In early January 2020, just as news of COVID in China was starting to hit US media outlets, there was another catastrophe playing out. In Australia, millions of acres of land were on fire. As stories of the blaze grew more intense, three brothers, working out of a small creative office in Los Angeles, decided to reach out to some friends who were living there and ask how they could help. When their requests came back, it was abundantly clear. The Australian foundations, who were giving the most help to the people and animals impacted by the fires, needed more resources.
The Kuipers brothers, known to the online community that they built as “The Bros”, are the quiet force behind ZOX. ZOX is a collectible wristband company that the Bros started back in 2010, when they found themselves together, around their parent’s kitchen table, painting pieces of elastic, which they later hand sewed into bracelets. The oldest of the three, Jason, started the company with younger brothers – Brandon now 26, and Jordan, 24 – when they were still attending high school.
“I think one of the real keys to our growth is that we’re empathetic. We’ve cared about the well-being of others since we started,” said Jason, 36.
In answer to the call of the thousands of Australian ZOX collectors, Jason and his Art Director, Darren Goldman, worked to come up with a design that spoke to those involved in the tragedy. The idea was heartfelt and simple: a wristband portraying the image of a koala handing another koala a wreath of leaves, shaped like a heart. On the reverse side of the wristband it read, “Sending Love To Those Down Under.”
The results were phenomenal. In just 3 days, the small LA based brand had raised $50,000, and donated 100% of the profits to a variety of charities, which were chosen based off of the requests of local Australians.
But as everyone knows, 2020 wasn’t finished yet. In a year filled with turmoil, unrest and one of the worst pandemics in living memory, this tiny, family owned brand has continued to fight for the people who need help the most, every step of the way. It was the well-being of his employees that moved Jason in the direction of an innovation that, ultimately, gave ZOX the ability to give so much back, in a year that took many other companies down.
He talks about it here:
“You know, it’s interesting… in early 2019 we started talking about how automation would eventually end up taking over the types of jobs nobody really wanted to begin with. When we looked at our own business, we saw “order fulfillment” as that job. So long before there was even a hint of a pandemic coming, we started tinkering with this idea of building a machine to fulfill orders for us; something that freed up the time for folks fulfilling orders, so they could come help on the creative and customer side. Now, it looks as though we may have had a bit of a crystal ball, but to be honest, we were just trying to figure out how to give people jobs they loved more. When the pandemic hit, my younger brother Jordan slept at the office and kept that machine running by himself. It really was our lifeline for staying in business with all the safer at home protocols.”
In the ZOX community, the machine is lovingly referred to as “the robot”, and it is capable of packing and shipping 10,000 orders a day with the help of just two human employees. In the future, it’s going to make ordering these little “hugs for your wrist” a grander experience. But for now, the robot has allowed ZOX to continue on a record-setting pace, even in the face of one of the worst years anyone has ever experienced.
With the pandemic at its height, feelings of anxiety in the world seemed to be raging. The loss of jobs, loved ones and community left most people feeling lonely and disconnected, unsure of where to turn.
In this difficult emotional climate, ZOX has emerged as a quite the beacon of hope. ZOX wristbands are made to uplift and inspire; each one including a unique piece of art on the outside and a word of encouragement on the inside. Made to be reversible, most collectors seem to enjoy the private reminder just for them. This positive energy seemed to resonated with shoppers who were looking for ways to keep their hopes up, and in the months following the shutdowns, ZOX grew an astonishing 300%.
“I think the pandemic really pressed fast-forward on the way people shop to begin with. People were looking for meaningful interactions from real human beings. Owning our sales process from start to finish with our site allowed us to meet that need, and create the kind of relationships that really made us more than a brand – it made us a community.” Jason says.
That community is one of the most celebrated parts of ZOX. The ZOX Facebook group is a gathering of ZOX fans from all over the world, and anyone can tell from its nickname, “The nicest place on the internet,” that it’s an amazing place to be. Opposed to taking credit, ZOX celebrates the substantial charitable donations it has been able to make as wins for the community as a whole.
Community member, Diane R, says it well:
“This is why I came. This is why I stay. And what fills my love tank. The people, the kindness and the sharing of a family I don’t know, that accept me as I am. So proud to be part of something so wonderful.”
In 2020, ZOX was able to donate $485,248 in cash, plus another $145,400 in product; something they attribute to a growing change in the mindset of shoppers.
“The reality is that people work hard for their money and they want to know where it’s going. They want to be proud of the businesses they’re spending it with and know that those businesses care about people as much as they do.” Jason says.
On top of the donations in 2020, ZOX changed its supply chain and began working with Repreve, the industry leader in eco-friendly, sustainable materials. Now, in combination with their partnership with Thirst Project, each order from ZOX provides a year of clean drinking water to people in need, and the wristband itself prevents one 8 oz water bottle from polluting the environment.
“When you start shipping worldwide, you get such an incredible perspective shift. Early on, we got so much great feedback on the importance of the materials we used from folks in the UK and Australia. They really are the ones who pushed us to do better, and I’m so grateful for that.” Jason says.
The brand estimates it’ll be able to repurpose an additional 2,000,000 water bottles from the ecosystem in 2021, with hopes of reshaping the future by example. And with the continued support of the ZOX community, the Bros plan to continue to push the envelope on environmental sustainability and global outreach, always with an uplifting message of hope and encouragement.
ZOX is a family owned business, founded by three brothers in 2011, that produces a line of one-of-a-kind wristbands, as well as jewelry, hoodies, and bags.