A Mercer University staff member is leading an effort to help local businesses that are suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matt Smith, director of digital communications, started Macon Shirts for Good, formerly Macon Gives a Shirt, after learning about a similar campaign in Augusta created by Showpony, a company that makes branded merchandise.
The premise is this: A local artist is paired with a small business to create a limited edition T-shirt. If at least 50 T-shirts are sold in one week, Macon Shirts for Good prints the T-shirts, and 100% of the profits go directly to the business.
“I’ve lived here pretty much my entire life, and I have seen Macon grow, especially within the last 10 or 15 years. And I think a big part of that is the local business owners who have put their trust in Macon. They’re the lifeblood of this city,” Smith said.
“When everything came about with the pandemic and seeing the hardships that small businesses are facing and knowing that they’re not going through business as usual, to me, it felt like there was a need to help.”
Smith, a graphic designer, recruited local artists to create T-shirts for the businesses. The artists come up with their own inspiration for the T-shirt designs. The shirts are sold for one week at maconshirtsforgood.com, which gives exposure not only to the businesses but the artists as well. Each week, new businesses will be featured.
The first sale launched May 13 and included six local restaurants. Within a few hours of launch, two restaurants were on track to sell 50 shirts by the end of the day. Other types of businesses will be included going forward, and many already have reached out to Smith about working with his alliance of artists in the future.
The response so far has been “overwhelmingly positive,” said Smith, who designed a shirt for Joe D’s on Ingleside. Not only have additional businesses reached out but so have artists who want to help.
Andy Carter, director of annual giving at Mercer, is among the designers participating in the project. He designed a T-shirt for Satterfield’s BBQ.
“When Matt told me his idea for the Macon Gives a Shirt project, I thought that it sounded like an awesome way to both highlight local artists and also help struggling businesses during the pandemic,” said Carter, who graduated from Mercer in 2007 with a degree in history, photography and English.
“It creates an opportunity for local artists and designers to be a force for good during a rough time for many Maconites,” he said. “I believe there’s value in giving citizens an avenue to help their favorite businesses while also celebrating great design. It’s a win/win for everyone.”
The T-shirts are sold for $25. If a business doesn’t sell at least 50 shirts, the business still has the option of having the shirts printed. If the shirts are not printed, the money is refunded to the buyer.
Natasha Phillips, owner of FOJ an eatery, which had a T-shirt available in the first round, said COVID-19 severely impacted her restaurant.
“Business was literally cut in half overnight,” she said.
With two days left, the FOJ design by Sailer Walker already sold 72 shirts. Phillips said she’s been blown away by the response.
“People need to support local businesses. Our community is directly impacted when these businesses go down because of lack of income. Jobs are lost also,” she said. “Corporations have availability to way more backup funds than we ever could think of. During this time, we never closed and never let go or furloughed a single employee.”