David Merritt grew up with parents who are pastors in Detroit, and this set the tone for his approach to business.
“Watching my parents was my motivation. They dedicated their life to serving others,” he said.
His parents dedicated their entire lives to the well being of others and the spiritual growth of members in their community. But when David was growing up he saw that not everyone in his community had access to the support and opportunities his parents gave him. This sparked the passion behind his clothing brand Merit, which fuels scholarships and career support for youth.
“I wanted to do something that brought more positive opportunities to youth,” he said. “That’s why I started Merit.”
Merit began in 2012, first as an online business based in Ann Arbor. David had just finished school at the University of Michigan where he also played college basketball. Playing basketball overseas or getting a corporate job weren’t as appealing as building a brand that incorporated his passions for community and youth.
Merritt began selling clothing online and donating 20% of all sales to scholarship, but now they’ve expanded into programming and a new Detroit location.
Inside of a 5,300 sq ft space they house their “FATE 2.0” program. The space serves as a youth development and workforce training center. The program provides support for youth through high school, into college, a college scholarship if certain merits are met, and ongoing training and support. It’s a lifetime of of dedication, similar to his parents.
“We want to be a support system pretty much for the rest of their lives,” he said.
To date, they’ve helped 19 students enroll in college in state, two out of state, with fourteen that met their standards to receive a $5,000 scholarship for college courses.
“Our hope is to bring in a group of students every single year, so we’ll be working with 100 students by 2019,” David said.
Eventually students will get into the manufacturing side of Merritt’s business, learning how to sew, design, create a product and operate a business as a job training program.
Merit is helping to reinvent how a traditional clothing company can do business, how business themselves can engage with the communities around them. While David said profit is at the forefront of every business, there are ways to re-think how that profit can be used.
“Being customer facing is about focusing on the needs of the community. You can provide business in a way that builds integrity, communicating with your community,” he said. “Community is a part of the process.”