A Company Built on Giving BackJanuary 8, 2020
For Tony Poston, philanthropy isn’t just a part of his business model—it’s the very foundation it was built upon. From the beginning, his Pullman, Washington-based apparel and screen printing company, College Hill Custom Threads, has donated 10 percent back on orders that support charities or philanthropic causes, including more than $100,000 donated to those supported by Greek organizations nationwide. “It goes back to the first T-shirt design I ever made for a charity event in college,” says Tony, a graduate of Washington State University. “We built giving into our business model from the get-go.”
Tony says he and his employees live out this company ethos not just in philanthropic ways, but in the day-to-day of the business, too. “One of our core values is to ‘create remarkable,’” he says. “It’s in everything we do, from sending a thank-you card for an order to donating to a charity.” Tony has even gone so far as to hand-deliver an order to a customer across the country who mistakenly requested the wrong shipping date. “It’s personal for us,” he says.
Since its founding in 2011, College Hill has not only supported customer causes like Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, and the Children’s Miracle Network, but also ones near and dear to both him and his employees. As a WSU graduate, Tony is passionate about giving back to his alma mater. College Hill sponsors two scholarship and endowment funds for the university, including a $25,000 commitment to a fund for students heavily involved in school activities and volunteering. “So many scholarships are based on academic criteria,” says Tony. “This one is based on somebody getting the most out of their college experience.”
Creating a community
In addition to giving on a local level, the College Hill team developed a national social fundraising program called Teal Link, which provides custom purchase links that clients can share with their social network. For every order received via the link, College Hill donates 10 percent back to the customer’s cause. “[Clients] send it out in their newsletters to anybody who’s interested in ordering custom apparel, and whatever comes through gets tagged to send funds straight back to their nonprofit,” Tony says. “We’re really proud of that.”
As the former president of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and a current member of the Pullman Regional Hospital Foundation Board, Tony says giving back and getting involved in the community aren’t just ways to improve others’ lives—they improve his life, too. “When I moved back [to Pullman], I saw an opportunity to shape what I wanted my community to look like,” he says. “ I know that eventually I’ll have children here, and I want my family to be raised in the best community possible.”
Tony believes prioritizing his community’s needs is a win-win for College Hill. “If you have happy employees and customers, the community will become your brand champions,” he says. “They’re going to refer other customers, and it comes full circle.” It’s these relationships, Tony says, that make his work meaningful. “There are a lot of companies out there where you can go drop clip art onto a T-shirt and buy it for relatively nothing, but we don’t believe in that,” he says. “We want to make our customer’s vision come to life. We want to have that personal connection.”