Katie Hutt wears her heart on her sleeve — and now you can too.
Last January, the Evergreen High School sophomore launched Garden of Edith, a one-girl industry that gives people a chance to look good while doing good.
“All clothes are one-of-a-kind pieces, and $5 of each $20 shirt goes to Africa,” says Katie, holding up a sharp, black T-shirt emblazoned with the Dark Continent’s silhouette and a plea for healing. “My ultimate goal is that, by the time I die, Africa will no longer be third world, and everybody there will be equal but still retain their culture.”
A tall order, yes, but if anyone can do it, Katie can.
“I started this business with money that I’ve been saving since I was in elementary school,” she says. “I’d like Garden of Edith to go national someday. I always say, ‘Go big, or go home.’ ”
While mellifluous, Katie’s business handle doesn’t explain itself. In fact, she named the enterprise for a grandmother she never met.
“She died way before I was born, but growing up I heard so much about her. I guess she was a pretty amazing person. Since I didn’t get to know her, I thought I’d name my business after her.”
Speaking of amazing people, 16-year-old Katie’s been angling toward Africa for most of her young life.
“A friend of my mom’s came back from a church trip to Africa when I was 5 years old,” she explains. “It was a real eye-opener for me. It all starts with poverty. When you’re thinking about food, you can’t think about the future. Women, especially, are very poorly treated, and I’m definitely one to stand up for women’s rights. It made me feel like it was kind of my job to tell people what’s happening over there.”
Then, last year, Katie watched a documentary produced by the Uganda aid organization Invisible Children, and her interest became her industry.
“That was definitely a starting point for me,” she says. “I decided it was time to do something. I’m too young be allowed to go there myself, so I found a way to do what I love here at home and help people in Africa at the same time.”
And what Katie loves — besides skateboarding, snowboarding and punk music — is art and fashion. “Fashion has always been my thing, and I’ve been taking art classes at Monart. I really like pastels, and I like to try new things.”
Still, creating a striking image is a far cry from curing the ills that plague sub-Saharan Africa. If Katie was going to make a difference, she’d have to make some money.
“I’ve never run a business, but my dad owned a golf store for 20 years, and I learned quite a bit helping him out there. And I learned a lot more working at Rustic Point furniture.”
Through a sympathetic connection in Loveland, Katie was able to swing an initial order of 100 T-shirts, sizes petite to prodigious, and generously discounted. To date, she’s sold about three dozen, mostly to friends and over her MySpace page. And since Paragon Sports graciously donated a spot on its sales floor, she hopes to sell many more. She’ll need to if Garden of Edith is to become self-sustaining.
“I actually ordered too many for the first run, but I’m learning from my mistakes. I’m working two jobs trying to catch up. Eventually, I’d like to expand to different designs for different countries. The money from this shirt is going to Uganda through Invisible Children, but I’d like to offer shirts for Ghana, Tanzania, Darfur and maybe others. I can also do dresses, jackets or business designs. Even the small amount I’m raising right now can do an incredible amount of good in Uganda, but, eventually, this could potentially help hundreds of thousands of people.”
And so Katie crafts her designs, promotes her business as best she can, and looks toward the day when peace and plenty reign in Africa.
“It’s been a lot harder work than I expected, but it’s very rewarding,” she says. “Even if Garden of Edith never goes as far as I want it to, it’s definitely been worth it.”
To learn more about Garden of Edith, visit www.myspace.com/gardenofedith