Free Air Life Co is a Bellingham-based clothing company with a playful personality and a philanthropic heart. All of the profits from its shirts, hoodies, and hats are donated to charity.
The name comes from a Norwegian word–frilustsliv (pronounced “free-loosts-leaf) which translates best as “Free Air Life” and describes the rejuvenating and fulfilling effects of recreation in the outdoors. We recently spoke to founder, Nate Gray about how they got started and his vision for the future.
When were you founded? What’s the origin story?
I can honestly say that I started this business by accident. I took a cross-country bike trip in the summer of 2015 to raise money for a charity that worked with at risk youth and educated them through the outdoors. I didn’t really know how to do that and a friend of mine, Kelsey Fausko, and I came up with some shirts, hats and hoodies and donated all the profits to the charity I was raising money for. It worked really really well and we were able to donate a little over $2,000 just from product sales! As I was on the bike trip and nearing the end, people kept buying stuff and some bike shops wanted to carry the merchandise. I started realizing that this model could be effective outside of the bike trip. I mentioned this idea to a friend, Burch Ault, and he immediately got behind this idea and offered use of his garage and his design skills. I realized that this actually may be a possibility and most importantly, I had so much support from friends. Getting back to what inspired me–I always wanted to start a charity and I have not been in the right stage of life to do that. This seemed like the next best thing–being able to donate to the type of charities that are near and dear to my heart. So, we were officially founded September of 2015 when I got back from the bike trip.
How do you choose the charity each year?
We have some criteria in regards to the charity. The charity has to educate “at risk” youth through the outdoors. Furthermore, the programs have to be 100% free to the youth. And, if at all possible, the charities have to focus on showing the kids the outdoors in their own backyards.
Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, our charity for this year, actually approached us. We figured that since this is our first year and NSEA is a local Whatcom County charity that it would be awesome to partner with them for our first year.
Other than the website, where can folks find your products? Are there stores in the area that carry your apparel?
Fanatik Bike Company, Third Planet Clothing, Unknown Skate shop are a few. We are always trying to get our products in more and more shops across the country!