True Herban targets conscious consumers
Eric Acevedo of Franklin Park works on a silk screen in Chicago. Acevedo is the owner of True Herban Clothing, a T-shirt manufacturing company that works to be socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and ethical. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 16, 2012 4:37PM
FRANKLIN PARK — Eric Acevedo was sorting through his overstuffed closet two years ago, trying to figure out what to donate and what to keep.
“In the process of going through the clothes, I started looking at the labels,” Acevedo said. “Made in China, made in Bangladesh, made in Honduras, made in India. I couldn’t find anything that was made in America.”
American manufacturing became one of the three core values for True Herban Clothing, an e-commerce company Acevedo and a fellow East Leyden High School graduate launched in December 2011. In June of this year, Acevedo left a good paying job of four years as a digital marketing analyst at Walgreens Corporation to focus full time on True Herban Clothing.
Acevedo, 25, is a Franklin Parker through and through. He attended North Elementary, Hester Junior High, East Leyden High School and bought a house in Franklin Park after studying marketing at DePaul University.
His passion was online marketing, and as a sideline, he consulted with small businesses trying to gain attention on the Internet. But that and a full-time job weren’t enough.
“I had this itch that kept growing and growing,” Acevedo said. “I didn’t want to live my life saying, what if? Worse comes to worse, I go back into the job market and find a job.”
The name True Herban comes from the Chicago city motto: “Urbs in Horto,” Latin for “city in a garden.” It touches on the second core value of the company, environmental sustainability.
“Cotton grown without pesticides and chemicals,” Acevedo said. “It’s not easy to get. Especially domestically grown organic cotton. Only a very small number of cotton farmers in the U.S. do that.”
The third core value is making a positive impact. A portion of company proceeds goes to good causes, such as helping feed homeless people and collaborating with a documentary film about a man who traveled around the U.S. for 30 days trying to live only off American-made products.
Acevedo doesn’t expect potential customers to take the company’s core values on faith. True Herban has created videos showing parts of the production cycle: weaving, cutting, sewing and printing.
“We’re not just banking on these buzz words: made in America, organic.” Acevedo said. “We’re exposing the people and the jobs and the processes.”
True Herban Clothing targets a niche market, which Acevedo calls conscious consumers. T-shirts cost $33. Acevedo acknowledges T-shirts at big box stores can be much less expensive, but said his T-shirts are worth the higher price.
“There’s a reason it’s so cheap,” Acevedo said of T-shirts at larger stores. “Someone who worked a sewing machine for 10 to 12 hours a day was getting an unfair wage, which allows the store to charge $10 a T-shirt. We’re supporting an entire supply chain of workers getting fair wages. We use high quality materials and inks. A T-shirt purchase will support someone in need.”
Making people aware of the consequences of their purchases is a challenge. Another is finding investors. The company is not profitable yet, but Acevedo is optimistic, saying it’s developed a “pretty strong brand following.”
“I would love to have a retail location in five years,” Acevedo said.
Also costs are fairly low, as the T-shirt manufacturing is outsourced and Acevedo works out of the attic of his Franklin Park house.