great clothes. Regardless of the label, all clothes we sell will be the same price - $5. Op Shops have varying prices, that’s their model to make sure they’re servicing their needs, but I wanted to see if we could do it differently.”

“That’s all I wanted, for all women to have access to great clothes. I didn’t think it would blow up like this. I just thought it would be this neat little idea.”

For more stories about other ASB businesses, check out the ASB blog. If you’re a business looking for guidance about starting, running or growing your business, see our ASB business help guides online today. 



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