Robert Felder with children in need in Bangladesh
Through his company Bearbottom Clothing, Heavener student Robert Felder (back left) has donated tens of thousands of shorts to children in need in Bangladesh.

Changing the unfamiliar

In the middle of a congested road under the heat of an unrelenting sun, Robert Felder sat waiting to see the unfamiliar.

The unfamiliar was dirt roads without streetlights, tree logs carved into bed frames and chairs, and children playing in the dirt in worn out clothes.

This is life in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries.

According to Global Finance magazine, Bangladesh currently ranks as the 34th-poorest nation in the world with 25 percent of its citizens living below the international poverty line.

“The poverty is just shocking,” said Felder, a junior at the Heavener School of Business. “How I described it to my friends when I got back was, you look through a car window and the only thing familiar is the car window.”

Felder spent several days in Bangladesh accompanying his dad, Scott, an apparel executive. After seeing the horrible conditions in the country, Felder left wanting to help. He wanted to make more than just the car window familiar.

So Felder came up with the idea to sell high-quality shorts at a lower price than the competition. After two years of planning, Felder launched Bearbottom Clothing in January 2014. In conjunction with the new business, Felder founded 2 Bearbottoms, a one for one nonprofit program. For every pair of shorts sold, Felder donates a pair of shorts to a child in need.

Felder has distributed tens of thousands of shorts across Bangladesh, mostly in Dhaka, the nation’s capital. He distributed them to hospitals and to the children of the factory workers that make his apparel.

“It’s great knowing that I can help these children as well as their families,” he said. “Giving them a small amount of joy that they wouldn’t have had before is really amazing.”

Felder uses the skills he learns in class to improve his business. He said it goes in hand in hand to what he sees in his business.

“When I learn things in class I am usually able to directly relate them to some part of my business, which is really cool to see,” he said.

Felder said he has also benefited from the numerous guest lecturers the College hosts. Their insights have inspired Felder to explore opportunities in other industries, and reinforce the value of the crucial business skills he’s learning at Heavener.

Felder said he is currently working on developing new styles of shorts and swimwear, and he plans to expand the brand into shirts soon. His dedication to giving back has not changed, and he plans to continue giving back for as long as he can.

–Mauricio Almenara (BSPR ’16)