Philanthropy: Christina Martin

Philanthropy has found a way to kick buyer’s remorse to the curb. They’ve taken the guilt out of shopping, and replaced it with goodwill.

The “Fashion + Compassion” men’s and women’s boutique is a little store with a big mission: To be the catalyst for change, and the leader in cause-driven retailing. And they’re offering their customers the opportunity to give back on a global level.

Since opening in 2007, this small-town store in downtown Franklin has given more than $200,000 to on-the-ground organizations in East Africa, the Caribbean Islands and the United States. Owners Christina and Christopher Martin have pledged to give 10 percent of Philanthropy’s proceeds to charities, or a minimum of $50,000 a year.

The store curates and designs home goods, accessories and clothing – and all of it benefits a struggling soul somewhere.

“We opened as a platform for our customers to make a difference,” Christina says. “The truth is, when giving is the focus, the public seems happy and excited to get involved.”

Philanthropy has developed long-lasting relationships with its charities, and hopes to make an impact through targeted strategy. They are currently helping organizations in Nashville, Tuscaloosa, Ala., Sudan, Uganda, Haiti, and more. Philanthropy finds charities that concentrate on health initiatives, education and empowerment, community building, and funding. The store’s website, www.philanthropyfashion.com, keeps customers updated and informed on old and new projects.

“Our ultimate goal is to facilitate a better future to underdeveloped communities so they become healthy, self-reliant and sustainable,” Christina says.

Products range from the filmy shirts on the racks to the mercury glass votives on display to the men’s scarves in the window. The eco-friendly vibe in the store lends itself to both men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes, home products and decor. Quirky items fill every corner, including a product made from Elephant Poo (seriously).

Some of the store’s best-selling products are part of Philanthropy’s Wearable Compassion Project, a line of t-shirts and bags which the boutique has locally designed and printed as an additional way to give back. Philanthropy gives 100 percent of the sale of these products to their charities.

“Our Wearable Compassion program was started as a way of empowering our customers to support the rebuilding of the Franklin Theatre,” Christina says, “People were so supportive of this project that we decided that it was going to be a staple for different causes in the store.”

Philanthropy’s Wearable Compassion products, as well as many other items from the store, are now available through the boutique’s website, www.philanthropyfashion.com.

The store also offers styling advice. Customers can request personal sessions, or come in to the store for fashion guidance. They even provide their email address (contact@philanthropyfashion.com) in case someone needs to know a pattern-match on the fly.

“We have a staff with a keen eye for fit and style,” she says.

Philanthropy is a faith-centered operation. From the music that filters through the store to the Bible verses découpaged on its door frames, Christina hopes to infuse hope through the store’s actions.

“I want people to see that we’re genuine and that Jesus Christ is reflected through us,” she says. “We walk the walk.”

Black and white frames of a village in Sudan fill one wall of Christina’s office, reminding her daily of her mission. She was part of a medical team, the first group in the village after the second Sudanese Civil War. Christina points from picture to picture and tells the story behind each face – this one about a “Lost Boy of Sudan” and his father reunited, that one about the son she adopted that’s in boarding school in Uganda. Mission work is at the heart of this boutique, and Christina is helping each employee of the store reach his or her goal in works in Uganda, Haiti, and with local charitable organizations.

“We’re more than a store,” she says. “We live and breathe this every day.”

Christina, who has started several other successful businesses, doesn’t want to stop with Franklin. She plans to reach out to small communities across the country, giving them the power of global generosity.

So next time you’re in Philanthropy, swipe the plastic guilt-free. It’s going to a good cause.

For more information, visit their website.