the story of five virtues

Posted on September 30 2016

our roller-coaster-rocket-ship mission of empowering kids to unleash their creativity began almost five years ago. we want to celebrate our birthday by sharing some stories from the past five years about the  super awesome ups and the not-so-awesome downs. we picked some of our favorite classic designs to represent each year of our journey.

fine art prints, umano classics, fifth bday, virtues
every order this week (oct 1 - 7) will include one of the above 5x7" limited-edition prints.

2012: THE TINY DANCER - wisdom

this year brought you the first ever umano tee, manufactured not too far from home in north carolina. brothers + umano co-founders, jonathan and alex torrey, knew nothing about fashion or retail, but they knew that they were on to something.

“we knew that our mission was to showcase a kids drawing as a work of art and empower kids to unleash their creativity. the idea of putting kids Artwork on a tee came later.” -alex: brother + ceo

they made a few mistakes with the first batch of tees (like thinking tangerine and mint colored tees were a good idea.) but hey, despite the interesting color choices and lack of retail knowledge, their first small-batch production sold surprisingly well! umano tees made it into a couple of boutiques in our hometown of athens, ga and a couple others around the southeast.

most excitingly, the bros went on their first ever giving trip, visiting a school in rural mexico. here, they met Emanuel, the Artist behind crowd favorite: THE TINY DANCER.

our chosen virtue for 2012 is wisdom because jonathan + alex were wise enough to put the mission first before they had a business plan.

mexico giving trip, tangerine and mint shirts, brothers
 jt + at (wearing aforementioned tangerine and mint tees) on their first ever Giving Trip to tulancingo, mexico with TINY DANCER Artist, Emanuel (to the left of alex) in 2012  

2013: THE EDDIE - playfulness

this year called for more umano tees. but in order to manufacture a larger batch, they had to look for money. umano gained its very first investor in 2013. thanks, mark! (aka alex’s college finance professor.) after this investment, jonathan + alex decided to hop into a tiny rv (affectionately called “el chato”) and drive across the country to los angeles, california to look for better fabric. and they found it! (v soft, but definitely not freakishly soft … keep reading.)  

thanks to this adventure in el chato, umano can be found in boutiques nationwide, alex can brag about his bromance with blake mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, and we now know that all good manufacturing doesn’t necessarily come from los angeles because more than 50% of our women’s tees were defective ... ouch!

our chosen virtue for 2013 is playfulness, because to survive the roller-coaster ride of creating a business, you’ve got to love what you do and have fun while you do it (and be crazy enough to live in a tiny rv with your bro for six months.)

alex, founder of TOMS, LA, 2013
alex with blake mycoskie (founder of TOMS) in front of "el chato" in 2013

2014: THE FIXIE - endurance

welcome to the year where alex was put on probation for six months (surprise! apparently it is unlawful to screen print in a garage in athens, ga.) the bros brushed off this small run-in with the law, relocated their operation and got right back to the grind.

jonathan + alex pitched the umano story to bloomingdale’s and somehow convinced them to give us a shot. umano has been in select bloomingdale's store-fronts across the nation ever  since.

In 2014, jonathan traveled the world, searching once again for the softest fabric on earth. after visiting many different countries + spending time with many different fabric knitters, he ended up in turkey where our one-of-a-kind, FREAKISHLY-SOFT (told you it was coming) signature fabric, omobono, was born. and after many months, the team finally managed to perfect the seven silhouettes that would become the core of the umano collection.

launching our signature fabric and re-designed silhouettes was a game-changer. our bloomingdales business picked up, we finally learned what a specialty store was and we got our tees into more of them. our team also started to grow and we reached the first major milestone: 10,000 backpacks!

“it took us THREE years to give just 10,000 backpacks. it was an extremely long process and we wouldn’t have made it without some serious endurance”
-alex torrey: brother + ceo

jonathan, turkey, omobono, 2014
jonathan in turkey in search of our freakishly-soft omobono fabric in 2014

2015: THE BEAR - courage

2015 was loaded with courage. umano was selected to compete at pandoland, a competition for tech-start ups. after sharing the umano story with a panel of investor judges, the brothers found themselves on stage as the winners of pandoland, negotiating mano-a-mano against a panel of some of the finest venture capitalist minds in america.

in 2015, jonathan + alex  launched a kickstarter campaign for umano to raise money from complete strangers to expand to a bigger warehouse. our first ever vogue article and $30,000+ later, we moved to our very own warehouse.

and yep, you guessed it: shark tank. (SHARK TANK!!!) umano had a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise awareness about our mission to empower kids through art education. it was so exciting to share the movement with all of shark tank’s loyal viewers and encourage them to be a part of unleashing creativity. we were able to reach our 2015 Giving Goal and set an even bigger + better one for the next year.

“we’ve pitched our story a thousand times, but in 2015 we were able to pitch it with a dozen cameras in our face”  -alex: brother + ceo

shark tank, viewing party, 2015, courage
umano team reactions during our shark tank viewing party in 2015

2016: THE STREET SHEEP - compassion

during summer 2016, the umano team worked with refugee youth from all over the world and they inspired us to do a collection all about togetherness. we collaborated with programs like friends of refugees in clarkston, ga and journey, part of world relief, in nashville, tn that are doing incredible work to support and educate refugees, both children and adults, fleeing from broken countries.

“getting to work with these kids has allowed us to see gratitude at a whole new level and learn their stories first hand.”
-alex: brother + ceo

we are insanely proud of launching our #umanonations collection this year. these collaborations provided the incredible opportunity to work with refugee kids and allowed the team to witness what real compassion looks like.

compassion, 2016, refugees, alex
alex drawing with one of our new friends from zambia in 2016

we are so grateful for the possibilities 2016 has presented to us so far and can’t wait for what is coming next. the #umanounion is about being part of something bigger than yourself. the brothers, the umano team and you, #umanounion. together, we will continue to write the story about a little engine that could.

this is your year to be the thing that starts the stuff.

p.s. don't forget that every order this week october 3 - 7, will include a FREE 5x7 limited-edition print!