A sustainable business plan that earned three USD students $100,000 was inspired by a t-shirt in the middle of Monte Verde, Costa Rica.
USD student athletes Payton Ryz (Ryz writes opinion articles for The Volante) and Brigit Blote, along with USD alum Ashlynn Atwood created a sustainable business centered around the idea of recycling clothes, which they named Fomeno.
Fomeno is an online platform that allows people to thrift in one, easy-to-use place that will connect users to the multitude of online thrifting options that are out there.
While Blote was away on a study abroad trip to Costa Rica, the idea for Fomeno came to fruition. In Monte Verde, Costa Rica, many of the students rewore their favorite outfits multiple times, and one of Blote’s friends had a shirt from Brandy Melville that had forget me not flowers on it, and after seeing it day after day, Blote really wanted the shirt.
Once back in the United States, Blote tried looking online for a thrifted version of the shirt because she knew that the company that made the shirt wasn’t very environmentally friendly.
“When I got back to the U.S. I jumped online and typed in ‘forget me not T-shirt,’” Blote said. “I started finding a bunch on second-hand shops but there were so many different sizes, shirt prices, and different qualities, and I thought ‘why isn’t there an easier way to streamline this.’”
After Blote explained her new idea to her friends Ryz and Atwood, they also discovered that their business idea fit really well with the 2020 Hult Prize challenge.
The Hult Prize is a sustainable business competition for students that is ran globally every year. The winner of the Hult Prize receives $100,000 to put towards their business. Every year the Hult Prize creates a theme that coincides with the United Nations sustainability goals. The year that Fomeno was entered into the competition, the theme was to create a sustainable business that impacts the planet in a positive way with every dollar earned.
In December of 2019, Fomeno placed first at USD’s Hult Prize Competition. After winning at the university level, the group made their way to Boston, MA in March of 2020, for the regional level competition where they also placed first and found themselves representing the United States in the World Hult Prize Accelerator.
Now that Fomeno has received $100,000 from winning the Hult Prize Regional Competition, the next steps are to work on the app and website to get the company out to the public as soon as possible, Ryz said.
Fomeno is also looking to add more individuals to their team that share in their passion for thrifting and fashion by hiring fashion influencers to model clothing to be shared on the app and website upon launch.
Ryz, Blote, and Atwood have all found themselves drawn to shopping sustainably which is why Fomeno has become an outlet for them to share this love with others who also want to help the planet, Atwood said.
“All of us are very driven towards sustainability, especially within the fashion industry,” Blote said. “The fashion industry is the 2nd dirtiest industry in the world. There are a lot of unethical practices that go on within fashion and there’s so much need for change within the industry. Anytime this gets overwhelming or exhausting, I think about how the end goal is so worth it. There’s so much value, it’s not like ‘oh let’s make an app,’ no it’s ‘let’s find ways to decrease textile waste and play into the circular economy and create something in tech that ultimately does good.”