A new e-commerce startup called Orange Harp – a phrase referencing the co-founders’ own nickname for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – is looking to make it easier for consumers to buy socially conscious products, including fashion, accessories and other beauty care items. Available as of this morning as an iOS app for iPhone and iPad, Orange Harp lets you shop for for a variety of high-quality goods which are made with either natural or recycled materials, which are environmentally friendly, which come from brands who support fair working conditions, and more.
The idea, explains Orange Harp co-founder and engineer Anbu Anbalagapandian, is to take this dense concept of sustainable shopping which can mean so many things, and boil it down to a simpler experience through the use of storytelling to help consumers connect with the products they buy, the problems they solve, and the companies behind them.
“For instance,” she explains, “cotton is the dirtiest crop in the world, because of how people use pesticides…and modern-day slavery is happening in the garment industry. These are serious topics, but people want to digest them in an easier way,” says Anbu.
At launch, Orange Harp featured 19 brands offering over 1,800 products, and the plan is to add around one or two more brands to the service each week. These include everything from companies selling organic t-shirts, to cruelty-free beauty products and more. Many of the brands also have a “give-back” element to their company as well. One of Anbu’s favorites, for example, is Mitscoots, a company who employs the homeless to package their stylish socks in Austin, and also donates one pair for every pair sold to someone in need. (Sort of like the Tom’s shoes model of a buy one, give one.)
The majority of the brands are located in the U.S., because that ensures they can’t get away with the labor abuses prevalent in the garment industry overseas, while also allowing the co-founders, Anbu, previously of Palm and Lookout, and co-founder Kacie Gonzalez, to personally visit Orange Harp’s partners before bringing them on board.
The company takes a higher cut of the transaction than most marketplaces, including crafty destination Etsy which could be seen as something of a competitor to Orange Harp. But Anbu says brands have been happy to work with them because they tend to not have the resources to launch their own mobile efforts for themselves. The brands have websites, but they’re not often mobile-optimized, for example, and they don’t tend to run their own mobile apps.
When a new partner is brought online, Orange Harp can now hook into their inventory systems and automatically index their products, speeding up the onboarding process.
Of course, the nature of socially conscious and sustainable goods means that the products Orange Harp carries may be pricier than something you could buy if walking into a big-name retailer. But Anbu points out that the items are also high-quality, which helps to make them more worth the added expense. Longer-term, however, she would like to see the company grow to feature a range of products in more categories, including bigger brands not found on Amazon.com today (so it won’t become a price battle), and even things like solar panels.
Today, though, Orange Harp works with sustainable goods-focused tastemakers to help pick out the best products, and tell their stories in the app. Customers are also reminded of their impact on their receipts, and Orange Harp itself is now donating 1% of sales to Not For Sale, a non-profit organization fighting to end human trafficking.
The five-person team in San Francisco is still in the process of raising angel funding from a number of investors who Anbu is connected to thanks to her time working in the tech industry and the relationships she’s established over the years. The team plans to officially announce the round’s close in the near future.
In the meantime, you can download Orange Harp here.