Flipping through the catalog for Boon Supply, a new online retail platform, you’d be forgiven for thinking it a new destination for people planning their wedding registries: Softly lit photographs showcase colorful kitchenware and accessories, and the smiling faces of lifestyle bloggers demonstrate how to put everything to use in the most aspirational way.
And you wouldn’t be wrong: Lily Kanter, founder of Boon Supply and previously, the eponymous home décor platform Serena & Lily, certainly expects newlyweds to flock to the site. Probably college kids looking to perfectly coordinate their new dorms, too.
But to Kanter, the Williams-Sonoma-esque vibe of Boon Supply is just a means to a greater end. From every purchase on the site, 50% of the proceeds will go toward a cause of the buyer’s choosing. That works in a couple of ways: For one, if you are running a marathon for a particular cause, you can link your personal fundraising page with Boon Supply, and instead of asking people to just send you money, you can request that people purchase through the website and collect your donations that way. Or if you are in need of a new salad strainer or beach bag and want to accomplish an ethical goal in buying one, you can select a cause on the site when you go to check out.
“Why does fundraising have to be hideous?” Kanter says. “Why can’t it be products we actually like and enjoy?” Half of the wares on Boon Supply fall into the category Kanter calls “on the go”: water bottles, bags, patterned phone chargers. The other half mainly comprises kitchen items.
While many platforms that exist connect fundraising with some kind of incentive for the donor–many projects on Kickstarter, for instance, offer gifts that scale in accordance with how much you donate–there was nothing that merged viable merchandising with crowdfunding, Kanter says.
In launching Boon Supply, Kanter is tapping a very specific vein of conscious consumption. She lives in Marin County, a stronghold of Bay Area tech wealth (Kanter left a Silicon Valley career in 2000 after a successful run in management at IBM and Microsoft). She’s invested in platforms like Brandless, another e-commerce-with-a-twist venture that offers everything on its site for $3 or less. Boon Supply’s tagline is “provisions with purpose”—the idea being that you can still buy and consume and provide for yourself, but you’re doing so for a higher purpose.
Kanter sourced all of the products on Boon Supply from responsible merchandisers, and the price points are relatively affordable: 75% of the products on the site are under $25. She’s hoping for partnerships with existing crowdfunding platforms that would feature various causes sites on Boon Supply to drive more donations from shoppers.
Part of the goal of Boon Supply is to take some of the inherent awkwardness out of fundraising: Anyone who has tried to raise money for a cause probably can attest to the frustration of having to constantly spam newsfeeds and email lists asking for donations. By linking that ask with products, Kanter thinks the platform will make fundraising less painless for the people doing it, and create further incentives for people to give.
But there is something to be said for the strictly monetary donation model. Products–including those that are ethically and sustainably sourced–inherently put a demand on resources that our planet is already struggling to meet. Sustainability advocates say that it’s not enough to just shake up the way we source materials; we need to be focused on buying and using less in order to actually allow the Earth’s resources to regenerate.
But as an entrepreneur, Kanter knows where we’re at right now: People will continue to buy. Every new school year, college kids build out entire new lives with dorm supplies, and many newlywed couples ask for help in stocking their homes–when Kanter met with Fast Company before the launch of the platform, she said she was bringing on a new director this fall to manage wedding registries and college dorm shopping partnerships. “If people are already trying to fill their pantries with everything they need, why not do it for a cause?” Kanter says.