Rodrigues sisters start hoodie business, raise funds for ACLU

Isabelle+and+Sofia+Rodrigues+put+together+packages+to+ship+out.+Their+business+takes+up+a+specific+room+in+their+house%2C+and+the+girls+work+together+to+ship+out+their+merchandise.

Isabelle and Sofia Rodrigues put together packages to ship out. Their business takes up a specific room in their house, and the girls work together to ship out their merchandise.

Amy Wang and Grace Tseng

Isabelle and Sofia Rodrigues put together packages to ship out. Their business takes up a specific room in their house, and the girls work together to ship out their merchandise. (Courtesy of Rodrigues sisters)

The idea first came to Isabelle (9) and Sophia Rodrigues (12) in June. At the time, the murder of George Floyd led to global protests against police brutality, and the Rodrigues sisters were trying to think of ways that they could help the BLM movement.

“Although we had personally gone to a protest, we knew that for a lot of people, it wasn’t a safe option,” Sophia, who is a student at Francis Parker, said. “So we thought of coming up with something so that they could be involved and show their support, even if they weren’t comfortable going to protests in person.”

What they came up with was their own business, Hoodies4Change, which sells quote-emblazoned hoodies and shirts as a part of their goal to raise money to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“We thought of hoodies as a good idea because you can keep them for a long time,” Sophia said. “They have quotes from people from the Civil Rights movement, which helps to spread the messages [of BLM].”

In order to bring their idea to life, the sisters needed to make some financial calculations, which proved challenging since they began with no experience in business management.

 “Setting up costs for our merch has been the biggest challenge,” Isabelle, who goes to Westview, said, “I think we had to learn a lot about how much money we wanted to [charge] per hoodie where we would actually be able to donate an amount of money that would make a difference.” 

An example of different product prices on the website. The sisters set costs depending on the money that goes into producing the hoodies in the first place.

Besides price-setting, the sisters draw out designs and upload them to CustomInk, a processor that imprints selected designs onto hoodies and t-shirts. From there, the merchandise is shipped to their home, where it is held in stock until a customer places an order  on the Hoodies4Change website. Once that happens, Sophia and Isabelle package the order in a room that they have converted for just such a purpose within their home. Once they have four or five packages, they then hand-deliver the orders that are within driving distance.

Though the sisters primarily only deliver to customers in the greater San Diego area, they have shipped products to places as far as Canada.

 “If someone from out of the city or even the country wants one, we set up shipping, but there are extra flat rates for that,” Isabelle said. 

The website their venture is hosted on was also the product of their own work, and according to the two, is something that they are proud of.

“We spent around a day just putting it together,” Sophia said. “We were just really excited to get started on the project, so that’s something that we worked on in the beginning.”

Along with merchandise, the website also includes links to resources including books, podcasts and websites where people can learn more about the history of racism in America. They hope to garner more support for the Black Lives Matter movement by educating people.

Besides international expansion, something the sisters are looking forward to doing is expanding their product line. They are currently looking to design apparel promoting other causes they are passionate about, including LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. The sisters are also hoping to find an artist who can help them create more graphic-based apparel. 

To Sophia and Isabelle, this entire experience has been a productive one, and so far, they’ve raised more than $1,500 through merchandise sales. Outside of just monetary gain, however, according to Isabelle, the most significant thing that they’ve learned through this endeavor is the history of racial tension in the U.S.

“I educated myself along the way through podcasts, movies and books,” Isabelle said. “We wanted to share these on our website for viewers to use as well. In the end, awareness has always been our goal.”