February 21, 2020

Textile Art, Tees, and Taking Initiative: Students Start Serengetee

posted on: Wednesday March 7, 2012

Sarah O’Brien ’15/A&E Editor

Say it: Serengetee. Doesn’t it roll off the tongue? College-aged individuals from around the nation joined together to start this charitable clothing company, in hopes of making a global impact. Led by Jeff Steitz, a junior at Claremont McKenna College, a group of about 25 students work behind-the-scenes on everything from advertising to communication with charities to production planning and distribution. Providence College can be proud to claim two of its own as being a part of this innovative organization.

PC junior Nathan Holterman has been a force behind Serengetee since its inception. On a fall 2011 study abroad program called Semester at Sea, Holterman met Steitz for the first time. Steitz happened to be wearing a tee not unlike the current Serengetee design— simple, with a pocket made of patterned fabric. “He had made shirts at home with his younger brother. I told him that if he sold them, I would definitely buy one,” said Holterman. Throughout the course of their trip abroad, Steitz bought fabrics in each region visited, ending up with material from 25 nations across the world. He also collected textiles from various regions across the United States.

Inspired by his travels, Steitz created Serengetee, a t-shirt line that celebrates diverse cultures, while simultaneously giving back to underprivileged peoples throughout the world. He soon contacted Holterman, wanting him to be a part of the company. Holterman acts as the Charity Relations Coordinator, and is currently reaching out to international charity organizations, asking them to partner with Serengetee. “If charities choose to partner with us, it can only help them. We develop a link on our Web site, which gives them exposure, and we donate money to them,” expressed Holterman. “Soon the Web site will include descriptions of each charity Serengetee gives to, and will become more clear. We emphasize having a personal relationship with the organizations, and eventually plan to visit the charities to ensure they are using the money correctly.”

Serengetee is still a very new company, the Web site being launched just last month, on February 24. So, why have you already heard of it? Serengetee is relying on the interest and influence of the college audience to help their ideas to spread rapidly. Since young college students founded the company, the site has been able to gain recognition through social networking and word of mouth. Holterman was also able to tap into the Semester at Sea alumni network to generate buzz and advertise Serengetee. “In the first week, we had 8,000 views on the Serengetee Web site, and within five days, 1,000 likes on our Facebook page,” said Holterman.

How exactly does Serengetee work? PC sophomore Clare Carroll, who works closely with Holterman as a charity liaison, explains that consumers are given the option to donate to any of five or six charities from the region whose fabric the selected shirt is from or inspired by. The consumer may also opt to donate to a specific cause in that region. Fifty percent of all proceeds are donated; twenty-five percent going to the chosen charity, and twenty-five percent allotted to microcredit and microcredit lending.

Microcredit means we’ll be able to give people a loan to start a small business, so they can have dignity in what they’ve done. We want to help them help themselves; they don’t want to be seen as a charity case,” said Carroll.

As the fabrics are produced locally, Serengetee stays true to its slogan “Wear the World,” while helping to stimulate the economies of regions across the globe. The company will also offer a “Fabric of the Week,” that will give 100 percent of profits to the country showcased. The company’s mission statement reads, “We celebrate the diversity of our world and seek to foster relationships based on cross-cultural collaboration and understanding.”

Carroll has a lot of confidence in the future of Serengetee. “The idea is simple, but profound. The tees are from American Apparel, so not only is it a global effort, but it also helps the American economy,” she said. “We’re embracing different kinds of people and ways of life. One nonprofit organization, Simply Smiles [which works with impoverished children in Mexico], has decided to have their volunteers wear Serengetee shirts. The feedback has been great.”

Holterman echoes that giving back is vital to the Serengetee business model. “I traveled to these places and fell in love with them, and now I want to contribute. We really believe in what we’re doing; it has the potential to really explode.” Serengetee has already been featured on a couple of Web sites, including an Australian-based site. The company is on the verge of circulating a nation-wide press release, hoping that news stations will pick up the story.

The Providence College community has an opportunity to associate its name with Serengetee, casting a positive light on the student body. “We want this to be the school’s business. We’d love for the tees to become big on campus,” said Holterman. “If anyone wants to help out, let me know. If anyone has any personal connections with charities, please contact me to get involved. We’re especially looking for charity connections in Southeast Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, and South America right now.”

Serengetee will create customized shirts for campus clubs, as long as at least 25 are purchased. The company is currently extending a two for one promo offer to students (for more information email Holterman at nholterm@friars.providence.edu). Serengetee will also be participating in the annual fashion show sponsored by the African-American Society, which will be held on Saturday, April 28.

Forget North Face jackets and Ugg boots—make Providence the campus to see Serengetee. “Art, in a lot of places, captures the culture. The pockets on Serengetee shirts are colorful and vibrant; they represent the art and the people from regions which inspired them,” said Holterman. This bold and original company may be making international headlines in the near future, giving anyone with $22 the power to pick a charity and make a difference. The mission cites, “As we continue to partner with progressive organizations operating across the world, these choices will expand, creating a mechanism for change in every corner of our planet.” Join the movement and purchase a shirt at serengetee.com.

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