Olivela.com features an online dashboard for shoppers that shows the "Olivela Effect," or how many days of school a consumer's purchase provided for a girl through one of its charity partners.

Luxury apparel e-retailer Olivela has a mission: to provide girls in underdeveloped countries the opportunity to go to school. And as of the end of January 2019, sales from Olivela have provided 93,568 days of school to girls worldwide, the retailer says.

“That’s the metric we care most about,” says Matthew Alland, chief experience officer for Olivela. He did, however, add that the luxury retailer’s December 2018 revenue was 50-times higher than it was in January 2018. “We expect our growth to be greater in 2019,” he says.

Olivela launched online in June 2017 after founder and CEO Stacey Boyd took a trip in 2016 with activist Malala Yousafzai for Malala Day—celebrated on Yousafzai’s birthday on July 12 to commemorate a speech she made to the United Nations in 2013 to advocate for girls’ education—where she visited girls in refugee camps in Kenya and Rwanda. As she carried around her designer bag, Boyd realized she could send the girls she met to school for a year for a fraction of her bag’s cost. When she returned home, Boyd called several luxury brands and told them about her experience. Soon after, she launched Olivela with 12 luxury brands, including Valentino, Stella McCartney and Dolce & Gabbana, but the luxury retailer would not disclose any funding or financials related to its origin.

Olivela isn’t Boyd’s first foray into ecommerce. She founded and launched Schoola in 2013 “to support schools in putting paintbrushes, baseballs and violins back into the hands of children.” Schoola sells donated clothes and school supplies for 70% off the retail price and up to 40% of the proceeds go to fund a school and its programs.

Today Olivela sells apparel, accessories and beauty products from 300 luxury brands and plans to add 100-150 more brands this year. 20% of every purchase goes to benefit educating girls around the world through one of its three partner charitable organizations: Malala Fund, CARE and Too Young to Wed.

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Olivela.com makes sure shoppers know the potential effect of their purchases. The site features a dashboard that shows the impact of every purchase. As a shopper browses, the item description shares the “Olivela Effect.” For example, purchasing a $2,110 Victoria Beckham dress will pay for 62 days of school and a $350 Marc Jacobs bag will provide nine days of school.

“As you buy, you can see the impact of your purchase in the dashboard and see that grow and grow as you make more purchases,” Alland says.

Charitable giving on the rise

Retailers like Olivela are taking note that charitable giving is on the rise. U.S. consumers gave $410.02 billion to charitable causes in 2017, up 5.2% from the prior year, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017. (2018 figures are not yet available.)

Additionally, the Philanthropy Outlook‘s study expects charitable giving by individuals to rise 2.1% in 2019 and 3.4% in 2020. “As charities grow, they are better able to invest in fundraising programs that drive household giving at the same time that [individuals] are in a better financial position to give,” the report says. Individuals represented 70% of total giving in 2017, according to Giving USA.

Typically, consumers with higher incomes and net worth are at the forefront of charitable giving, according to the 2018 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, which surveyed 1,646 households in 2018 with a median annual household income of about $350,000 and the median net worth about $2 million. 54% of respondents said they gave because of their belief in the mission of the organization, 42% because of their belief that their gift could make a difference, 34% support the same cause or organization every year and 32% donate to experience personal satisfaction, enjoyment or fulfillment, the study says.

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Although consumers support a wide range of causes, 20% donated to women’s and girls’ charities with an average donation amount of over $1,800, such as those to which Olivela donates a portion of sales. 58% of respondents said they donated to those types of organizations because they believe supporting women and girls is the most effective way to solve other social problems, 38% donate because of a personal experience with an organization that has a women- or girls-focused program and 34% donate to improve the world for their own children.

Olivela, however, isn’t alone in donating sales or products to charitable causes. Eyewear retailers Warby Parker and Pair Eyewear donate a pair of glasses for every pair sold, sock e-retailer Bombas has donated more than 16 million pairs of socks as it donates a pair for every pair purchased, and outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia donates 1% of its total sales to philanthropic environmental organizations—just to name a few.

Expanding retail impact

Olivela expanded the opportunity for more shoppers to do good by purchasing luxury items by opening its first boutique in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in summer 2018 and another in Aspen, Colorado, in December.

“We wanted to bring our online experience into the retail location, and we wanted the experience to be seamless,” Alland says. “We also still wanted (consumers) to understand the causes and impact they have by making a purchase.”

Olivela leveraged technology to make this happen with three interactive components in its stores. The Olivela Edit Table is merchandised by Kristen Sosa, chief merchant at Olivela, to showcase her five favorite products every week. Each product is equipped with a sensor, so when a shopper picks up the product, a video begins to play on the table with more information about the product and its designer, a model walking the runway in it or showing the product off and how many days of school the product will provide if she purchases it.

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The stores also feature the Olivela Hub, complete with lounge chairs and cocktail tables. A video shares the story of Olivela, including some of the girls who have been helped by Olivela purchases.

Additionally, stores feature a Olivela Effect wall. Within 11 seconds of completing a purchase, a customer sees the impact of her purchase displayed on the wall. For example, it might say: “Thank you, Ashley, you just sent a girl to school for 53 days.” Olivela developed technology that connects with its point-of-sale system to do this, Alland says.

Olivela plans to open between three and five additional boutiques in early 2019, with the ultimate goal of 15 total boutiques across the country by the end of the year.

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