Gilroy teen launches charity clothing company

Gianfranco Filice, 17, wants to make waves and inspire social change with his clothing and accessories company Ripple. The Christopher High School senior said all net profits will go to charities like Living Water and Operation Freedom Paws.

GILROY—A 17-year-old Christopher High School student and budding entrepreneur wants to turn his peers into “walking advocates” for causes from child abuse and homelessness to world hunger.
Gianfranco Filice will launch a clothing and accessories company in early July called Ripple that will dedicate all net profits to charities. The concept is simple, he said, and it’s to inspire people to take action and purchase a product where the profits will go to a particular charity, and in doing so turn a ripple into a tidal wave of social action.
Rather than watching fellow teenagers spend their money on brand-name clothing that simply lines the pockets of the company’s higher-ups, Filice saw an opportunity to make his own waves.
“In my research I found out that one-third of teenage spending is on clothing. Why not use the largest market of their spending for good?” he said. “Everyone is going to buy clothing; why not on something that makes a difference?”
This week, Filice created a post on crowd-funding website Kickstarter where the website’s visitors contribute to the development of a company in exchange for goods, services or simply enjoying the role of helping a young business get established. He hopes by July 2 to have brought in $15,000.
To Filice, his business is personal.
The high-school junior’s motivations for seeing Ripple all the way through reach farther than wanting to change the world. He wants to make his mother, who has been in remission from late-stage stomach and liver cancer for one year, proud of him, he said.
Five years ago, Nadia Filice was diagnosed with stage-four stomach cancer. The disease spread to her liver, Gianfranco said, but she miraculously pulled through.
He remembers wandering the halls of Ascension Solorsano Middle School as an eighth grader, thinking “is my mom going to be alive when I get home?”
Gianfranco has transformed the pain and trauma of nearly losing a parent into inspiration to “do good,” as he puts it.
“After my mom started getting better, making her proud of me was the biggest motivator. That’s what really pushed me,” he said. “(With this project), it’s me ultimately giving back to my mom what she gave me.”
The genesis of Ripple came around April 2012, following his mother’s cancer diagnosis. Since then, with a 45-page business plan that took more than 250 hours, the concept has blossomed into a company with an already-developed product line that includes t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, tote bags and smartphone cases. He has collaborated on the project with a fellow CHS junior, Sara Blawski, and Lorena Garnica and Andrea Lopez, juniors at Gilroy High School, he said.
“You’re making this ripple effect and that’s what we’re after—to raise awareness and motivate people,” Filice said. “We want to show people that no matter how young or old you are, there’s no reason you can’t make a difference in the world regardless of your resources. It’s not just about the product, it’s about the change we’re trying to make in the world.”
Ripple was recently inducted into the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and the young entrepreneur has already secured deals with three nonprofits, from local to multimillion dollar organizations like Morgan Hill-based Operation Freedom Paws and Living Water, which erects wells in countries with a dearth of clean water.
On the morning of his PSAT exams, Filice met with a Living Water representative at Gilroy’s Black Bear Diner and worked out a deal to have a well built in India in his company’s name.
“They agreed to set up a well in Ripple’s name in exchange for an outgoing partnership,” Filice said.
Once the company starts selling products in early July, Ripple’s profits will go directly to Living Water until the loan is paid off.
Filice has gained supporters in the Gilroy business community with his tenacity and desire to make a difference. The CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Mark Turner, said he’s one of them.
“His enthusiasm is contagious. You can’t help but think he’s going to be the CEO of a corporation somewhere down the road,” Turner added. “I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
The organization’s leader paid for Ripple’s membership fees on principle.
“I just felt strongly we needed to make sure he could be a part of the chamber and have access to our members,” Turner said.
Each of Filice’s products is the result of hours of collaboration between his three Ripple colleagues. Filice said he’s used independent designers around the world from Hungary to Germany to mock up each product.
His favorite design, the teen said while sporting it during a recent interview with the Dispatch, draws the distinction between how a victim of child abuse feels about themselves behind closed doors and how they present themselves to others.
“The top of the shirt represents what you see in an abused child and the reflection below represents the shattered identity that isn’t always clearly evident,” Filice said while pointing to the various elements. “Each design represents a cause and they communicate something that creates awareness through a walking advocate, but they do so in a very subtle way.”
Filice has his sights set on securing a deal someday with Gilroy-based Rebekah Children’s Services in hopes of collaborating on a plan to battle child abuse locally, he said.
“I’m not a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type of individual,” Filice said. “I’m passionate about making a difference.”
“I’m not a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type of individual. I’m passionate about making a difference.”
• Gianfranco Filice, 17-year-old entrepreneur
Ripple’s product line, including t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, tote bags and more, will be offered for sale in early July at www.rippledesign.org. His Kickstarter can be found at http://kck.st/1JxdNVN.

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