“Comfort. Compassion. Consciousness.” This is a mantra that clothing company Ivory Ella takes to heart. Donating a portion of its net profits to Save the Elephants and other wildlife conservancy non-profit organizations worldwide, Ivory Ella is a company driven by its social consciousness and commitment to giving back.
In 2019 Ivory Ella print production specialist Jay Reid had that mission in mind when he approached leaders at Spencer-Owen Community Schools. He had seen an article in a magazine featuring Patriot Manufacturing, the corporation’s student-run design and screen-printing business. Having spent part of his childhood living in Owen County, Jay wanted to lend his expertise in screen printing, and Patriot Manufacturing was thrilled to accept.
Ivory Ella is a social media e-tailer launched in 2015 by entrepreneurs John Allen and Matthew Fiano. With a focus on corporate philanthropy, a team of 70 employees operate social media accounts that total 60 million followers and the company prints thousands of shirts and other items daily. Two million dollars has been donated to Save the Elephants and other charitable organizations.
Initial plans for the visit were deferred due to the pandemic, but Jay was persistent and kept in touch. In December 2021, Jay arrived at Owen Valley High School for a multi-day visit. The school staff attributed his persistence to his genuine desire to give back to the community. It was clear that the trip was about much more to him than screen printing. Over three days, Jay spent time with Patriot Manufacturing’s students and teachers to get a sense of the business and workflow, offering advice on how to be more efficient while improving quality.
Hannah, a junior and Patriot Manufacturing’s Financial CEO, remembers thinking, “This is huge!” when first hearing that someone from Ivory Ella wanted to help them with their business. Jay mentored the staff on both technique and process. According to Caleb, Patriot Manufacturing’s Production Manager, Jay showed their team everything from techniques to reduce bubbling while screen printing to new and different products they could use in their work such as scented and glow-in-the-dark inks.
Patriot Manufacturing teacher Kristen Portteus was impressed by Jay’s interest in their process. “Jay took the time to talk to me about the things that we were struggling with, and I showed him the process we use.” This led him to make recommendations, like drying screens with an air compressor instead of allowing them to air dry, which will save the team time and help with overall efficiency.
Students were both inspired and surprised by Jay’s generosity throughout his visit. He recommended that the team add a second wash station to their setup, which he donated, to help them keep up with production demand. In addition to equipment, he brought along hundreds of Ivory Ella shirts and accessories.
In true Ivory Ella fashion, these items were also a way for Patriot Manufacturing to give back. Ivory Ella products were sold for either monetary or food donations, generating over 400 canned food items and $3,000 to be donated to local Owen County charities. As a special surprise for the students, Jay also designed Owen Valley Ivory Ella shirts that were sold to raise money for Patriot Manufacturing.
When asked about the lasting impact of Jay’s visit, students say it will be his personal story. Cooper, a junior and graphic designer for Patriot Manufacturing, takes pride in people around town wearing designs he created. He wants to own his own clothing company one day, but he’s not sure how he will get there. “Jay gave me the motivation to meet my goals,” he said.
Jay encouraged students to work hard and to take responsibility for writing their own ‘book.’ “You’ve got one shot at your book. What chapter do you want to write?” Jay told the students. As a kid from a small town who moved around a lot, he learned to persevere to get where he is today. That message resonated with students. One parent even messaged Ms. Portteus to report that her child couldn’t stop talking about Jay’s message.
“We have been better in a lot of ways since his visit, the skills definitely but the personal aspect as well.”— Rhonda Schafer, Secondary Readiness Coordinator
What’s next for Patriot Manufacturing? Teachers and students are looking to expand to keep up with increased demand. With more than $72,000 in sales in 2021, the students are particularly focused on continuous improvement, aiming for fewer errors and improved quality. As for Jay, teachers and students have been in touch with him since the December visit and are excited for his return trip once they master the goals they set together. He is part of the team now and making an impact that reaches far beyond screen printing. Jay is putting his convictions to work by supporting vibrant, thriving ecosystems for young people. It is not dissimilar to what Ivory Ella seeks to grow and sustain for elephants.