By Connor Cigrang
When Penn State grad Ian Rosenberger set out for Port au Prince with the goal of raising money for earthquake relief efforts, he could have never foreseen the role he was destined to fulfill. What started out as a wholehearted effort to document the devastation that occurred after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2010 morphed into the foundation for a revolutionary apparel brand.
“Thread International,” founded by Rosenberger in 2014, is a Pittsburgh-based company with the goal of improving the environment while simultaneously providing jobs for the impoverished. The company does this by employing citizens in developing countries to collect waste and clean up their communities. This waste is then repurposed and turned into sustainable clothing fabrics. In addition to Thread, Rosenberger founded Team Tassy, a not-for-profit that provides training for impoverished individuals so that they can work for Thread and become self-reliant.
“I started to develop a philosophy for the kind of business I wanted to start: Poverty is an epidemic—the largest killer on the planet—and the cure is dignified work. So I’d like to create jobs,” said Rosenberger in an interview with Fast Company.
After receiving the proper training through Team Tassy, workers are employed by Thread to collect trash and waste in their communities. Instead of being landfilled, it is repurposed to create clothing fabric. Thread then sources its products to major brands, such as Puma and Polo Ralph Lauren. Through partnering with Thread, these manufacturers are able their popular products through sustainable means.
After the recycled waste is collected, it is shipped to textile processing facilities and broken down to be created into either 100% polyester or a blended mix of fibers. As a result, Thread and its partners serve to protect the environment rather than work against it.
The impact of Thread has been astronomical and has served to do good in many ways. Besides keeping millions of pounds of plastic out of oceans, Thread’s supply chains offer a steady flow of income for those who could not otherwise bring home money for their family, effectively fighting poverty. Additionally, it establishes networks which remediate child labor in landfills and ensures families may have the opportunity to safely transition into a formal economy.
Through the initial experience that inspired Team Tassy and Thread, Rosenberger and his team have created a company and vision which solves two issues at once: repurposing trash and waste and employing thousands of the impoverished, thus setting them up for a successful future.
Ian Rosenberger has built a mission-driven organization which has made a tremendous impact. Through his creativity and drive, he has inspired a team of like-minded individuals who employ a unique approach to combating poverty while simultaneously reshaping the ways manufacturers create clothes. His business is a prime example of the private sector helping solve a world-wide issue without turning to government entities.
Connor Cigrang is a freelance content creator and a graduate of Messiah University.