CARMEL, Ind. — Four years ago, Kelli McLaughlin felt inspired by her brother and sister-in law’s journey to adopt a child from China. Realizing the amount of fundraising their adoption journey required made her reflect on how she could help others through fundraising.
For her, the answer was fashion.
“It started in my house, where I literally had one rack of clothes in my house and I’d have a few friends come over and shop and it was really small,” McLaughlin recalled.
Her next big step was purchasing a vintage camper which enabled her to take the boutique on the road.
“We took it to festivals and over time I kept finding more and more people who were really behind this idea of paying it forward with what they’re buying,” she said.
Then, late last summer, a space opened up in Carmel’s popular Clay Terrace outdoor shopping center. A few months later, McLaughlin officially opened Clothes with A Cause Boutique at 14390 Clay Terrace Blvd Suite #105.
At its inception, her original idea was to donate 10% of the boutique’s profits each month to someone who needed help.
But upon consulting her brother, she decided to go all-in.
“He said 10% is not very much when you’re really breaking it down,” McLaughlin said. “When you’re fundraising for big things, they are looking for bigger numbers… They’re looking for three zeros, not two zeros. “
So, when she approached her mother (who had agreed to go into business with her), she offered up a very unconventional idea.
“I said, ‘Mom, I think we need to donate 100% of our profits every month and really make this a pay it forward kind of boutique,” she recalled.
Her mom agreed. But to this day, McLaughlin says she still encounters people who are shocked when she tells them the boutique gives away 100% of their profits, not just a portion.
“People think I’m nuts all the time and that’s fine!” she said with a smile. “I probably am nuts but it matters… It matters to really try and pay it forward in this community.”
And they do.
Every single month, Clothes With A Cause Boutique donates 100% of their profits to a different charitable organization.
This month, it’s all about 4-year-old Cecelia.
She’s one of only about 2,400 people in the world with a rare chromosomal deletion disorder called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome.
“She’s characterized by delay in speech and a lot of people who have this might be completely non-verbal,” explained McLaughlin. “She walks around well…. but a lot of people never walk. She has other more medically-based conditions [like] inability to sweat, issues with internal organs, things of that nature.”
Unfortunately, McLaughlin says, there’s currently not a lot of research taking place about this rare condition, but by partnering with Cecelia this month, Clothes With A Cause endeavors to change that.
“Her foundation, Cecelia’s Advice, is funding and funneling all of their fundraising to the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation…So we’re just trying to help provide some funding for medical research so they can get a better understanding on how to better help her,” she said.
Customers give back by shopping the boutiques diverse inventory of trendy clothes (for both kids and adults), shoes, jewelry, bath products, decor and more. They’ll even receive a flyer in their bag with info on that month’s philanthropy, so they know where their money is going from each purchase.
Clothes With A Cause tries to partner with as many purpose-driven companies as possible, allowing them to multiply their giving beyond the 100% of profits donated each month.
Four Things You Need to Know About Clothes With A Cause Boutique:
- Kelli McLaughlin started Clothes With A Cause Boutique with a mission: to donate 100% of their profits each month to a different cause. Her business started small— selling clothes to friends off a single rack in her home— to now having her very own storefront in Clay Terrace. In the beginning, she says she had to practically beg different people and organizations to allow her to help raise money for them, but now they offer a streamlined online process for any philanthropies looking for support by partnering with the boutique.
- Clothes With A Cause is a trendy boutique offering items like clothes, accessories, bath products, candles and more. McLaughlin says she stays true to boutique form. “We get a product in and you’re not going to see it again after it’s gone so there’s a really quick turnover here, especially with clothes,” she said. When it comes to trends, she says tie-dye is all the rage this summer, so customers can expect to see plenty of tie-dye items arriving in her inventory over the next few weeks.
- McLaughlin emphasizes the importance of doing small, simple things to make a difference. She says the passion Hoosiers have to help others has made boutique wildly successful, even despite the challenge of having to close her storefront for nearly 2 months due to the pandemic. Thanks to their online sales through their website, Clothes With A Cause was still able to make a difference.
- In addition to donating 100% of their profits each month to a different charitable cause, Clothes With A Cause Boutique partners with a variety of purpose-driven companies who do their own giving. For instance, for every Bridgewater candle sold, Bridgewater Candle Company feeds a child for 3 meals. They also partner with ONEHOPE Wines, who’s mission focuses on giving back through fundraising.
McLaughlin says she particularly likes to focus on empowering women, which the boutique does through a new jewelry campaign focused on sustainable jewelry designed and run by women— including some who are based right here in Indiana.
They also carry a jewelry line called BelJoy, which provides sustainable wages to women in Haiti who are trying to get back on their feet.
“They all have the women’s name on the back who made that [piece of] jewelry,” McLaughlin noted. “You can trust that it’s ethically sourced… that they are getting fair wages. And it’s just a great way to know that you made a difference in someone else’s life.”
There’s also their popular line of Bridgewater Candles.
“For every candle that you buy, they feed a child for 3 meals,” she explained. “So, we’re donating our profits from the sale from that candle but in addition, they ‘re also feeing a child for 3 meals… So it just kind of starts escalating that do-good, paying it forward mentality.”
Everywhere you look, the message here is positivity. That includes everything from positive mantras like “People over Profits” displayed prominently on the walls, to the positive themes and messages on the products themselves.
“Whether you’re sending your kid off to college and you want to put a great tapestry on their wall to just remind them that they’re going to make it…. Or you’ve got a girlfriend that’s down and you want to give her a mug and it says, ‘Girl, you’ve got this. You’re strong’…That’s all here and that’s why we’re here,” McLaughlin explained.
When things get challenging for McLaughlin— as they do with any business owner, particularly during the COVID19 shut down— she say’s she looks to experiences like spending time with Cecelia in the shop, connecting to people and sharing their stories, and rallying around one another to make life just a bit better… even if it’s just through simple acts like purchasing a gift for a friend at the boutique.
“You can make a difference in somebody’s life by buying them a cute mug, filling it with candy and taking it to them,” she said. “You’ve cheered up your friend and you’ve helped another human in the process…. I don’t really think it gets any better than that on a small scale.”
For more info on “Cecelia’s Advice” and Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, click here.