Where Did Seed The Change Come From? (A Letter From One of Our Founders)

I’m Bryce York and a few years ago I ran an experiment after watching a TV show.

On that show a T-Shirt company was pitching for a huge investment.

Their designs weren’t very special, but they did have one thing that made them stand out from the thousands of other t-shirt brands on the market…

The same thing companies like Charity:Water, Toms, and Warby Parker have used to build huge brands in some of the most saturated and competitive industries out there.

Seriously, can you imagine trying to take on Coca-Cola and Pepsi?

So the shirt company (whos tees weren’t anything exciting) had a brilliant marketing strategy going for them.

They had a social good program.

For every tee sold – they planted 10 trees.

Brilliant, right?

They’d built their entire business around this idea from day one.

They hunted down the perfect charity partner, negotiated the deal, architected and built the backend automation software, paid no doubt dozens of lawyers to make everything airtight low-risk.

And it worked brilliantly for them.

They got the money they wanted – even though they were selling $70 generic-looking tshirts!

That company is called tentree and they’ve now sold over 9,000,000 items through their Shopify store!

After seeing them pitch – I found myself thinking…

“what if anyone could add that killer marketing strategy to their business in no time at all?”

So my friend Dany and I decided to run the experiment I mentioned earlier.

We ran a test for a friend’s ecommerce store doing the exact same thing but with just one tree.

The results were shocking!

The company sold organic skincare products so it wasn’t exactly a clear link to the trees.

After running the test, the results came in…

38.8% increase in conversion rates!


We knew we were onto something. After that we went through all the legal work, software development, copywriting, negotiations, research and design to build out a fully automated service so you could plug this straight into your online store!

Then we found another company to test it on (another friend). But their business was going to be a tough one.

They sold novelty pajamas based on the tv show How I Met Your Mother.

These things were mostly bought by nerdy college kids in the engineering field.

Not the kind of people you’d think would care about planting trees.

The owner Zac was pretty sceptical…

“It’s a great idea but there’s no way my customers would care! They’re college students…”

But we told him we’d do it for free if it didn’t work.

In fact, we still do that for all our customers.

Our policy is: “If you run a test in the first month and don’t make more money than you pay, we’ll refund you and still plant the trees.” (Nobody has ever had it happen though)

You’re probably wondering how much it costs to plant a tree, but I’ll cover that later (it’s a lot less than you think).

So we ran the test for him and he got a 25% increase in his conversions! Not as good as the skincare company but still a great result.

He was dumbfounded.

Turns out a lot of people who abandon their cart just needed a little ‘something extra’ to push them over the edge. And planting a tree is perfect for that because then they’re doing “something good”.

By doing something good on their behalf, you take away that last minute guilt.

So now they’re not thinking “I really shouldn’t be buying this for myself…” and instead they’re thinking “hey, that’s cool. I buy this for myself and I’m making the world a better place too!”

After these great results, we started doing some research to try and figure out why it worked – turns out reducing guilt is just part of it – we got some data on what people think it costs to plant a tree and maintain it for 5 years (what our charity partner does).

The minimum perceived cost was $5.50 and went much higher than that.

Now, like I promised – here’s what it really costs…

Turns out, we charge just 60c for each tree planted (and thats includes all the software, all the automation, and all the legal protection that we provide to make the system work). 60c is pretty easy to generate a return against!

That’s probably why both those companies are still active vendors!

Since getting started we’ve now planted over 150,000 trees and worked with all variety of businesses from furniture to wine.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try out for your business, send me an email via bryce@seedthechange.org and we’ll work out if you’re a good fit for the program.

Bryce York
Founder of Seed The Change

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