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Kiwi teen launches clothing startup with heart

Guest Article | Eli Conroy - NFTees

Eli Conroy is the founder of NFTees. NFTees is a social enterprise founded by the Year 12 Sacred Heart Year student with the idea born out of a desire to create a product-based business but also leverage the growing popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

I first met Eli when he was in primary school with my son and I have watched him grow into an incredible young individual. This concept is all down to him but he as had a strong influence growing up in a family heavily involved in the non-profit sector. We are so delighted to feature the genius from someone making retail happen for good.


A 16-year-old Kiwi, Eli Conroy, has launched NFTees, a t-shirt startup with an NFT and social-minded twist.

Each t-shirt features a celebrity-created digital piece of art, and with each purchase customers receive a non-fungible token (NFT) of that artwork. Also half of the profits go to the celebrity’s chosen charity.

Conroy grew up with a different perspective on life to his peers: his mother has a genetic mutation that causes neuroendocrine cancer to develop. Through her own health challenges she founded a cancer charity focussed on helping patients with this cancer, and Eli has seen first hand the positive impact that a non-profit / social enterprise can have in helping the wider community.

The concept of NFTees arose from a desire to develop a product-based business while also capitalising on the growing popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and from the outset he wanted it to be a social enterprise.

“I wanted to do a physical product,” Conroy said, “but I wanted to create something different, something that would help us to stand out in a crowded clothing marketplace”

The first step was to design a brand identity that reflected the values of the organisation. As a result, the NFTees logo is a stylised butterfly, meant to symbolise the butterfly effect - that a small action can have a significant impact. The shape of the NFTees logo also provides the canvas for the celebrity designs.

The charitable aspect of the business model is what attracted Basketballer Tom Abercrombie to become NFTees’ first “artist”. Abercrombie, who has played 13 seasons with the Breakers and is the club’s all-time leading scorer with over 3,500 points, has a young daughter with a heart condition that requires a pacemaker. Tom has been a Heart Kids NZ ambassador for the last two years as a way to give back to the organisation that has helped his family on their cardiac journey.

There are four components to the product and these are unique to each celebrity collaboration:

  1. Digital artwork - The celebrities work with NFTees’ graphic artist to come up with a design that reflects their personality and the story they want to tell. Abercrombie’s design (shown below) has the texture of a basketball, his playing number 10 and the colours of the NZ Breakers playing uniform. There are also three subtle Ps to signify his three children whose names all start with the letter, along with a heart to symbolise HeartKids NZ.

2. T-shirts - once the design is finalised, clothing featuring the design is available for purchase on Conroy built the e-commerce site on shopify in a weekend with assistance from his Father.

3. Free NFT - with each purchase of a celebrity designed product, the customer receives a free NFT featuring the design. There are 6 different versions of each design - Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, Legendary and Founder each with a different value which are allocated randomly. This introduces a gamification element to the purchase. The NFTs display the celebrity design as a framed butterfly as often seen within museums. The colour of the wallpaper in the background denotes the NFT value.

4. Charitable Donations - half of all profits from the sale of celebrity designed products are donated to their nominated charity. This provides an incentive for both the celebrity and the charity to promote the products through their own channels.

Ruth Gorinski, CEO of Heart Kids NZ, said Conroy’s contribution will enhance the organisation’s efforts to assist families through their most difficult times. “Eli’s entrepreneurial initiative demonstrates a committed heart to our charity and absolutely exemplifies our Heart Kids values. We are so grateful to Eli for his selfless support,” he said.

NFTees has recently launched its second collaboration with NZ Football legend Danny Hay, and is in discussions with a couple of high-profile television personalities. Keep an eye on for these new releases.

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