A Simple Message
It’s often the simplest message that resonates the most deeply. It doesn’t get much simpler, or more powerful, than “be nice to each other.”
Just as Cincy Shirts, a business located in the heart of Cincinnati, was getting ready to reopen in June after experiencing some recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, they found that their storefront windows had been broken by looters and some of their merchandise stolen or ruined.
The owners did not respond to this discovery in anger or in frustration. They fell back instead on a time-tested answer. “We didn’t want anyone to feel like we were a victim,” says Josh Sneed, co-owner of Cincy Shirts. “Sure, we sustained some financial damage, but it’s just stuff. We can replace stuff.”
Sneed and his team found hope in the idea that what happened to them and to others was not happening in vain. They set to work on sending a message that they felt everyone could get behind: “Be better to each other.”
A History of Support
Cincy Shirts is no stranger to using t-shirts to send a message of hope, literally and figuratively.
Josh describes their original business in 2012 as a “funny t-shirt website,” with pop culture references being their bread and butter. When they started giving old logos from Cincinnati’s rich history new life on t-shirts, local customers wanted more. The new brand grew, and in 2014 the previously online-only business opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Over-the-Rhine, a Cincinnati entertainment hub and one of America’s largest intact historical districts.
Around the same time, Cincy Shirts started giving back to the local community, starting with printing and selling shirts in support of Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still, when his daughter was diagnosed with cancer. A few years later, when a baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks early, she needed 24-hour care just to stay alive. The “Team Fiona” campaign that was started then continues to this day, and has to date raised over $350,000 for the Zoo.
“Fiona is pandemic-proof,” jokes Josh, saying that Team Fiona shirt sales have been strong even through a slow economy. “She proves that even hippos can be cute.”
The “Cincy Strong” campaign was born when a shooting in downtown Cincinnati claimed several lives and injured others. Proceeds from that campaign benefit both the victims and the first responders to the incident. Cincy Shirts has run similar campaigns to support the local Freestore Foodbank, Ronald McDonald House, the American Cancer Society and many more.
They are able to be flexible with the causes they support because they’re set up to help. By printing shirts on demand, it becomes easier to support a cause at both local and national levels.
When it was time to support businesses impacted by the pandemic and by looting, Cincy Shirts was ready. “Things get out of hand, lines are drawn and I get that,” says Josh. “There are changes that need to be made, but there’s also people starving for positive news right now. We wanted a universal message.”
With the One Cincy fundraiser campaign, Josh and his team selected a few designs that conveyed the simplest of ideas: “At the end of the day, try to be nice to each other.”
Proceeds from this fundraiser are being added to a fund that already existed for OTR businesses that had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and was extended to cover damage the looting incurred. To date, the campaign has raised over $6000 for those local businesses. “We’re ecstatic about the results so far,” says Josh, “and we’ll continue to keep it going to share the message.”
The news cameras may have moved on to the next big story, but the need is still there. “It’s the nature of the news cycle,” says Josh. “We’ll keep it going and we’re also always on the lookout for other ways we can help. It doesn’t have to be in Cincinnati. If there’s a cause or a project we can help support, we’d like to hear about it.”
“Be better to each other.” It’s a powerful idea conveyed by a simple message, one which is as important now as it ever was, and one which Cincy Shirts brings to everything they do.