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Horny Toad

Courtesy Photo

Horny Toad


Horny Toad Leaps for Change

Santa Barbara Company Offers $10,000 to Philanthropist


With both the environment and the economy hanging by a thread, it seems strange for any store to share its wealth. Yet Santa Barbara’s eco-friendly clothing business Horny Toad is giving away thousands to commend community members’ worthy causes.

Last month, Horny Toad launched its new annual Grant for Change program, which gives $10,000 to the grantee who submits what panel judges deem the most laudable cause. Candidates can turn in their stories or nominate others until August 17, at which point the Grant for Change leadership panel will choose one applicant to receive the grant, as well as a year of publicity and support via their website www.nau.com

By Courtesy Photo

Nau

A History of Inspiration

Horny Toad’s generous gesture succeeds many on the company’s timeline of philanthropy. And like any successful store, Horny Toad hatched out of hard-working hands.

Started in the early 1990s by recent college grad and “ski bum” Jessica Nordhaus, who would eventually develop the well-known Winter Toque hat, Horny Toad grew from modest roots. According to Horny Toad’s communications director, Tami Snow, it was originally a cottage industry design-based studio in Telluride, Colorado. Current President and CEO Gordon Seabury purchased the company in 1995 and relocated it to Chicago. One year later, it was launched as a wholesale store. Then, in 2001, Horny Toad moved to Santa Barbara with a team of environmentally savvy designers, who Snow says are never short of inspiration.

Our mantra is, ‘Every day is an adventure,’” said Snow. “We have a lot of fun. We also are about doing the right thing, and really trying to think about how we do our business and how to give back where we can, using the business as a vehicle to do that.”

Soon after blowing in from the windy city and planting itself at 15 W. Mason Street, the lifestyle apparel company-which designs, markets, and sells its own eco-friendly products-teamed up with the nonprofit group Search. Together, the native-to-Chicago groups formed two community-conscious nonprofits. The first, Planet Access Company (PAC), “employs 30 severely disabled adults on any given day” in its Chicago warehouse, Snow said. The other, Search for Adventure (SFA), sends these PAC employees, most of them from Chicago proper, on outdoor vacations. “They do work training for mentally and physically disabled adults,” said Snow of the nonprofits. “Any of our employees, our reps-we invite to go on these trips as well.”

Since then, the small, privately owned enterprise has spearheaded direct environmental action including a monthly Mission Creek clean-up and strong support for the preservation of the Gaviota Coast. The company also supports several regional social causes, including the West Side Boys and Girls Club and Transition House, and gives discounts to customers who donate to shelters. During the Jesusita Fires, Horny Toad opened its doors to victims and gave away 2500 units of clothing.

We had at least 150-plus families come in and we basically just said, ‘Take what you need,’” recalled Snow.

Today, with its sister company, Nau-which Toad purchased about a year ago-and Portland-based retail concept-shop the Lizard Lounge, Horny Toad has expanded its outreach to the Grant for Change, a move that Snow said was hugely influenced by Seabury. “Every business needs someone with two feet on the ground and a vision to lead,” said Snow. “This is Gordon.”

By Courtesy Photo

Nau

The Gift of Giving

He tries to live by the motto ‘Do the Right Thing,’ Seabury said; the idea of giving back, and enriching the community, has served as the substance from which he has grown his enterprise.

Seabury said that he and coworkers “are building a family of relevant lifestyle brands that share some essential DNA.” This means products “that uniquely blend beauty, performance and sustainability” and “brands that inspire living a rich life and making a difference in the process.” Seabury hopes to sustain “a company culture that promotes work/life balance and authentically living the messages our brands promote.”

A business philosophy of doing the right thing and promoting positive change through our business practices and community citizenship” is a big part of this, and the Grant for Change is an example of that philosophy in action. “Our mission for this project is to discover individuals that are making exceptional efforts in their community to change the world for the better, whether artists, athletes or activists,” said Seabury. “We are hoping the program will help these special people move the needle with both financial support and added public awareness.”

By featuring their stories online through their website, blog, and media channels, Horny Toad is attempting to accelerate the applicants’ impacts, Seabury said, and inspire others to join in the movement for positive change.

Snow said the grant has “no stipulations” because oftentimes nonprofits have to pay for things like rent in order to get going. In the end, she said, the money will be worth the outcome. “$10,000 is a lot for us, but we thought if we’re going to do something let’s try to figure out how we can spread the word,” said Snow of the grant.

Horny Toad has received numerous applications from individuals across the country, with projects ranging everywhere from expanding victory gardens in Minnesota to holding civil disobedience trainings.

These are just normal people who have really great stories to tell,” Snow said of the current applicants. “We’re trying to figure out how to tell these stories.”

Anyone can nominate themselves or people they think deserve the grant, and multiple nominations can be made. The public will choose its top five favorites and Horny Toad will choose its own, and combine the two for a top 10 list from which the finalist will be chosen in October, followed by a celebration party in November. People signing up as Horny Toad members will receive updates via the company’s newsletter, Off the Grid, and their online blog, Thought Kitchen. Nominations can be submitted to nau.com/collective/grant-for-change.

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