How Getting Fired Led to Changing the World

Matthew Clough graduated college and quickly took a job with an Internet marketing company. After six weeks of training, he sat down with his manager to recap his time on the job.

The above two sentences are the only ordinary things about Matthew Clough’s story. 

When Matthew’s manager asked, “Do you like being here?”, he simply said no. He was fired on the spot. This experience set off a time of self-reflection. According to Matthew, “It was the first moment where I really thought about what’s important to me. And I kept going back to my time in Tanzania and the porters at Mount Kilimanjaro.” After digging deeper, he settled on the broader notion that, whatever he did, he just wanted to help people.

So what did he do next? What else: he bought a sewing machine; learned how to use it; persistently applied for an internship at TOMS; and then packed his things and hopped on a greyhound bus to L.A. when he finally got it. At TOMS, Matthew spent time interning in both their e-commerce and creative departments. All of these experiences became known as the start of Benson Backpacks.

Founded by Matthew Clough, Benson Backpacks is a USA-made backpack company where each purchase helps support a child’s education in Tanzania. A man named Benson was the inspiration behind the brand. Benson was a friendly porter that helped Matthew and many others climb Kilimanjaro. On the way down from their summit, Matthew learned that a porter like Benson makes between $1-2 dollars per day – not enough to put a child through school.

Whereas many might see this as a devastating problem, Matthew saw it as an opportunity. After his experience with TOMS, he managed to build a solid support system and network for launching his new business. With the help of friends, he was able to create a product design, find a local manufacturer and develop a website and e-commerce platform to launch Benson Backpacks this past November.

Benson Backpacks partners with Knock Foundation on the ground in Tanzania who offers tuition assistance, school meals and school supplies to kids in need. Matthew notes how collaborating with partners on the ground helps Benson Backpacks maximize the social impact they’re able to have.

According to Matthew, “Education in Tanzania has the potential to break the poverty cycle that’s so prevalent today. Kids here want to go to school and their parents want them to as well. So helping fund education is a very sustainable solution to the problem.” In other words, if kids are able to receive a proper education, they can develop valuable skills to support themselves and eventually even a family. As these kids grow, develop their skills and become parents, they can then afford to give their kids a strong education.

Not so long ago, we wrote about Jack’s Soap, innovation and companies pushing the envelope when it comes to using business to achieve social impact. Benson Backpacks certainly fits this mold . We’re excited to see them continue to grow and further validate the idea that business can be a powerful tool for driving positive change.

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