Meet this week’s Campus Celebrity, Linnea Arden! Linnea is a second-year Business-Economics major at UCLA. She is the founder and CEO of Raw Threads, a nonprofit organization that creates graphic tees to bring awareness about numerous issues in society. Linnea’s passion and ambition are an inspiration to any young woman hoping to make her mark on the world, and she gave us some insight into how she has successfully made such a positive impact through her work.
1. Tell me a little bit about Raw Threads – what it is, what it stands for, and what makes it unique?
Raw Threads is an innovative mash-up of art, fashion and philanthropy. It is a twist on a typical non-profit in that we partner with established non-profit organizations and spread their causes through our collections. The net sales from our fashion-lines are then donated back to the organization we originally partnered with. For our inaugural collection we teamed up with the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City. We had a thirteen-year-old boy draw these powerful images of the harsh realities he encounters every single day being homeless in NYC, including the pain of eviction, the influence of gangs, and the contemplation of suicide. We reproduced his artwork on a striking collection of graphic t-shirts with the intention that people would wear his designs and thus give this young boy a voice in society – because in the end, an image says more than a thousand words.
2. How did the organization get started? What inspired you?
Our main purpose with Raw Threads was to give people a voice. We felt noble causes and individuals weren’t being heard in society, and thus we wanted to change that through the invocation of an alternative medium – words simply weren’t doing the trick. Our initial concept was to create a clothing brand that emphasized global issues through art. We (my partner Danielle and I) chose art and fashion to convey these societal struggles because we’ve always felt they had a unique capacity to elicit emotion and connect a diverse array of individuals. Also, we feel our predominant way of self-expression these days is through our clothing. We thought, why not convince people to make a real statement with their clothes? Something that could positively impact the life of someone else.
4. What is the most rewarding part of running a nonprofit organization?
Honestly, it’s hard to designate one particular part as the most rewarding. We have come into contact with so many inspiring people and incredible organizations through Raw Threads. It feels amazing to be able to help spread the word of so many great causes through an approach of art and fashion that many of them have never even considered utilizing. Although, I think one of the most rewarding parts is every time someone wears one of our t-shirts. I feel so proud, and I hope that the person wearing it does too, because by wearing a Raw Threads tee, he or she is giving an individual or an entire organization a voice in a society that often fails to recognize their struggles.
5. How do you balance running an organization with maintaining your schoolwork and other extracurricular activities?
Juggling a company and everything else that encompasses a college student’s life (midterms, papers, parties, boys, actually getting some sleep) is definitely a challenge. Time management is a major factor, but I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t always get everything done in a day. It might not seem like it at the time, but there is always tomorrow or an alternative solution. You can only be Wonder Woman to a certain extent unfortunately.
6. What else do you like to do in your free time?
I try to avoid distinguishing between work and free time – I try to enjoy every task or activity to the best of my ability. You can’t just live for the weekend. But in the free time that I do have, I am a person of innumerable hobbies. I often prioritize doing something active to decompress, whether it be running, playing tennis, hiking, or horseback riding. Otherwise, I spend a lot of time with friends, working my part-time job, watching movies, writing, drawing, and even occasionally cross-stitching and freestyle rapping.
7. What advice would you give other women who want to start their own company or organization?
I think the most important thing in creating a business as a woman is to not be intimidated and to never let anyone diminish your abilities. It is rough, and people will continuously challenge or test your capabilities simply because you’re a young woman. But at the end of the day the rewards of building your own company and watching it succeed far outweigh any challenge or obstacle put in your way as a female. If anything, the challenges only make you stronger and even more determined to prove how wrong they are.
Be sure to visit http://raw-threads.com if you’re interested in purchasing something from the latest collection or if you want to learn more information about Raw Threads!