He seems like a pretty typical college junior – a blonde, well-built fraternity boy who loves to have fun. But Andrew Thal is a little different than most.
While some juniors dream of big business, Thal has already created his. But his goal is not to put money in his own pocket. It’s to put food in the mouths of others.
Over the summer, Thal created Furniture For Good, a company that resells furniture and other household items to raise money that will help feed the homeless. Sales come via the company’s Web site, and 60 percent of the money from each sale is allocated to feeding the homeless in D.C.
Thal said he wanted to do something that made him feel like he was having an impact on society.
“Being a college student, there is a lot of selfishness involved – studying, making things just right for yourself,” he said. “Even though raising money is more of an indirect measure to help… feed the homeless than handing out sandwiches at the food shelters, I figured that I could do more good this way.”
He said he got the idea when he was volunteering at Martha’s Table, a food shelter in D.C.
“I first met Andrew Thal when he and some of his college friends came to Martha’s Table to do volunteer work. Their assignment, as I recall, was to reorganize a warehouse of donated surplus furniture,” said Dominick Musso, director of facilities and food programs at Martha’s Table.
Musso said most or all of the furniture came through donations, but that they had a problem – the warehouse was packed with furniture Martha’s Table could not use.
“While the furniture had value, the question was, how could we turn this asset into revenue that would enable us to buy more food for the homeless?” Musso said.
Musso and Thal then teamed up to create Furniture For Good.
“It was clear to me that Andrew had an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to help his community,” Musso said.
With this new idea, Thal had a lot of work ahead of him to get the ball rolling.
“At first, I thought I would pick the items up and sell them on Craigslist. But this got pretty complicated because of tax law. To get around this issue, I started an LLC, which is the type of corporation that a lot of small businesses have,” Thal said.
Furniture can be bought or donated through Thal, who will either pick up or deliver the furniture as long as it is within the D.C. metro area. Any type of household item in good condition can be donated and will be sold. The entire company is run through the Web site, and through direct contact with Thal.
“What happens is that the food shelters sell the furniture to me on consignment, which I then sell to the consumers,” Thal said. “The price that I pay for the furniture to the food shelters is 60 percent of the sale price to the consumer.”
As time continues, Thal said he just wants his new company to grow and potentially expand to other parts of the country.
“I just want to get the name out there, have people visit the Web site, see what’s there, whether they like it, and keep checking because stuff is going to keep coming in and it will be a quick turnover,” he said. “I hope to help the most amount of people that I can.”