News / People

Grads’ clothing line is a force for good, no monkey business about it

Alumni Carolyn Francis and Dean Dormady started Tamarins -- an environmentally and socially responsible outdoor clothing brand -- after earning MBAs from DU's Daniels College of Business.

Dean Dormady (MBA 10) was a chubby kid who got picked on by his classmates. Carolyn Francis (MBA 10) gained 60 pounds when she got pregnant with her first child.

Together, they might have been voted most unlikely to get off the couch, much less start a fitness-oriented company. But the pair, who met at DU’s Daniels College of Business in 2008, are co-founders of Tamarins, an environmentally and socially responsible outdoor clothing brand.

No one’s surprised that they’re entering the retail sector. After all, Dormady had worked for Costco for 10 years before starting his own brokerage business, and Francis’ family owned Veda Spa and Salon. But each came to a passion for fitness fairly late in life.

As a teenager, Dormady grew tired of being teased and committed to losing weight. He began running and playing hockey and later, hiking and snowboarding, and in the process, fell in love with the outdoors. Francis started a similar weight-loss journey after the birth of her first child, only to be diagnosed shortly afterward with a rare form of cancer. While many people might have reacted with resignation, Francis became even more motivated to exercise.

“[The cancer is] in maintenance mode — it doesn’t grow and it doesn’t go away. By being in tune with how my body’s working physically when I work out, it lets me know if there’s a problem,” she says.

Still, not everyone who works out starts a fitness-clothing company. But Francis and Dormady worked on a number of projects together at Daniels and discovered they complemented each other perfectly.

“He takes care of the details that make me crazy, and I handle the big-picture things and the creative end.”

And they realized they had something else in common: They both wanted to give back to the community.

“The thinking these days — and DU is kind of a leader in the business school realm — is it’s not just about profits, but it’s about people and the planet, the triple bottom line,” Francis says. “I think if everybody gives back in some small way, it turns into a big, big way. I think it’s important to lead by example.”

So in April — just eight months after graduating from Daniels — the duo launched Tamarins. The company produces shirts made from a blend of cotton and polyester. Before you shudder, consider that the polyester is made from recycled plastic.

“They take post-consumer plastic, melt it down, make it into a thread and weave it into a product,” Francis says. “My point of view is we’ve kept how many tons of plastic out of a landfill. And it takes less energy to recycle plastic into polyester than it does to make virgin polyester.”

The combination is ideal for athletes, Francis adds.

“The polyester wicks away the moisture and the cotton breathes — so you’re getting the benefits of a Dry Max kind of situation.”

The shirts are meant to be fun and fashionable as well as functional, she says.

“You can go from the trails to the taverns in them. The shirts are whimsical and have a sense of humor.”

Each shirt, in fact, is imprinted with the stylized face of a tamarin, an endangered species that has become the company’s mascot.

But Francis and Dormady weren’t always mad for monkeys. Just as their obsession with fitness grew out of necessity, so did their tenderness for tamarins.

When they were writing their business plan, Francis and Dormady knew they wanted to give a percentage of their profits to conservation efforts and began looking for an animal to represent their brand.

“The tamarin is a really great face of endangered species. He’s cute. People love cute. He’s fuzzy, and there are 18 different species of tamarins, so you can have fun with them within the brand,” Francis says.

But Tamarins doesn’t limit its charity to tamarins. When people buy a shirt from the company’s online store, they can choose to support four different conservation efforts — selected by the Denver Zoo — and 2 percent of their purchase price goes to that cause.

“What’s really cool to me,” Francis says, “is not only are the shirts a sustainable merchandise, but we give back on the other side. On both ends of the deal, something good is coming out of it.”

And that’s the real bottom line — no monkeying around.

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