ELMSFORD, N.Y. - Nearly five years after creating his start-up T-shirt company, OMUNKY, Elmsford's Rick Waters has found the perfect balance between the business world and his love of wildlife.
Waters began OMUNKY as a hobby in 2009 and has since been able to make money while helping to support and protect wildlife around the world. Five percent of the company's profits go to WildAid, a non-profit that fights illegal poaching and sale of animal parts.
"When I started this business, I knew it was going to be centered around my love of animals," Waters said. "I picked WildAid because I respected their main purpose - to stop the illegal wildlife trade by reducing the demand for endangered species products."
OMUNKY is an online business run out of Elmsford where Waters does everything from the designing to fulfilling orders. He keeps shelves and shelves of inventory on location and markets his wares at street fairs and festivals in New York City, Westchester, and Rockland counties.
Despite having no business experience, Waters said his company’s success is due to customer service, unique designs and engaging customers via social media.
"I'd say around 2000-3000 shirts were produced last year. There are already plans to produce more than that this year," Water said.
Before sending designs to the printer, Waters posts them to the OMUNKY Facebook and Twitter pages. When the company is torn between two designs, the OMUNKY fans and followers make the decision on which will be produced.
“I do a lot of social networking, a lot of contests,” Waters said in a recent interview. “If people feel invested in the process, they’re more likely to want to own one of the products."
OMUNKY shirts are printed in limited runs, which, Waters said, makes them infinitely more valuable. No more than 200 shirts are made per design at a time.
"I've always had a thing for wildlife," Waters said. "I was the kid at the zoo who would take forever to watch the animals (specifically the tigers) to see what amazing things they would do. Usually, they would just yawn and turnover. But it was still awesome."
And OMUNKY is turning out to be another awesome experience for Waters.
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