Starting Wild Tiger Tees

In 2017, I had Ann Bischoff as a guest on the People Helping People Podcast – from the Star House, a day center for youth experiencing homelessness. Something struck me about the situation that these youth face — especially a life circumstances that they never chose. I had such a supportive family growing up, and still do today… and I can’t imagine life without that. Especially at age 16 or 18, I can’t imagine having to make it on my own without any support.

I walked away from that podcast, wondering what I could do with the Star House. About a month later I was listening to the Joy Venture Podcast, and came across a story about a button club that someone started as a hobby, and it grew into something. That gave me an idea… perhaps I could start a t-shirt club, with t-shirt printed by the youth at the Star House. I’ve always wanted to screen print my own t-shirts, and I couldn’t stop playing with the idea.

I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, but I started researching the idea, talking to people. (Pretty much everyone)… and then took my idea to Give Back Hack. This is a startup weekend hack-a-thon style event, where people come together in Friday night, pitch ideas (a lot of ideas), narrow them down, and then build a social impact business around it over the weekend.

My idea was selected, and formed a team of about 10 enthusiastic people. And it’s amazing what you can get done in a weekend. We formed a team, and have been meeting regularly to get our pilot off the ground. Right after Give Back Hack, we jumped into SEA Change – a social enterprise accelerator. It’s like Give Back Hack, but more in depth, and spread over 12 weeks, with each module covering a topic that we focus on for our business. In a team with diverse backgrounds, this has been super helpful in developing our business plan together.

It was a great resource and helped us as we launched our pilot last year. Now we’ve been operating for a year, and Wild Tiger Tees is starting to take shape. This year we’ve been focusing on sales so that we can grow and expand our program, but it’s challenging when this is a side hustle and there is a lot to do to maintain momentum.

The main thing that keeps me going are the youth that we get to work with. They are incredible, and I feel it’s such an honor to work with them. For me, that’s enough to know what we’re doing is on the right track, even if we still have a long ways to go.

My biggest takeaway from this? It’s easier today than any other time to start something and make a social impact. It’s not necessarily easy, but it certainly is fulfilling and rewarding.

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