Making It: Adam Walker & Patrick Gulpo of Fly Canvas
Adam Walker & Patrick Gulpo are “avid enthusiasts of everything stoke-worthy.” They used that idea to help co-found the company FLY CANVAS, which began as a bunch of college buddies doing something they enjoyed while finding a way to give back to a something greater they were passionate about. In a nutshell, they are using reclaimed materials to create a small product line of bags, wallets, and other handcrafted accessories. On top of the products, their philosophy is that no matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone has something to teach and something to learn. In taking this philosophy, they have created a larger goal for their company to help provide a better education experience for children and schools who are in need. Find out more about how Adam, Patrick and their mates are 'Making It' doing something that they not only love, but also helps to enrich the lives of others a long the way.
How did the idea for Fly Canvas first come about?
FLY CANVAS has evolved over time, but it first started when we were in college and was really the simple idea of doing something we love and using it to give back to a cause that we were passionate about. We always believed that people should use the gifts and talents they posses as individuals and use them to find creative ways to help others. Education has always been a cause that we’ve been passionate about, especially since a lot of us often take it for granted.
Product wise, as friends, we’ve always loved crafting physical goods with hands. One day, out of the blue, Pat sewed up a loose-fitting, lo-fi messenger bag from random scrap materials he found laying around his house. Unexpectedly, the bag got lot of attention, so we took that reclaimed/repurposed vibe and latched onto it. Since then, we’ve continued making goods from combinations of reclaimed materials, like airplane leather and vintage Hawaiian shirts. It’s good fun.
Who are all the people involved and what role does each person play?
Well, FLY CANVAS is run by a small handful of happy-go-lucky humans. Patrick runs the creative stuff and handles the majority of business decisions. Adam is also crafter of creative mojo and serves as the resident word wizard. RJ helps find and facilitate relationships with nonprofit organizations and charities. We get by with a little help from our friends.
Can you talk a little about the philosophy of the company?
We’re avid believers that everyone has something to teach and something to learn regardless of the circumstances in which they live, hence the mantra “Everyone Carries Something.” It could be an actual object, an idea, or even a story, we all have something to offer one another to help each other grow. In relation to that, we feel focusing on empowerment in addition to giving makes a significant difference in how we can impact the life of a child. Being able to help provide an education empowers a child with the ability to eventually help themselves - which is the most important gift of all.
How exactly does purchasing one of your products contribute to the education of these children?
With every product we sell we donate money to pay for specific needs of the schools we work with. We do this by teaming up with grassroots giving partners. We work with the teachers and children to create projects that will let them share their stories and aspirations with every customer who buys our product and give the customer the ability to write back. A lot of times, what’s missing with giving in business is the knowledge of the person who is being helped by the customers purchase. The FLY CANVAS premise is to continually try to learn from one another and exemplify the idea that "Everyone Carries Something."
Has it been difficult teaming up with these grassroots organizations? What has that process been like?
In the beginning, yes. But we soon learned that it was more important to focus on a quality vs. quantity in terms of building our partnerships. FLY CANVAS has created relationships with just two charities for now, Vana Trust (Zimbabwe) and Project PEARLS (Philippines). Both incredible organizations. Rather than just having them be a place for us to donate our money to, our aim is to work with them, learn from them, and discover the real needs of their schools. This way we do not just assume that we knew what was best and what we should give. We’ve picked charities that exist on a small grassroots level because we feel as though our relationship can become so much stronger and more personal.
Can you talk about some of the impacts Fly Canvas has already had?
With Project Pearls, our connection and contributions have helped provide some lifeblood for their amazing volunteer-run outreach programs including children’s’ education curriculums, local natural disaster relief, and mealtime activities among other initiatives. With Vana Trust, we’ve have helped foster access to vital school supplies as well as the construction of their highly-anticipated science classroom.
For some, the philosophy is to start a company to first make money and give back to the community later on- What are your thoughts on this?
We think that every company should always have a charitable aspect in mind, even if its small. As long as it's from the heart, we feel that choosing to give back will always have a positive impact. There are so many massive companies out there now, imagine if the people who started them genuinely wanted to give even just a tiny bit back to a cause from day one. How many people could those companies have helped today?
What are your dreams for Fly Canvas? What would make you happy a couple years down the road?
Our dream is to simply continue to help the schools and students were working with and continue to share their stories with our customers. As FLY CANVAS continues to make and evolve its goods, we hope to also contribute to other schools in other parts of the world as long as we can remain deeper in our partnerships with the charities. In a few years, we'd be happy to have helped a significant amount of children empower themselves with an education and provide for the needs of our giving partners. Hopefully by then, the company will have grown enough to sustain itself.
Any advice for those out there trying to start up their own socially conscious business?
Quality over quantity. Create from the heart. Be genuine. Don't get discouraged, because every little bit counts. Be motivated by your mission and before anything else.
How can people purchase Fly Canvas goods?
We have an online store at www.flycanvas.com and some of our stuff can be found at Wicked+ in Hermosa Beach and Canvas Shop in Seal Beach.