CLAYTON – Clayton-based Blue Pack Marketing, an ecommerce business that sells specialty merchandise, is showing its support for victims of the Australian wildfires through sales of newly branded “Hearts for Australia” and “Paws for Australia” lines of its Piper Lou Collection. The result so far has been $50,000 contributions each to the Australian Red Cross and the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors.

The initiative began January 2 and has exceeded the company’s most optimistic expectations, according to Cory Rush, chief executive officer of the Blue Park Marketing. “We had no clue what it would bring, and the response has been a total surprise to us,” says Rush, one of two brothers at the heart of the six-year-old firm.

The company sent an initial $50,000 to the Australian Red Cross on January 9, but sales continued to pour in, and a second $50,000 donation was sent on January 13 to the Wildlife Warriors, an animal welfare foundation launched by the family of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin. Blue Pack is now upping its fundraising target from the campaign to $250,000 by the end of January.

“Our goal is to continue making these donations as long as people continue to share our desire to help out in the relief,” Rush says.

Blue Pack’s founders Cory (right) and Keegan Rush

Piper Lou products include branded beanies, tumblers and t-shirts. The company is donating 100 percent of net profits from these products, which are now being marketing online ( The firm’s customer base includes buyers around the world, including Australia. Blue Pack, which employs about 35 workers in Clayton, launched the female-oriented Piper Lou brand in June 2016. The company’s suppliers have also lent a hand, offering rock-bottom wholesale pricing on the goods in order to maximize the charitable proceeds.

Rush cites the heartbreaking videos and photos from Australia, where homes have been lost, people are being displaced and an estimated one to two billion animals may have perished. “People want to do the right thing,” he says. Seasonality may also account for the strong response. “It’s January, which is usually a slower time of year,” says Rush.

Keegan Rush, chief marketing officer at Blue Pack, credits the outpouring of support to the brand’s fiercely loyal customers. “It’s been a resounding rally of our followers,” he says. In fact, the company’s two founders learned about the Wildlife Warrior Foundation through several of their customers. “It’s the No. 1 Australian wildlife charity,” he says. The tragedy in Australia inspired Blue Pack to “step up and flex our marketing muscle,” Keegan Rush explains. “It’s allowed us to get behind a good cause.” The brothers are now thinking about other giving campaigns their brands might support – cancer or diabetes research, for example.

Blue Pack Marketing, whose name recognizes the Rush’s two favorite NCAA athletic programs – Duke and NC State, currently operates out of 21,000 sq.-ft. of space on Highway 70 near the Grifols campus. The firm shares space there with Edge Promotions, a strategic partner. “We’re really busting at the seams,” says Keegan Rush, and the two firms are now exploring larger space nearby. “We’re committed to staying in Clayton and Johnston County.”

Chris Johnson, director of the Johnston County Economic Development Office, calls Blue Pack “one the most innovation-minded small businesses in the region that no one’s ever heard of,” succeeding with a unique blend of modern technology, vision and drive. “They are prospering in a very competitive global market through sheer creativity and determination,” Johnson says. “Blue Pack Marketing could operate from anywhere but chose to plant roots in Clayton. I’m proud of what they’re doing for Australia and delighted for what they’re doing for Johnston County.”

About the author: Lawrence Bivins is Raleigh-based managing director of the North Carolina Economic Development Association, a WRAL TechWire partner.