Written by The Business Journal Staff
Education: Sanger High School class of 2002
Milan Institute graduate
State Board Of California cosmetology license
Family: Engaged to partner of 10 years, Daren D’Ambrosio. Together we have three daughters, Tylar, 23; Jordyn, 16; and Macy, 10.
Tell us about Eco World.
Eco World started as Cash for Clothes in 2011 and was rebranded to “Eco World” three years ago. Based in Fresno, we are a for-profit business with clothing and shoe donation containers throughout the Central Valley, the Central Coast, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. We are an environment-friendly, reuse and rewear company, working hard to keep all used clothing and shoes out of the landfills, regardless of condition or quality.
We are excited to work with local businesses, churches, charities, schools, thrift stores and nonprofits that have our containers placed at their locations, offering communities safe and secure places to drop off their donations with the knowledge that they’re helping locally.
We also have built relationships with multiple disposal and recycling companies, and together continue to come up with new ideas on how to keep these items out of the trash.
In the past year, Eco World has hosted used clothing and shoe drives to generate money for churches, nonprofits, schools, etc. by selling used clothing and shoes by the pound.
We currently have five employees and are affiliated with a nonprofit with nine employees who help us process donations.
Where do the donated items go?
Thrift stores and churches that need donations can receive them from us, and in return we pick up items that didn’t sell on their racks or just weren’t good enough quality for their liking. We are a source and outlet for disaster-relief sites, and disaster victims are referred to us for vouchers to acquire clothing and shoes free of charge. Items that can’t be used or taken by thrift stores and churches are shipped to third-world countries that have limited access to good manufacturers.
If items are too old, worn, torn or stained, they’re sold to be shredded and turned into carpet pad, insulation or turf for playgrounds and stadiums.
The important thing is, all these items are kept out of landfills and repurposed.
How did your company start?
My fiancé, Daren, had a successful concession business that came to a halt in 2011, and we lost everything, including our home. We had a kettle corn stand, and we started taking it to small farmers markets and swap meets. While there, we noticed the yard sale stands that threw away or left behind unsold clothes and shoes. We learned that this was a common practice and a headache for the trash companies. As crazy as it seemed, we used the money made from the kettle corn stand and any extra money that I made from my job as a waitress and bartender to buy the used clothes and shoes from the yard sale stands and sell it to local thrift stores.
To get more volume, we started up Cash for Clothes, which led us to purchase clothing and shoe donation containers from a troubled business, which we redirected and rebranded to become Eco World.
What is your role in Eco World?
I work daily developing new relationships and partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, churches, schools, disposal and recycling companies and other organizations. I am open to any ideas that can help achieve this and look forward to new opportunities. Daren and I regularly attend city council meetings and chambers of commerce events, as we believe it’s crucial to maintain good relationships.
Will donating to these bins hinder local charities or thrift stores?
No. Eco World works with multiple charities, churches, and thrift stores. Our donation containers and our pickups help them by clearing out their storage rooms and never being too full to collect and accept donations. Thrift stores have no other option but to throw away unwanted clothing and shoes, so we are a solution to a problem. Many of these locations use our containers as extra storage and allow donations to be received after business hours.
What types of items should people put in your donation containers and what shouldn’t go in?
Acceptable items include clothing, shoes, backpacks, purses, belts, hats, towels and bedding. It’s crucial that nothing wet or molded goes in the containers, as it would contaminate the other items. Any large items, including couches, televisions and household furniture, should be placed next to the containers.
What have been the biggest challenges developing your business?
The green donation containers we purchased came from a company that didn’t have a good reputation locally. They were left unserviced, trash building up around them and in some cases placed in locations without the property owners’ permission. In addition, the company often didn’t answer its phone, and none of the donated items stayed local. It was a big, uphill battle for us to regain the trust of property owners to believe we wouldn’t do the same things.
Circumstances got so bad that some cities banned donation containers, and we have had to go before boards and city councils to explain how we operate our business and that we are local. Other cities have put such large fees on permitting the containers that it doesn’t make sense to locate them there.
This, unfortunately, keeps old clothing and shoes piling up in landfills. We have continued to gain trust by proving that we can and will do a better job.
What are your future plans?
We are developing a container locater on our website, www.ecoworldtrading.com, so people can find the ones nearest to them. As a green company, we are continuously working with trash and recycling companies to develop more efficient ways to keep clothing, shoes, etc. out of the landfills .