Today, it was a national headline.

“Can T-shirt Sales Save America’s Restaurants?”

With shut-down orders and limits on gatherings over 50, 10, 5 — depending on the day — restaurants and bars all over the country have been given next to nothing to work with.

They can’t serve diners inside, so they have no use for their servers. They can’t function as they’ve functioned throughout the history of their business, so they are forced to get creative.

Lean into take-out. Offer alcohol on delivery. Sell their own merch.

And that last one? Well, it’s already changed the game for some of them.

The rise of the t-shirt

Custom branded t-shirts aren’t just t-shirts.

That’s something we at InkSoft, and our customers, and our customers’ customers, have been saying for years. But now, that’s something restaurants and bars are starting to understand.

The t-shirts aren’t just empty products. It’s true that they showcase a brand, and it’s true that they provide an alternate stream of revenue, but it’s also true that they enforce a sense of unity that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.

Unity that isn’t indicated by where you are or who you’re with.

If you pass a stranger on the street and you see they’re wearing a t-shirt with your favorite sandwich shop’s logo on it, wouldn’t you feel a connection to them?

What about if the t-shirt was for the local movie theater you worked at as a teenager?

Or the animal shelter you adopted your dog from?

The local businesses we interact with everyday aren’t just empty businesses, just like their branded t-shirts aren’t just empty products.

We feel connected to them. And we feel a sense of community with the other people who do, too.

Not just selling food

Restaurants and bars have been among the hardest hit by this pandemic, and people everywhere have been brainstorming ways to help them out. 

From buying frequent take-out to buying gift-cards for future use, it’s clear that everyone’s been doing what they can to show their support. But, for the establishments that have lost most of their sources of revenue and the employees who’ve been laid off by the hundreds, it’s still not enough.

And then, one screen printer had an idea.

Using their screen printing know-how, the team behind Tiny Little Monster approached local businesses in the St. Louis area with a plan. Using InkSoft technology, they’d work together to design a branded t-shirt, one per business — and then they’d sell them in a custom online store.

$10 from each t-shirt sale would go to the local business, and $10 would go to Tiny Little Monster — also a local business affected by the pandemic.

The campaign, Here For Good, kicked off a national fundraising program. Now, screen printers all over the country are reaching out to their communities, doing what they can to support local businesses that are hurting.

Here For Good

When you scroll through the original Here For Good’s online store today, you’ll see more than 130 t-shirts.

Restaurants and pubs. Cafes and breweries. Yoga studios, auto repair shops, and kids’ sports leagues.

There are more than 130 local businesses that, through this t-shirt fundraising campaign, are earning profits. There are more than 130 local businesses that are being impacted by t-shirts.

“A month ago, buying a branded hat was a way to broadcast ‘Hey, look where I’ve been,’” the Wall Street Journal article reads. “Yet in the face of Covid-19, restaurant merch became a purchase with purpose.”

That sense of community I mentioned before — the one you feel when someone’s wearing the t-shirt of a place you love? It’s doubled in recent days.

Buying a t-shirt through a campaign like Here For Good, or Saving Small Business Chicago, or Support St. Chuck & The Lou, isn’t just buying a t-shirt to show where you like to eat your sandwiches.

It’s buying a t-shirt to give what you can to the business — to the businesses — that have impacted your life.

And when you see someone else walking around in the same t-shirt, you don’t just connect with them on a taste-bud level. You connect with them on a human level — because you know they, like you, are doing what they can to support the places that mean something to them.

The local businesses in need.

Better Together

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In times like this, community really is everything.

The more socially distanced from each other we are, the more we need to find new ways to connect. New ways to be there for one another.

Like the Zea Rotisserie & Grill restaurant chain, which started its own t-shirt fundraising campaign to raise money for the employees it had to lay off. Or these sisters, who started a t-shirt fundraising campaign to raise money for local food banks.

I never thought I’d say this, but it’s looking like t-shirts have the power to save us.

Not just by giving our restaurants and bars a new way to earn revenue, and not just by giving decorated apparel printers a new way to keep busy during the shutdowns.

But by giving each and every one of us the chance to step up, to show our support, and to connect with each other in meaningful ways.

At InkSoft, we like to focus on the good happening all around us — instead of the negativity broadcasted on the news. That’s why we’ve created a ‘Spotlight On’ series that showcases fundraising campaigns around the country that are taking action — and killing it.

You can check an example of those out here.

Otherwise, remember that you have the power to make a difference. If you can, buy a t-shirt (or 10). Or, start your own fundraising campaign — with InkSoft’s technology, it couldn’t be easier.

Design a shirt, move it to a custom online store, and let our Fundraising feature take care of all the transaction logistics.

However you choose to help, InkSoft is here for you. And we believe, at our core, that we all do better when we’re working together. You can reach us at 800-410-3048.

Stay safe,

The InkSoft team