Fighting For Peace (And Profit)

Philanthropic organization turned sports apparel startup, LUTA, is making a push into the United States markets right now. The new retailer, which designs and sells boxing and workout clothing, emerged in 2011 as a creation of Fight For Peace, a 13-year-old community reach-out and mentoring initiative based in Brazil and the UK. LUTA is looking to secure contracts with U.S. retail outlets and is actively selling its wares on its website. One of LUTA’s mottos is, “We Give Half,” meaning that half of the company’s profits from its apparel sales go toward financing Fight For Peace. At the head of the philanthro-retailer is Luke Dowdney—an amateur boxer, author of Children of the Drug Trade and Neither War Nor Peace, and an MBE. Dowdney had lived in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1990s while working on his thesis for his masters degree in social anthropology through the University of Edinburgh. There he worked with kids growing up in neighborhoods called “favelas” in the sprawling Brazilian city—“favelas,” a term for a shantytown. He himself had experienced the life-changing potential of boxing at age 17 while growing up in native UK (he went on to become the British Universities Light-Middleweight boxing champion in 1995). “That was something that was really important to me growing up,” Dowdney told FORBES. “That was keeping me on the straight and narrow, but also giving me a direction in life and discipline and teaching me to never give up in any situation and that’s something that the sport of boxing and martial arts in general is brilliant at.” In 2000 Dowdney opened Luta Pela Paz (fight for peace), a boxing gym and academy in the Complexo del Maré neighborhood of Rio—not a peaceful suburb. “Boxing was a way to access and work with these kids and we’ve trained 10,000 young people since we started just in the community of Mare,” he said. Not that each one of those kids aspires to become a pro-boxer – many will never even spar – but the process of learning, appreciating the value of conditioning and entering a gym-based ‘family’ can make a difference, Dowdney explained. “Boxing stands for something, it’s about discipline, it’s about learning that you get out what you put in—it’s about a life change.” In 2007 another academy sprang up in London, UK, and in May of 2011, in attempt to generate funding to continue expanding, the LUTA apparel brand was born. Startup capital came from a handful of angel investors that Dowdney approached. “Their thinking was, ‘I can write a check to charity and next year he’s going to come back to me and ask me for the same check. Or, I can write a check and own a piece of this company and I can split my profits with the charity.’”

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