Here for Good: T-Shirts That Actually Make a Difference
Sloan Coleman knew she had to do something when school and large event t-shirt and tote bag orders dried up at Tiny Little Monster, the St. Louis print shop she and partner Jenny Rearick co-own.
“One Tuesday in March, we did $7.50 in sales,” she said. “Our payroll is $40,000 a month. That was a scary, dark day.” The team quickly scrambled to create web stores for a few fellow small business owners, trying to retool for an online-only sales landscape.
Worried about not only her own business, which she and Rearick created in their basement in 2011, but her community’s entire entrepreneurial ecosystem in a time of coronavirus pandemic, Coleman came up with the idea to combine the web stores and focus on community and mutual aid. “The slogan ‘Here for Good’ just popped out, and I understood this was what we had been building for all along,” Coleman said.
The campaign’s power lies in its simplicity: any small business can pick a t-shirt and ink color (just one of each!), upload their logo or design, and supply a Venmo contact. Tiny Little Monster sets up the shirt to screenprint and fulfills orders on-demand for $20 a shirt: $10 from each sale goes to the featured business and $10 stays with team Tiny. Partner businesses get a weekly payout and sales report, without having to bulk order or keep inventory.
Travis Wisely directs the onboarding and social media messaging that’s propelled the fundraiser, and he’s seen the organic power of Tiny Little Monster’s Instagram community. “We asked our followers to tag small businesses they know and love that are struggling, and the response just exploded.” From an initial group of businesses he could count on one hand, the #HereForGoodSTL shop now includes more than 100 local businesses and nonprofits, such as Pint Size Bakery and Pieces Board Game Café.
And it’s not just a St. Louis thing: once Coleman realized her formula could work – “When you tell a business owner, we’re going to send you money this Saturday so you’ll have some money for this week, they get interested!” – she immediately wanted to share it widely. She sent the basic tenets to fellow print-shop owners in Iowa and Virginia, and other locations started adapting the fundraiser for their own communities.
Today, Tiny Little Monster knows of similar efforts in at least 20 states, including Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some have adapted the “Hashtag Here for Good” with location-specific add-ons (like South Dakota’s “#HereForGood605”).
Just as coronavirus cases have climbed exponentially, the same has happened (on a much smaller scale) with fundraising revenues: in under two weeks, Tiny Little Monster has gathered more than $20,000 in direct payments to their St Louis partners.
“That frenetic energy that Sloan has, that tornado of ideas, has been a huge driving force for everyone on the team,” said Kayla Richards, Tiny’s production artist. “We call ourselves the ‘print shop for the people,’ and this is us living up to that.”
Tiny Little Monster recently run into one snag with production: As a “non-essential business,” the shop currently cannot print t-shirts. But they are ordering stock and will try to print all requests within two weeks of their return to business.
Coleman says Tiny Little Monster and all the entrepreneurs she champions will keep going and emerge from the current “pile of suck” their businesses are in.
“We are moving forward completely community-driven and socially focused. All we need is a little bit of hope, just enough. You know: your faucet may not be full-blast right now, but you can still do the dishes; you may not have a full pitcher, but you can still take a drink.”