This week we are highlighting Hayley Santell, the amazing founder of our Kansas City store MADI Apparel: a cause-based brand that donates a pair of underwear to organizations in need for every item sold. Their menswear, womenswear and home goods are ethically made in Kansas City out of sustainable and long-lasting materials, and the sewers are paid a living wage.
Keep reading for what inspired her to start her business, her favorite gifts to give and more!
What inspired you to start your own business?
Back in 2012, I stumbled upon a crazy shocking statistic – that underwear is the most needed item of clothing. It tops the “most urgent emergency needs list” at most organizations serving women, men and youth all over the world. Underwear is the only item of clothing we (as a society) cannot donate used, so people rarely think to buy it new to then donate it to organizations in need. I learned that underwear is an ongoing emergency need for domestic violence shelters – a cause that ended up to really hit me hard and be part of my story after I learned that a close family member was once a victim of domestic violence. Thankfully, she’s alive today – happily married, very successful – and able to tell her story.
At the time, she was lucky enough to have supportive family members who helped her safely escape her abuser and support her during years of healing. But, many survivors seek shelters and often flee carrying nothing but the clothes on their back. Statistics are extremely high – when a victim leaves the safe housing at the shelter and returns home to pack a bag of comfort items – that abuser violence is heightened and victims are at risk of serious harm or even being killed. So, it’s very important that shelters keep new underwear and other basic needs in stock for residents because it’s very unsafe for survivors to return home to pack a bag. In addition to donating a pair of underwear to organizations in need for every item sold, I (as a consumer myself) realized the market was missing a brand that made a difference in EVERY aspect of their model.
So, I started MADI Apparel to ensure we were creating products that were positively impactful in every way – from manufacturing to fabrics to give back to fair wages.
The meaning behind your business’s name?
MADI stands for Make a Difference. We focus on making a difference in every area of the business model. We break down each segment – like manufacturing, fabrics, fair wages and giving back – and we attempt to create a positive impact in every angle. MADI also stands for a woman’s name – so you picture the face and name of a real person you know and love receiving the pair of underwear that your purchase initiates. Often, we give to companies and we don’t really know who benefits from our charitable giving. Our goal is to encourage our customers to picture real people receiving the underwear that their purchase donates.
What is the most memorable gift you’ve ever received?
When I was born, my god mom gifted me a beautiful painting print by a famous southwestern artist. The painter is Native American and his work is always symbolic with people and animals as the main focal points. In my print, a female shepherd sits with two sheep in a field. I’ve held on to this painting for over 30 years and it hangs in my front room. It’s special and symbolic to me for a few reasons..
- For work I’m a designer, but in my free time I’m a painter, so art is important to me.
- This was a birth gift from my god mom, so that will always be special to me.
- A shepherd protects sheep from animals that would attack them, keeps them from wandering, and otherwise takes care of the flock. To me, this painting symbolizes how I’ve always felt protected and in return, I do my best to take care of others.
Word of advice to someone wanting to start their own business?
We’re all born with gifts, and it’s important that we use those gifts for the greater good. If you’ve been blessed to learn something special and unique, chances are no one else will start a business based on that knowledge if you don’t. Starting a business can seem scary and overwhelming, but all you have to do is take that first step. Your idea could change us all, could better the world…we need you!
Go-to gift from your business?
I love giving our bamboo sheet sets to newly married or engaged couples or our soy candles for housewarming gifts!
For: A new bride
Honeymoon Travel Essentials
Includes a cruelty-free silk sleep mask in ivory, “silk” scented soy candle, cruelty-free silk scrunchie in ivory, and a cruelty-free silk bag for storing silk products.
For: Your bff
Starting Fresh Sleep Set
Includes an organic bamboo satin set size queen, cruelty-free silk sleep mask in ivory, and a “bamboo linens” soy candle.
For: A new mom
New Mama Comfort Essentials (Queen or King sheets)
Includes a Bamboo Lounge tank (one size fits many) in black, “fireside” soy candle, organic bamboo satin sheet set in ivory size Queen.