February 19, 2016
By Jake Schultz '16
Saint John's University junior Antoine Taylor never expected to end up in snowy central Minnesota. At the same time, the North Hollywood, California, native also didn't expect to be the face of a growing apparel company while in college.
Taylor is the founder of The Cause International, an organization dedicated to giving back to different organizations through the profit of personalized socks.
In 2015, the company made about $10,000 through the sales of a variety of socks and turned around to donate $3,000 worth of toys and games, or 12 percent of the company's earnings, to the Chicago Boys and Girls Club.
The Cause International has also given money to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and is currently accumulating money to give to St. Jude's Children's hospital.
For a college student, this may seem like an incredibly selfless thing to do, but Taylor looks at it as a duty.
"We need people in our youth to step up and make a difference," Taylor said. "That's what I wanted to do so that's why I made The Cause International. We gave to the kids in Chicago to show them that you can do what you want."
Taylor, a standout running back in high school, was recruited to play football at a number of schools around the country including Columbia, Harvard, San Jose State and other FCS schools. Ultimately, however, he chose Saint John's.
"Saint John's made me realize there's a life after football and I was convinced this would be the best place to set me up for that," Taylor said.
The Cause International began after his first year at SJU when he realized he needed to help his mom a bit financially. A first generation student, Taylor recognizes he could have just said that going to school was enough to help his mom out, but he felt driven to do more.
"I felt bad being home for the summer, eating her groceries and watching the TV," Taylor said. "I feel like it's always been my duty to help my mom out and after seeing her struggle just opened my eyes, like, 'I can do so much more. Why am I not giving everything I have to get out of this situation?' I already know what it's like to be at the bottom. I can only picture what it'll be like at the top."
From there, Taylor thought of what he wanted from life and his potential legacy but most importantly, he thought of how he would get there.
The answer was budgeted fashion. Shirts, beanies and shoes were all out because these are easy to find (think Love Your Melon or TOMS) but socks, now they hadn't really been done before.
When he developed the idea, Taylor was connected to Silky Socks, a company dedicated to manufacturing specialty socks. He approached them with the idea of making a tall black sock with "SJU" in cursive. It was a simple design that initially wasn't cheap, costing almost $30 just for one pair.
The word spread quickly, though. A week later, Taylor had sold about 400 pairs of socks.
After explaining his story to the company, Taylor was able to place the order for the socks, creating a new dilemma: what to do with the money.
The answer ended up being the name of the organization: The Cause. For every sale, the organization takes 10 percent of the profit and donates it to the cause of the group's choice.
The organization is comprised primarily of other CSB/SJU students, that help Taylor with everything from marketing to accounting. The Cause now carries shirts in addition to socks.
Taylor, who also plays running back for the Johnnie football team, hasn't forgotten to give back to where he's come from when it comes to giving either. The Cause International has also given money to set up a scholarship at his old high school, in memory of a late friend, as well as donating money to SJU.
One of his most memorable donations, however, was to one particular boy at the Boys and Girls Club in Chicago.
"This boy, Jalen, came up to me, hugged me and just said, 'Antoine, thank you for giving me my first Christmas,' " Taylor said. "That hit me deep. I remember when I was going through my rough patch with money coming in, my mom and I trying to figure out when our next meal is coming. It's crazy how God has blessed us these past couple years and we're not as financially unstable as we were. For somebody like Jalen, it seems so much worse so it meant a lot to help him and others like him."
With each donation to different causes, Taylor makes it a point to deliver the money or gifts in person for moments just like that. But he's looking to give more than just money or gifts - he wants to give his time and motivate people, especially young kids.
"Everyone wants to leave a mark on this world but I don't want to for a decade. I want to leave a mark where generations are going to be talking. I want to help kids like me but in a different way," Taylor said. "So many role models, including my own when I was young, were athletes or artists but nobody that was truly making a difference. When I was starting this, I thought to myself, 'I could be that role model who makes a difference.' "
On the horizon for The Cause International is expansion and other collaborations. Taylor has already started working with more than 40 colleges and high schools around the country to design socks, including the University of Washington and Princeton University. He also is working with friends in California (a chef and a barber) to plan an event this summer in Skid Row, Los Angeles - one of the poorest areas in the country. The event will focus on feeding, clothing and giving haircuts to the homeless, all for free.
Though these causes have been all over the country, Taylor is quick to acknowledge CSB/SJU's contribution to his own personal growth, as well as the company's.
"The Cause International wouldn't be anything without CSB/SJU," Taylor said. "When I was looking at schools, I knew I needed something that was going to be a for sure and was going to help my future and Saint John's has been that for me."