James Henderson hopes his new watch line, 3thirty3, will spur the timepiece industry to make a more positive impact worldwide. The Santa Barbara business donates 33.3 percent of the retail price of a watch directly to nonprofit organizations, directly affecting efforts to stop poaching, better drinking water, and build schools in Africa.
After working in the watch business for almost a decade and hosting annual charitable fundraisers, Henderson realized he wanted to do more. “Getting 500 companies once a year to support a cause is a small impact,” he said. “Getting everyone organized on one cause makes a larger, more successful impact.”
So instead of focusing on events, Henderson created a brand to provide substantial donations with every purchase. “Other companies like TOMS Shoes have [charity] actually built into their business plan,” he said. “I work in the watch industry, so I know where to get it made, how to do it, and how much it will cost. I know what the markup is, so I can have a smaller margin and still give a sizable donation.”
Rather than focus on one charity, 3thirty3 works with multiple nonprofits to spread support across various causes. “You can’t just pick one charitable organization,” said Henderson. “Unfortunately, there will always be problems to address, so we want to be adaptable.”
Currently, 3thirty3 is partnered with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation and VETPAW, which work to protect African wildlife, and Drop in the Bucket, an organization that builds wells and sanitation systems in Africa. The brand offers two separate watches that go along with these initiatives: the Animal Watch and the Water Watch, which feature a specific design and promote their respective charities.
The next big step for 3thirty3 is a Children’s Watch, which will come out within a year and provide funding to build schools and pay for children to receive an education in Kenya. Henderson also hopes to work with more grassroots initiatives that make a direct impact in certain areas. “We’re really interested in working with organizations that are active and on the ground,” Henderson said. “We’d also love to get some Santa Barbara companies, even national companies, involved.”
Since launching in December 2014, 3thirty3 has sold about half of its opening inventory. The company hopes to completely sell out by June in order to make a donation to support a new well in Africa as well as several wildlife rangers’ salaries. “When it first started, everything I heard was, ‘It won’t work, you can’t do it, it’s not solvable,’” he explained. “We want to demonstrate that, along with what we donated, there will be results, and these results will be continuous.”
For Henderson, this dedication to charity all day, every day is what separates 3thirty3 from other watch brands. “I want to make something that is of some value to people, that in buying they can contribute to something bigger,” he said. “If we think about it one watch at a time, we can help solve the problem.”