Blog: Jeff Newsom

Paper and plastic bags, be gone! Plastic grocery sacks, now banned everywhere from China to South Africa to San Francisco, make eco-blogger Jeff Newsom's tank top shirt bags a viable choice. Proceeds from these fashion-cum-function totes support A-ShirtBag, his environmental education non-profit. This week, Jeff waxes eloquent on what it takes to start a non-profit in Detroit...

Jeff Newsom - Post 2: Getting the Ideas Together

I know how to make pretty things and make people want them, but the legal end of a non-profit organization was a whole new world to me. What was I going to do without any funds to hire a lawyer and a complicated 501c3 filing for an eco-friendly non-profit? Go to another seminar?

YES… That's what I did, and things fell into my lap. Blindly, I visited a recommended seminar though the Michigan Non-profit Association and found the legal advice I needed with an introduction to Community Legal Resources  and the Communities In Schools organizations. These two relationships are very important to AShirtBag because one provides pro-bono legal services and the other was the introduction to the Detroit public school system that lets ASB teach its educational program to its children.

Without this visit to the seminar, AShirtbag would be dead in the water. One word of advice to people wanting to start a non-profit is to seek out workshops, seminars, and companies that share your vision and never be afraid to ask for help, because like me, you never know what can happen.

Our legal filings took over a year to complete and about two months for the IRS to accept the application, which is usually a 6-month process. Have your ducks in a row with your legal documents and it will make the process of 501c3 determination move faster.

Throughout developing ASB as a sustainable organization, every process of designing the packaging with post-consumer paper to finding factories to provide us with environmentally friendly products took a long time, but was well worth the wait. This is a very important part of our mission and the services we provide. Stick to your guns and never settle for less because your vision is key to a successful organization.

Organizing our board of directors and collecting the talent needed to make this organization work was also important. I contacted many different people from different areas of expertise to bring a variety of talent to make things work and further the vision of ASB. The board's talents range from high-level bankers to local retail talent with some design gurus thrown in for good measure. As the founder, I knew my talents would only go so far, but with a group of seasoned professionals helping make the decisions that a successful non–profit organization needed, finding the right board proved to be one of the most important things accomplished at AShirtBag.

Just remember, good things come if you're willing to wait. In the next post I will talk about the service and products we offer and how we came to develop them.