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Red Dirt Shop
By Kate Hodel
November 19, 2015

Goods for Good with Red Dirt Shop

Red Dirt Shop 
Christina Eldridge and Dawn Taylor | Kansas City, MO | Microenterprise

Red Dirt ShopWe over here at KCSourceLink have a bit of an entrepreneurial crush on the ladies at Red Dirt Shop, founders Christina Eldridge and Dawn Taylor.

Not only are they a dynamic women-owned business and microenterprise, they’re also about to make that big leap into brick-and-mortar—and they do it all while giving forward to communities who need water through KC-based nonprofit Water.org.

That was a long rambling sentence of awesome, to be sure, but that’s just who these ladies are. Minus the rambling. They are keenly focused on building a business and shaping the world they want to live in.

Below, Dawn Taylor takes the metaphorical microphone to talk about their story and to submit to the KCSourceLink Questionnaire.

What’s your story?

On a lovely spring day in late March 2012, Red Dirt’s “light bulb moment” took place. Christina and I were having lunch and talking about our recent trips to volunteer in Africa—Christina was just back from Mali, and I had recently returned from Uganda. For a few weeks, we had been discussing how we could help the people we had met, on a larger and more impactful scale than with individual volunteering or even starting a new nonprofit.  

We were inspired by social impact companies like TOMS, Warby Parker, Sevenly and others.  Many lunches and dinners later, we decided that our company—named as a vivid reminder of the red dirt of Africa—would make products designed by artists that could direct a portion of each purchase to support the cause(s) of our choosing. 

In our social impact business model, we regard our customers as the philanthropists.  Each time someone purchases a Red Dirt product (we call them “Goods for Good”), $5 is directed to Water.org; that $5 provides clean water for one person for one year in a developing country.

It took us 371 days from that “light bulb lunch” to launching our online store on April 3, 2013.  In the past 16 months, we’ve shipped our “Goods for Good” to 33 states and 3 foreign countries.  We’re all about #KCPride:  we have products designed by 29 KC-based artists; we’ve been recognized by ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council; we’ve had a booth at the Plaza Art Fair; and we’ll have our first bricks-and-mortar store on the Country Club Plaza later this fall. 

But we have our eyes on the national stage and are launching our first seasonal collection of new products this fall.  We’re making plans to reach out to regional, then national, markets with our story, our Goods for Good, and our belief that consumers have tremendous power to make positive change in the world, simply by being conscious about how and where they spend their dollars.

What makes Kansas City a great place to start and grow a business?  

It’s a place where everyone from your closest friends to casual acquaintances is genuinely interested in what you’re doing and in seeing you succeed.  Plus, the focus on making Kansas City “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City” couldn’t come at a better time for us.  The services and resources available to from organizations like KCSourceLink, Kauffman Foundation or Sprint Accelerator (among dozens of others) are astonishing. 

More surprising (and awesome) is the willingness of other local entrepreneurs, including startup owners, to share resources, learning experiences, and those all-important contacts.  Danny O’Neill of The Roasterie has said that he contacted more than 100 people while he was formulating his coffee business, and that every single one of those 100 people gave him 20 minutes or more to brainstorm or lend advice. 

THAT is Kansas City.

If you are a startup in KC, and you aren’t finding what you need to get your idea off the ground, then you aren’t looking very far or talking to enough people.

And now, Red Dirt takes the KCSourceLink Questionnaire

Your big news in 2013/4

We launched! 68 products, 58 artists, $5K to Water.org to provide clean water for life for 200 people. New products and Plaza shop in 2014.

Which Resource Partners have you worked with?

  • Inaugural group of founders for Sprint Executive Entrepreneur Mentoring program
  • 1 Million Cups
  • University of Kansas Journalism School’s Strategic Campaigns class

The noun that describes who you are:  Connectors

The verb that describes what (or why?) you do:  Inspire

Your power motto:  “If you want something done, ask a busy woman.”

Your KC happy place:  Shawnee Mission Park dog beach or riding horses at a friend’s farm

Your wisdom earned the hard way:  “How hard could it be to make a phone case?”  (Turns out, it’s really hard.)

Your comfort:  Our families and a nice bottle of red or bubbly

On your entrepreneurial watch list:  National:  TOMS, Raven + Lily, Sseko, Sword & Plough. Local: Rawxies, Jeremy Collins/Meridian Line

On your entrepreneurial wish list:  Sleep

Your mentor:  Melinda Parks from the Sprint Executive Entrepreneur Mentoring program

Your next move:  Opening first bricks-and-mortar shop on the Plaza, holiday 2014

Your exit music:  Lovely Day by Bill Withers

Your last word: We create opportunity  

You are a KC original. Our questionnaire, not so much. Nods to the original Proust questionnaire and the Pitch and Silicon Prairie iterations for pop quizzy inspiration.

 

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