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Alex (left) and Jonathan Torrey
Alex (left) and Jonathan Torrey

A community-minded clothing company started by Terry graduates got a $150,000 boost from famous investors during their recent appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank.

umano (the name is lower-cased) was started in 2011 by Jonathan (BBA ’07) and Alex Torrey (BBA ’09), both graduates of UGA’s Terry College of Business, as a way to help bring art education to disadvantaged children. The company puts children’s designs on adult clothing and uses the profits to donate backpacks full of school supplies to poverty-stricken schools.

“Our big a-ha moment was learning about social entrepreneurship,” Alex Torrey said. “I know it sounds cheesy but it’s the honest truth, we knew that this what we were put on this Earth to do. We liked the idea that you don’t have to choose between doing well and doing good. It was game changing for us.”

Shark Tank is reality TV show that lets entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, apparel company founder Daymond John, and inventor Lori Greiner. “The Sharks” may or may not bid to become part of a project.

The pitch from the Brothers Torrey involved expanding their business. While umano clothes are currently sold in Bloomingdale’s stores and on the Bloomingdale’s website, the founders want to create direct-to-consumer option through their own website.

“This was definitely the hardest pitch we’ve had to do,” Alex said. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve pitched your company before. It’s second nature. You do it every day. What you don’t do every day is see 13 TV cameras. You’re not on a mic and on a set. That really ups your stress level.”

The Torreys credit their education-focused mission to their parents, both teachers. Supporting art education is especially important, they said, because it’s often among the first-cut programs in budget-conscious public schools.

“It’s no about learning to draw, but about learning to see,” Alex said. “It teaches kids creative problem solving. It teaches a lot of very powerful things for a kid’s development. For us, this was chance to really have an impact.”

“Our ultimate goal is just to give more backpacks,” he added. “There are 20 million kids in this country who live in poverty. Our goal is to be able to give 10 million backpacks by 2020 so that we can help empower at least half of those kids.”

To learn more about Shark Tank, visit http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank.