We’ve all heard of ProductRED or FEED, but have you heard of Neil Wong and his company Thank You Toronto? If you haven’t, you’re about to find out about how they are making a difference in our community. Thank You Toronto is a cause-based apparel company that is supporting making a change in our city. For every purchase made, they feed a homeless person in Toronto. The company's founder, Neil Wong explains, “You may not know their situation; maybe they choose to be homeless, maybe they suffer from something, but it doesn’t mean they have to go hungry. With the luxuries some have, Thank You Toronto can be the medium by providing fashion for a greater good. It’s also very important to me because I have lived through similar situations with my family pushing through poverty and with the help of friends and family, a little positivity can help you get past a negative situation,” he says.
There has certainly been a rise in cause-based brands over the years. What drew me to Thank You Toronto was the fact that they branded themselves on being proud Torontonians. Torontonians are proud of all things Toronto; just ask any of our city's sports fans, despite their win/loss record. But in all seriousness, as someone who grew up outside of the Greater Toronto Area, one thing I have always noticed is the pride amongst its citizens. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone who lives here, who isn’t proud to tell people that. Wong will be the first person to tell you that. “Torontonians bleed Toronto, and they’re proud to show it.” In fact, the first time I ever encountered a Thank You Toronto cap, I was working and noticed a man wearing a hat that said, “Thank You Toronto: Home is Here” and my initial thought was, “This is so typical Toronto.” But the hat struck a chord with me, and I had to find out where it was from. Finding out that not only did Thank You Toronto carry fashionable caps but they also were doing it to make a difference in our city, and trying to combat a growing social issue on our streets left me with some Toronto Pride. Wong figured out that he could combine his love for fashion and conquer social issues all at once, “I saw this as a great tool to help conquer this social issue because someone now has something to show for their positive purchase, and be proud to wear it” he says. As a consumer, knowing that you can help make a difference through initiatives like Thank You Toronto, but also seeing a benefit to yourself is a rewarding experience.
It’s not just about selling merchandise with Wong and his team, “We’d love to be remembered as the company that kick-started a positive movement. Not just with products to sell or a cause based company, but kick starting a 'Thank You Toronto' movement of showing another side of your business, whatever your business is,” says Wong and kick-start they have. Thank You Toronto has launched campaigns with Breakfast Television, BikeShare Toronto and Fran's Restaurant. They encourage others to join their campaign about making a difference in our city as well through Instagram (ThankYouToronto) and Twitter (Twitter.com/ThankYouToronto) where they encourage the use of their hashtag, #ThankYouToronto. The Thank You Toronto team looks forward to doing big things with their futures and also enacting a positive change within other companies as well. Wong explains: “We’ll definitely be scaling Thank You Toronto to do more than just feed people. You’ll have to wait and see what we do. We plan to expand and collaborate with small to large companies and help them make a positive change.” Thank You Toronto is also doing a good job of raising awareness of other companies that are trying to make a change in Toronto as well. They recently blogged about The Warehouse Group (El Furniture & Queen St. Warehouse) how they have an option on their menu to purchase a meal for underprivileged and that they also donate meals every week. They are also helping bring attention to other individuals who are trying to spark a change, like Jessica Canzanese, a George Brown College graduate, who spent her birthday last year handing out food, hats scarves and gloves to the less fortunate.
Thank You Toronto isn’t just an apparel brand; they are a movement. They are looking to spark change in this city and encouraging companies and people to make positive changes. The city needs more souls like Wong and his team, people who don’t just toss a dollar or two into a crumbled Tim Horton’s cup. Even though it is kind act, we need people who are willing to dedicate their lives to making a change. People who notice that change must be made and know that we have the capacity to make a difference. That is why Thank You Toronto is an important movement that needs to be heard.