Senior art major Jared Kaping founded Bara Clothing in hopes of helping the homeless. He has volunteered at a homeless shelter on Skid Row since 2011, and after meeting and conversing with people whose lives have been affected by homelessness, an idea sparked in his mind. Kaping saw a great need in the Skid Row community.
In 2013, Bara Clothing was officially up and running, and Kaping began producing clothes. In fact, he started by making 50 T-shirts a week, all by hand, using only bleach and paint.
Kaping met a man named John who had faced adversity all his life. John fought in both the Vietnam and Gulf wars. He said when he came back, he made poor decisions that landed him in jail.
After seven years on death row, John decided it was time for change. He began praying every night that the Lord would change his life and free him from prison. Finally after seven years, he was released.
“I then asked him, ‘What do you need?’” Kaping said. “John responded, ‘I can’t get a job.’”
Moved by this testimony, Kaping became determined to make a change.
“I felt like I was called to make shirts for the homeless,” he said. “I merged my love for these people and graphic designs, and it turned into [Bara Clothing].”
Kaping first sold his T-shirts on Cougar Walk after encountering success his first semester of sales. He was then invited to join Enactus, a club focused on “enabling progress” for student entrepreneurs. Through the program, a group of students joined Bara, enabling Kaping to print T-shirts, allowing the opportunity to create more of the product.
“I started working with Bara in January,” said Caleb Wanner, the operations leader of the company. “I joined because I believe in the mission of the company and want to help them grow in every way possible.”
For every shirt Kaping and his team sell, one is donated to a homeless person, giving Bara the motto “one for one.” Due to shelters’ reception of periodical clothing donations, a year later he began turning half the profit into hygiene packs.
“Even if it’s 50 percent, we’re making a profit,” Kaping said. “Other companies take 90 percent of profit. We’re not gonna do that. We are taking half and are growing the company that way.”
According to Kaping, each pack is equipped with essential hygiene needs.
“The packs are very comprehensive. We buy them from World Vision. They come with shampoo, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer, etc.,” he said.
The Bara team distributed 53 shirts before switching to hygiene packets and have now given out 50 of those.
“We took 20 to a shelter, and they will distribute them to the people who need them the most,” Kaping said. “The other 30 we handed out individually when we volunteered at a church program.”
Team Bara is focused on working with the “hands-on” approach, handing out the hygiene kits themselves in order to build relationships with the people served.
“The hygiene packs do help for a long period of time, but conversations are impactful because it’s something they don’t usually get,” Kaping said.
As the sole purpose of Bara Clothing is to help the poor, the hygiene packs are only the first step.
“Bara is aimed at providing jobs,” Kaping said. “So when we get to the point where we can hire people, we will hire the homeless.”
Kaping wants to uncover that purpose in homeless people’s lives. He believes that a majority of people without homes feel that they have no purpose in life, which is why he chose the name Bara.
“This is a team of people who love God, love each other, and are actively pursuing to serve the homeless community in Los Angeles,” said Chloe Beutler. “Jared has one of the biggest, most intentional hearts out of anyone I know, and I have seen him pour his heart and soul into this company. He whole-heartily believes that as followers of Chirst, we can make a difference, and he expresses that in this ministry God has created through him.”
According to Kaping, he believe’s that God created everyone for a purpose, and he wants to show that purpose to others.
Expressing optimism, he stated that he wishes to stay in Los Angeles. His clothing has an “LA appeal” to it and is made “to fit anyone’s style.” Bara has come a long way, now also selling hoodies and long sleeves.
Bara’s new line is set to release March 23 online at www.baraclothingco.com. The team is expected to sell on Cougar Walk in the near future.