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PhiLAnthropist Interview: Mary Fanaro of OmniPeace Donates 25% of Profits to End Poverty in Africa

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OmniPeace founder Mary Fanaro at the site of the OmniPeace/Kitson school in Senegal, Africa. Photo courtesy of OmniPeace, used with permission.

"When you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, the universe opens up and says, 'yeah, I am going to help you out.'"

Mary Fanaro, founder of the LA-based OmniPeace fashion brand, perfectly summed up her experiences since starting the company in 2005. The former event producer remembers waking up one morning after throwing a huge bash for the 10-year anniversary for the Hard Rock Hotel and saying "I can't do this for one more second." And she didn't. The result? OmniPeace, the fashion brand that donates 25% of their profits to fighting against and eradicating extreme poverty in Africa by 2025.

Thanks to a combination of passion, determination and willingness to venture into the unknown, Fanaro, after becoming inspired during the Live 8 concert, set out to start a company that would help drive positive change, particularly in Africa. The original idea was to sell chocolate bars, fittingly named "A Peace of Chocolate", and donate the profits. The chocolate idea quickly gave way to t-shirts and accessories. Extensive research on what organization would be the best recipient of these donations led Fanaro to renowned economist and UN adviser Jeffrey Sachs, founder of the Millenium Promise Alliance, the organization behind this commitment to end extreme poverty in Africa by 2025.

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By licensing their logo out to numerous companies, OmniPeace is able to remain sustainable while donating an impressive percentage of their profits to their partner organizations. Help from celebrity friends such as Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston (often seen in the signature shirts) as well support from Kitson has helped too. They have donated $300,000 to date and recently completed the OmniPeace/Kitson Primary School in Senegal, Africa.

Fanaro spoke with LAist about the birth of OmniPeace, the serendipitous circumstances that brought her to Jeffrey Sachs, the experience of launching her company in the midst of an ovarian cancer diagnosis and her current projects in the Congo.