Businesses that #doDifferent: T-shirts For Change
We spoke to Nicole Jowett, founder of T-Shirts For Change, about starting a for good business and what she's learnt in the process.
Tell us a bit more about your business and what it does.
T-Shirts For Change is the original slogan t-shirt for a cause. Created from a fundraising initiative that I started for Women's Day, the idea took on a life of its own to become a fully-fledged business and brand. For every t-shirt sold, 50% of proceeds are donated to charity. Through the sale of our slogan tees, we support six different South African charities, which include organizations that help women and animals, provide education, and assist the LGBTQI+ community.
What motivated you to start it?
I wasn't able to find a feminist t-shirt anywhere in South Africa to reflect my alignment with women's rights, so I looked into having one printed and found that printing ten would be cheaper than printing one. I decided to print ten, and sold the other nine to friends. In one month, I raised R10,000, which I donated to the Frida Hartley Women's Shelter for Women's Day. Even after Women's Day, the orders kept rolling in. That's when I decided I should keep doing it to see where it goes.
What have you learnt about running a business along the way?
Running a business by yourself can be emotional, as you put your heart and soul into each task. Sometimes it's not easy to take criticism without taking it personally. This is the biggest lesson I've learnt - business isn't personal. Take feedback, take criticism, and take the bad experiences as they come - but never take any of it personally. Being able to overcome mistakes, bad decisions and criticism in a positive way and not take them to heart, but instead evolve and grow from them, is what will make your business last.
What is one of your triumphs in starting this business?
For me, the business is the triumph! That I can sell t-shirts that I've created, and donate money to charities on a regular basis is pretty amazing for me. Sometimes I don't believe that two years after my initial fundraiser I'm actually still selling t-shirts! In terms of milestones, a pretty cool one was when I collaborated with Cosmopolitan South Africa for their March 2018 influencer issue, and I got to see my tees on the cover of the magazine. I would've never dreamed of this happening.
What advice do you have for anyone who would like to start a business that helps facilitate social change?
Although I don't feel qualified to give anyone advice, if I had to give advice, it would be to just start, however small it may be. Start with what you can and grow from there. That way, you have little risk, and everything to gain. A lot of people want everything to be perfect before they launch an idea or start a project, but the best way to gain experience and expertise is to just start and learn from your mistakes. That knowledge and experience can't be taught or learnt in any other way.
What words/ motto/ quote do you live by or gain inspiration from?
Not so much a motto, but some words from a fellow female entrepreneur who was asked in an interview about failures. As entrepreneurs, we tend to hide our mistakes and our failures, but we should be embracing them because they're a natural part of being an entrepreneur.
When we embrace only our successes, we make others feel like their failures are not normal, but failure is a normal part of being an entrepreneur. I personally have been affected by this. When I look at other entrepreneurs and think "everything goes right for them", I've had to remember that that's not true - failure is part of success. Most success doesn't come without failure. It's important to work through the mistakes and learn from them but never give up because of them.
Image credit: Nicole Jowett