Derek Evans book title: Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615

Local Entrepreneur Shows How to Change the World

Derek Evans shows us how to change the world as a local entrepreneur. See how his t-shirt business makes a difference in Nashville and globally. Brought to you by

Today on The BIGG Success Show today, we talk with Derek Evans, president and co-founder of Project 615, an apparel company on a mission to end homelessness and addiction. Over the last nine years, Project 615 has donated over $500,000 to worthy causes in Nashville and around the world.

He joins us today to talk about his book, Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615. Here’s a summary of that discussion.

It’s good to get laid off

Things seem to be going Derek’s way. Still in his early 20s, his career was falling into order. He got a promotion at the construction management firm he was working for.

But little did he know, trouble was brewing. The Great Recession was in full force. Just a few short months after getting the promotion, Derek’s boss delivered a brutal blow. He was the first employee to be laid off, as the company struggled to survive and, eventually, go under.

Derek says, “As soon as the boss handed me my small, little severance check, I said, ‘I’m moving to Nashville.’ And so six days later, I moved to Nashville.”

So getting laid off got him to Nashville, the place where he would start a business to change the world.

Not only does Derek think it was good to get laid off, he says he was FORTUNATE to be let go. To hear why, listen to the podcast. Simply click the PLAY button above.

Why Nashville?

Derek grew up in Indianapolis. He visited a friend in Nashville. Derek said he had always pictured Nashville as “this cowboy boots kind of town.”

But he saw something completely different. Young people. Musicians, of course. (Every bartender and barista’s a musician, he says.) Athletes. And entrepreneurs.

Nashville is the city of dreams. Derek was inspired by all the opportunities there.

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Why start a t-shirt business?

It was 2008 – the height of the Great Recession – when Derek moved to Nashville. It was really hard to get a job and hold onto it.

During this time, he hung out a lot with a friend who was a graphic designer. When they got together to watch games or grab some wings, they would talk about their jobs and life.

At one point, Derek asked him what he thought of starting a business. He encouraged Derek to go for it.

Derek asked him what he thought of joining forces. As they thought about what business to start, they considered their respective strengths.

Derek says, “We both just kind of spit out the word ‘t-shirts’ one day.” So they started a t-shirt company to do cool t-shirts.

Derek says he launched his business in spite of being in a broken place. What motivated him to keep pushing forward? Click the PLAY button above to listen to the show and get the answer.

Derek found his calling on Skid Row in Los Angeles

Derek heard his church was planning a mission trip to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. They went to feed the thousands of homeless people there.

Derek signed up. So did his college friend, Matt. They met people who were still homeless and people who had turned their lives around.

They were in their early 20s. They wondered how such a thing happens. And then, they got an idea…

They could help people with the money they made from their t-shirt business.

As entrepreneurs, they could do more good in the world.

After experiencing Skid Row, they found the mission of their business – giving profits away and partnering with non-profits around Nashville. In addition, they would hire people who are recovering from homelessness and addiction.

Since they launched their business, they have given away over $500,000 to worthy causes. Among other things, they invested $25,000 to build an orphanage for boys in Uganda.

Getting started

Derek says it takes five years: “If you’re not going to spend five years on this business idea, don’t spend five minutes on it. Because that’s literally how log it will take.”

They got back to Nashville and just started. If they made 50 cents, they put 25 cents in the bank. They reinvested in the business. And they paid themselves a little bit.

(Derek was still collecting unemployment. His friend, Matt – who became his business partner – had a full-time job as a graphic designer and worked with Derek in his spare time)

Derek adds it takes a lot of dedication. They were fortunate, though – they were both single and didn’t have many responsibilities yet. So they worked 60 – 70 hours a week.

But they didn’t have any investors. And they didn’t have any debt.

How did Derek finance his business?

They outsourced. They didn’t buy equipment to print t-shirts. They contracted with a firm to do it for them.

And they made sales. They called on churches, schools, and bands.

They landed a few major musicians. It was good money. They reinvested most of it.

They did “silly things that [they] really didn’t want to do,” says Derek Evans. Like selling t-shirts at youth softball tournaments. So they were on the road nearly every weekend for a few years. They didn’t really want to do it. They sacrificed their social lives. “But,” as Derek says, “that’s kind of part of a new business. You do have to certainly sacrifice a lot of your own time.”

An orphanage built with t-shirts

Derek’s dream was to help change the world, and his business has donated over $500,000 to worthy causes. When we asked Derek what stands out, you could quickly tell he wasn’t quite sure where to start.

Then he said they’re celebrating nine years in business. Every year, for their anniversary, Derek says, “We go to the very beginning. We tell our story, reengage with customers. We tell everybody who we are, where we’re from, and why we’re even in business.”

Last year, for their eighth anniversary, they funded the building of an orphanage in Uganda. Project 615 had it built with $25,000 of money raised from selling t-shirts. It houses 18 boys, who previously had no place to go. It’s thriving.

Derek says, “It’s part of our DNA that we wanted to start a business that helped people.”

Get the whole story

Derek has a lot more to say about the story of Project 615. We highly recommend his new book to you: Made to Change the World: How Ordinary People Are Called To Do Extraordinary Work, The Story of Project 615.

BIGG Lessons

– Opportunity often shows itself as adversity

– You don’t have to wait until you retire to live where you want

– You don’t have to have a lot of money to start a business

– Entrepreneurship is hard, but fulfilling

– Profit and philanthropy can go hand-in-hand

Here’s to your BIGG success!

George “The Professor” & Mary-Lynn
signatures: George & Mary-Lynn
Co-Founders, BIGG Success

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