Their search for an adopted hometown was brief.
“We had three dogs, and we drove into Mill Valley and it seemed like every other car we saw had a dog sitting shotgun,” Kanter says. “We just knew this was the place for us. It’s just the most idyllic town in America. It doesn’t get any better than being a country mouse living 10 minutes from one of the greatest cities in the world.”
But having handed off Serena & Lily CEO duties to Lori Greeley in 2016, Kanter is onto the next big thing – one with a philanthropic twist.
Just two weeks ago, dozens of friends, family and industry colleagues gathered at 7 Locust Ave., the space formerly occupied by Nadine Curtis’ 7 on Locust retail shop, for an opening party of sorts for Boon Supply, Kanter’s latest venture.
Boon Supply draws on Kanter’s vast experience in building a consumer retail brand, selling an ever-growing array of 200-plus products, from reusable totes and kitchen products to garden tools and storage and organizational items, all organized around design, color, and pattern.
But while all that may sound like an eclectic-yet-familiar online retail shop, the business model takes a decisive left turn, splicing retail with the democratization of crowdfunding on sites like GoFundMe, IndieGogo and Kickstarter. On every item the company sells, 50 percent of the proceeds go towards the cause of the customer’s choice, including organizations like Kiddo!, the Mill Valley Schools Community Foundation that supports music, art, dance, technology, physical education and much more in all six Mill Valley School District schools. Organizations can also create their own fundraising campaigns on the site – just like they do on sites like GoFundMe.
“In many ways, Boon Supply is a combination of everything I've been doing and passionate about for the past 30 years,” says Kanter, a Kansas City, Missouri native who got deeply involved in supporting nonprofit organizations after leaving Microsoft. She was featured in Time magazine's July 2000 cover story, “The New Philanthropists.”
The lion’s share of the products on the site today are the result of Kanter’s acquisition of Mixed Bag Designs, a Burlingame-based school fundraising business co-founded by a friend of hers and which gave back 50 percent of purchases to schools. Kanter has already added some products to that mix, including an herb garden kit from the Living Seed Co. in Point Reyes.
At a Henry Crown Fellowship Program at the Aspen Institute, Kanter met Tamsin Smith, the founding president of (RED), the brand founded by U2 frontman Bono and Bobby Shriver to allow major brands like Apple, Starbucks and Nike to create products, with up to 50 percent of profits donated to the Global Fund, which supports large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
The two hit it off, and Smith agreed to join Boon Supply as its chief philanthropy officer. “For (RED), it was all about the Global Fund, and in our case we want to build a cause funding shopping platform where the cause is anyone’s choice,” Kanter says.
In addition to Kiddo!, Boon Supply is supporting a number of local organizations, including schools and private school foundations all over Marin, including the Tam High Foundation, the Drake Fund, Kentfield’s kik, as well as Bridge to Gap College Prep, which provides programming aimed at preparing Marin City students for college success. They’re also working with much larger organizations like Every Mother Counts, which focuses on maternal healthcare and was founded by model Christy Turlington Burns.
Much of the last year was “landing the plane, so to speak, with the existing company,” she says. That process culminated with the launch party at the Locust Ave. space, which will serve as the company’s headquarters for its marketing and merchandising teams until they outgrow it. It’s also a gorgeous showroom for their products, which are displayed on minimalist shelves with plenty of white surroundings to accentuate the colorful designs. Kanter says she’s offering 7 Locust as a community event space for schools and other local organization to host events.
On June 4, Boon Supply is opening a two-months pop-up showroom at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard, bringing yet another exciting brand to the recently revitalized historic property.
“We have already given back over $10 million since acquiring the existing school fundraising business less than a year ago,” she says, noting that they’re on track to generate $26 million in revenue in this year.
But while those numbers are eye-popping for such a young business, Kanter is, not surprisingly for someone with her track record, thinking much bigger.
“I truly believe wholeheartedly that this can be a billion-dollar-a-year give back company,” she says. “It will take us a little time to get there, but we see this becoming a really successful micro-fundraising site. Some of those sites like GoFundMe are $2 billion platforms. We feel there is an opportunity to have a radically exciting giveback platform.”
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