It was January, 2016, the opening day of the Impressions show in Long Beach, biggest show of the year, biggest investment we had made to date, and 40 team members and ROQ dealers huddled up ready to kick the year off with a bang. “Some may think all we do is sell t-shirts, I mean, who really needs another t-shirt anyway? But, think about, we are more than about making a t-shirt, by providing people with the opportunity to create, we help make businesses, pay mortgages, put kids through college and food on the table, ya, we may not be curing cancer by helping people print t-shirts, but, guess what raises money to cure cancer? T-Shirts! Yes, a t-shirt can change the world.”
Excited and passionate the team chanted “powering the print” and the show commenced to a record day. Late in the day I noticed a young man waiting to talk to me, I was slammed and kept getting pulled in other directions, but he patiently waited until finally he got his shot. His name was Zach McCarthy and what he said to me changed the entire trajectory of my life with t-shirts. Zach hands me a t-shirt “I just got back from Haiti with my non profit where we made this shirt, the Global Orphan Project, like many others, we first went to Haiti to take care of orphans, but when we realized that 80% of the kids we were trying to care for had living family that couldn’t “afford” to take care of them, we changed our model, we started businesses, we started making t-shirts, and providing jobs and economy so families could stay together. But we need help selling shirts, if we can sell more shirts we can make more shirts, create more jobs, and keep more families together, would you help us?”
As he spoke he shook, he was filled with emotion, his eyes were on fire with passion, and he resolve was unwavering and there I was, getting pitched, listing, smiling, and thinking to myself, “I just gave the t-shirt can change the world speech, did I really mean it?” That day, that meeting started a series of chain events between Zach and the Global Orphan Project of which I will forever be grateful for. Eight months later I found myself in Haiti, with my family, Zach and Joe Knittig of the CEO of the non-profit, seeing for the first time what real poverty was like, what environmental destruction was like. What it was like to find a child on the street because his parents left him there, his family torn apart, his heart shattered, just wanting to crawl into my wife Amanda’s arms, away from the noise of the children around him, until he fell asleep. To think, we could change this boy’s life, by selling something as simple as a t-shirt. But how could we do that, we didn’t have the funds, we didn’t have the resources, but I kept thinking, what if. That night as I talked with Joe, Zach and Amanda on a rooftop overlooking the valley towards the city of Port Au Prince, an idea came. Christianity was started by only twelve apostles, The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was born in England in 1787 by twelve men who gathered together at a printing shop, what if we could start this with twelve customers, screen printers, who would build this shirt, buy this shirt, and believe in this story, like I was beginning to.
Suddenly this elephant of a project became bite size, possible, four months later, I was back in Haiti, but this time with twelve screen printers, from all walks of life, with different beliefs, business models, and sizes, but all with the heart to say yes to something probably impossible but every bit possible. Together is better, and together we started Allmade, these are their stories.
More on Ryan Moor.
I always knew I’d be an entrepreneur, run a business, play in a band, but I never thought I’d end up in t-shirts.
When I was growing up my parents were in Amway and turned me onto free enterprise and the dream of being your own boss, running your own ship. So besides two short stints scooping poop and working at circuit city (both crappy jobs BTW), I have always known the hustle. Mole extermination, landscaping, window washing, pressure washing, Christmas lights, touring, promoting, all a lot of work, for a little money, but the freedom to do and go where ever you want. After high school I decided to join the university of rock vs the traditional schools of my family and for 4 years we recorded, toured, worked the hustle, and made our own t-shirts to support it.
I was a horrible screen printer smashing, literally smashing paint (yes, I called it that) through a screen, jokingly making our horrible punk rock shirts and baking them in my moms oven. One day a friends band showed up and asked me to show them how to do it and sell them a press so they could do it at home, light bulb. I took his money, made that crappy wood press, and smartly shot a picture of it before selling it to him, late of course. That picture went on eBay and in under 3 days I had my first sale and was in the screen printing business. Fortunately eBay eventually turned into a website, thanks to a loan from my dad and a lucky how to build an ecommerce business seminar he got me to go to (because of the free lunch of course). Thanks to some good coaching, late nights, my mom’s “you better not waste your dads money” reminders, figuring out the yahoo and google adwords scheme, and the advent of Youtube which we promptly uploaded “how to screen print” videos to so we could stop having to explain the process over the phone, Ryonet, named after a Ryobi I was holding at the time, my name, and On the interNET, turned from me in my dads garage, to over 100 people and 20 million dollars of revenue in just over 5 years.
It was then, JUST then, that I actually fell in love, for the first time, with this t-shirt game. It became more then growing a business, it became about the businesses we were helping to grow, over 200,000 at this point in time. Powering the Print is our game and screenprinting.com is our domain. We even brought back ROQ, this time with a Q and started learning how to sell “real” machinery and compete with the big boys. All this brought me to “the beginning of Allmade” (read) and a whole new level of respect for a t-shirt.
I’m a lucky guy, I get to spend my time doing what I love, I have a beautiful and healthy family, Amanda who’s been with me since before the beginning of Ryonet and worked with us until our twins Koen and Brody were born in 2009, and one more to wrap up the brood of dudes, Maddox who was born 5 years after. I never thought t-shirts would lead to all of this, it has changed my life, and now I get to spend my time helping them change other peoples too, doesn’t get much better than that. Thank you t-shirts!