four men posing for a photo; one man adding bunny ears to Jonathan

Jonathan Funke with the Ethletic team in Pakistan


12 Questions with Jonathan Funke of Tip Me

Jonathan, Let’s start with you and tip me. Could you tell us a bit more about tip me? When and how did you come up with the idea? And where are you based?

In a café we all tip the waiter. Imagine you could tip the coffee farmer, too. tip me makes it possible. In the online shops of our partners, you can find out who made your favorite product and tip them directly. 100% of tips go to the workers. We are a social startup based in Berlin and Cologne. The idea came to me when I demonstrated against the fast-fashion company Primark. Products can only be that cheap if somebody else pays the price. We had flyers saying: “Only 3% of the price you pay goes to workers.” I thought: It would take so little to make sure the workers receive a living wage. If there was a way to make sure it actually goes to the right people. So I made it my life’s mission to make that possible.

Jonathan speaking with his clients in Pakistan

Jonathan speaking with his clients in Pakistan.

So how exactly does tip me work?

In the online shops of our partners, you can tip workers with one click: you can choose your product, the size, the color, and also how much you want to tip. We collect all the tips in a digital pool and then split them fairly between all the workers in the factory. We cut out the middle-men. The workers receive 100% of tips directly on their individual bank accounts or mobile phones. We have created a verification software that ensures that all workers are real people and their data is correct and up to date. We help companies integrate our software into their online shop in half a day and take care of the entire transaction. We keep consumers up to date on what their personal tip has changed for the individual workers and what dreams they could fulfill because of it.

profile of a working in a denim factory

Profile of Dawn denim employee

What kind of brands are interested in working with tip me?

tip me only works with brands that value transparency and fairness. With tip me they can prove to consumers that they can even tell you who made their clothes. They can prove that they have nothing to hide. That’s a huge boost for customer loyalty.

What are some of the challenges that you encounter?

Funding a social startup is not easy. There are many funds for non-profit organizations. There are many capital funds for startups that are only about profit. Finding people and institutions that support companies with a healthy balance of both is a lot harder. But luckily that is changing very fast. Most executives are starting to understand that there is no future for unsustainable business models.

What is your background? Were you always interested in transparency and fairness?

I was a sustainability nerd my entire life. I started posting weekly blog posts when I was 14. I was always fascinated by how small changes in our daily lives, especially in consumption can have a massive impact on people and the planet. But I also learned how difficult it is to change human habits. So I started looking for ways to include effective altruism into people's routines. And with tip me it’s working: 50% of consumers tip over 3,50€. And with that, they reduce global inequality one tip at a time.

four men posing for a photo; one man adding bunny ears to Jonathan

Jonathan with members from the Ethletic team in Pakistan

What has been your favorite project so far? Or what’s been your favorite experience from starting a socially-minded start-up?

That was definitely our journey to Pakistan. We visited the fair shoe factory of ethletic, talked to the workers, and saw the impact we can have on their lives. Each and every worker has a personal wish: from repairing their motorbike, getting good education for their kids, buying diapers for their grandchildren or even opening their own store. Enabling these individuals to thrive is what international cooperation should be about. And seeing that it works makes you see what you hustle for.

Now lets talk about fashion :) What’s the favorite clothing item that you own? Why?

Probably the ethletic sneakers from Pakistan. Knowing who made them, knowing how much delicate work went into each step, that gives them a value that nothing else can.

Jonathan and partner at Ethletic sharing a laugh

Jonathan and partner at Ethletic sharing a laugh

Where do you like to shop? Or if you prefer... What’s your favorite sustainable clothing brand?

To be honest, I’m not a big fashion person. Mostly, I buy second-hand clothing or do parties with friends where we exchange pieces.

How do you think clothing brands can become more fair and transparent?

Luckily that’s becoming easier day by day because the industry is changing a lot. Supply chains are networks by nature. And because more and more nodes of the network are making the effort of implementing fair and transparent standards, it becomes easier for the entire network. I think the most important first step is to team up: exchange with other companies in your field and contact suppliers together to gain leverage. Exchange best practices and give new solutions a try. The good thing is: consumers value that. If you can show your efforts transparently and authentically, that gives you customers that stick with you also after the next fashion season.

How would you envision the future of fashion, if it were up to you?

I envision the future of fashion as a “global farmers market”, where going from store to store is not only shopping some anonymous product. It is getting to know the makers and the history of the product. Where buying a product is also creating a real connection with real human beings. Also, the UN set the goal of ending global poverty by 2030. I think this industry be a massive contributor to this challenge. Fashion has the potential to be one of the biggest engines for global redistribution. Every day millions of products are sent to the global North. In my vision, a fair share flows back.

Jonathan in Pakistan speaking with team members at Ethletic

Jonathan in Pakistan speaking with team members at Ethletic

And finally...What’s keeping you grounded during these pandemic times, especially with lots of fast-paced changes happening in multiple industries?

I think in the last months a lot of people asked themselves what really matters. Me, too. And I saw that what tip me is doing really matters. Especially in these times, the workers need support more than ever. And we saw how consumers reacted and tipped more often and higher amounts. Seeing what humans are capable of if you give them the right tools, that keeps me grounded.

What’s the best part of your job? 😎

That’s very easy: I only work with great people. All the brands we work with are founded to make a positive impact on the people and the planet. So all I’m doing all day talking with great people and helping them grow and communicate their impact.

Jonathan sharing an embrace with one of Ethletic's shoe manufacturers

Jonathan sharing an embrace with one of Ethletic's shoe manufacturers

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