This year, HWS Trustee Chris Welles ’84, P’12, P’15 launched the American Rhino Foundation and AmericanRhino.com, a clothing and accessory company focused on empowering consumers to take an active role in biodiversity conservation in Africa.
“Ten years ago, we took a family summer vacation in Kenya, which was one of those life changing trips,” explains Welles. “We got to be good friends with our hosts, who told us about the Rhino Charge.”
The Rhino Charge, an off-road motorsport competition held each year in Kenya, raises funds for rhinoceros conservation initiatives, with sponsors backing individual teams as they race from checkpoint to checkpoint across the countryside. Since their first time participating, Welles and his family have competed in the Rhino Charge five times, raising more than $200,000 and making valuable connections with international wildlife advocacy groups.
“When we did the Rhino Charge in 2015, my son Wyatt developed the American Rhino logo, which we put on stickers and hats and sent to our sponsors, who then said: where do we get more of these?” Welles says, recalling the origins of American Rhino.
As a socially conscious company, American Rhino supports the foundation through sale of the apparel, with the goal of funding conservation projects in east Africa.
“African rhinos have been around for 50 million years, but it’s taken the last few generations little time to threaten their extinction,” according to the foundation, whose funding partners include organizations that protect rhinos and other African wildlife suffering “the threats of human encroachment, competition, and lack of compassion.”
The company offers T-shirts, sweatshirts and accessories for men, women and children, with tote bags, dog collars, belts and fleece jackets being added to the catalog for the 2016 holiday season. Ten percent of each sale funds the foundation, which supports partner organizations, African wildlife projects and larger conservation initiatives directly. The foundation also accepts direct donations online.
With a strong response since the company’s launch, American Rhino is growing fast. Having recently hired Ryan Saunders ’16, Welles says he is looking to expand the team further in the hopes of becoming “a well-recognized brand that’s synonymous with supporting conservation efforts in Africa.”