Zachary Quinn’s social conscience comes from his parents. They owned a couple of restaurants in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they served Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to the homeless. His mom cooked for nonprofit organizations, like Feed My Starving Children and Kid’s Café.
By Zachary Quinn, as told to Leigh Buchanan, Inc.
In high school my friends and I would make peanut-butter-and-jelly and turkey-and-cheese sandwiches and bring them to people living on the street.
I met my co-founder, Brian, on the second day of an entrepreneurship class at University of St. Thomas. Our class project was to start a business that made a profit by the end of the semester. We decided to do beanies, because it’s cold in Minnesota, and there’s not much in the way of fashionable headwear. You were only supposed to spend $750, but we raised $3,500 in small loans from friends and family.
At the time, I was reading Blake Mycoskie’s book about the founding of Toms Shoes, and I loved the concept of buy-one-product, donate-one-product. We ordered 400 beanies, based on my design, from a knitting mill in Portland, Oregon. We also hired a local embroidery business to make Love Your Melon patches to sew on the front. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we sold 200 from a table outside one of my parents’ restaurants. In December we distributed 200 to oncology patients at the local children’s hospital.