Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

T-shirts designed by kids, for kids, to help kids – It’s a family affair

As a hard-working entrepreneur, and like many fathers, Matt White of Ohio, has always struggled with the work/life balance. We all know the goal and purpose of a father is to provide for the family, but at the same time, the family often suffers the most when work seems to take priority. So, Matt had the idea to integrate work and family by building a business where all members of the family could work together and be a part of the success as a team.

And so, ize-T was born!

The tagline for ize-T is “t-shirts for kids, by kids, to help kids.” Isaac (also known as ‘Ize’) and Audrey White, ages 9 and 12 respectively, designed the first ize-T shirts; then Ian (5) joined in shortly thereafter. The goal of ize-T is not to just produce fun and creative T-shirts for children, but more importantly, to do something good for others.

Here’s our interview with ize-T’s Matt White:

Do you have a website?

We can be found online at www.ize-T.com. Most of our activity is done online, either through the sale of tee shirts or through the download of our new iPhone app.

What is your product or service?

Our ‘product’ is tee shirts that have been designed by our children. However, six dollars from the sale of every tee shirt is presently going towards the purchase of insecticide treated mosquito nets to help end malaria deaths through a partnership with World Vision (www.actstoendmalaria.org). Also, with every iPhone app download, one mosquito net is purchased.

Our first project with ize-T, which was launched in the fall of 2010, was to assist a local family with a young boy at the kids’ school who was diagnosed with a childhood cancer. Ten dollars per shirt went to this family to assist with their rising medical costs. When we moved our partnership globally, we were able to decrease the cost of the shirts because of the lower cost of the donated item: treated bed nets ($6 donated per shirt versus $10; so shirt prices dropped $4)
T-shirts designed by kids

Why was this social venture created?

As a family, we wanted to work on an ongoing project together to help others. It’s important to my wife and me to instill strong work ethic in our children, while also emphasizing the importance of giving back. There are so many other children in the world in desperate need of the things that we take for granted every day. As a family, we want to make an impact on our world, both locally and around the globe.

How many people need help in this area?

More than 2,000 children die EVERY DAY from a malaria-infected mosquito bite. That’s nearly 750,000 children every year – and 85% of those deaths are children under the age of five! Since malaria was eliminated in the United States in 1950, an estimated 41 million people worldwide have died from malaria.

What is the cost per person that is being helped?

As I mentioned, our current project is with World Vision’s ACT:S to End Malaria campaign through the purchase of insecticide treated mosquito nets. The cost of one net is six dollars, and one net can save two lives. Malaria has such an enormous impact, not just on lives lost, but also on absenteeism in school and the economy of the affected countries, yet it is completely preventable with such small investments.

Could others help you and how?

Yes! By simply spreading the word through social media outlets, sharing our website, and by downloading our iPhone app and buying shirts. You can find us at Twitter at www.twitter.com/izeTforkids and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/izeTshirts.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

To design the shirts, we actually used the Art Studio app for the iPad. It’s not free, but I think it was maybe $4.99. Might as well be free! It’s a great design tool that kids and adults can use. You just draw with your finger, save the image, and you’re good to go.
What was the one thing you did right? I think just taking the leap of faith in this venture was the biggest “right” thing we did. I’m an entrepreneur, but my experience is in building websites for organizations. We didn’t know anything about designing and printing tee shirts. But, we’ve learned a lot throughout the process.
T-shirts designed by kids

What is Matt White’s background?

Some might call me a serial entrepreneur. I wouldn’t compare myself to the likes of Richard Branson (of Virgin fame), but I have started and currently run several small businesses, mostly web-based. My background, though, is in advertising. I graduated from Kent State University in 1995 with a B.S. in Advertising. I’ve worked with a few advertising agencies in South Carolina and Ohio; but my true joy and most of my time day in and day out is spent with my website development company, JoltCMS (www.joltcms.com). Owning a website design firm allows me to jump into new businesses a little more easily. Many start-ups spend tens of thousands of dollars building a website to promote their business, which can sometimes become a burden in the start-up phase; but that roadblock is eliminated in my case. I’ll admit, I do also have an affinity toward start-ups and try to be flexible and help other entrepreneurs as often as possible.

What book(s) have you read that others should read?

Actually, our current project in partnership with World Vision was very much driven by the reading of “The Hole in Our Gospel” by Richard Sterns. As my wife has said, if you want to confirm your own apathy with what you are doing for others, this book is a must read. A great business book that I always recommend for entrepreneurs and business owners is “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. It helps you to look at your business from a whole new perspective.

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