Please, Nashville, Don't Make T-Shirts About This One

Just after midnight, a devastating tornado raged through my hometown of Nashville. I’m writing this pre-dawn, so the true damage isn’t close to being fully understood. Sadly, death reports are already coming in.

Almost 10 years ago, a catastrophic flood hit Nashville. People died, businesses closed, families left town. And in order to help out, I made T-shirts.

The We Are Nashville campaign raised over $125,000 for flood relief in 2010. We got product placement with Anderson Cooper and our website crashed. Over the next two months we printed as many shirts as we could, with all profits going to flood relief programs. Because we only printed on US-made organic cotton, we bought up the entire supply of light blue T-shirts on the eastern seaboard. We worked with three different local printers and two fulfillment houses to try and get shirts to people as quickly as well could.

It was well-meaning and exhausting, but it was the wrong response. I’m writing this now to hopefully stop other well-meaning designers and entrepreneurs.

You can do better.

Rather than fork over $20 or $30 for a T-shirt that will have some art about how Nashville is strong or will rebuild (both of which are true, even if not emblazoned on a shirt), use your time this week to go help some East Nashville businesses board up windows. Rather than tweet your fresh designs ad nauseam, go eat today at Burger Up in 12 South since the one on the east side will be closed for what looks like a very long time. 

And if you need a place to give money that will directly benefit victims, take a look at the options at the bottom of this post. We have awesome local charities who will do more with your $20 than a shirt company can. Trust me - I speak from experience.

This isn’t a time for shirts; it’s a time for work. A lot of business owners and their employees are going to be cash strapped for a while. And no, you won’t get a fancy donation letter for your taxes, but dropping $40 to the Venmo of a server or cashier out of work will go a lot farther than your shirt that will end up going unworn in six months.

So please, please, please, don’t make a shirt for this one. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

The sun is about to rise, and so will Nashville.

To help:

Displaced Jobs Assistance:
If you have employees who are currently displaced from their job, please have them contact with their needs. At the same time, if you are currently open for business and able to offer temporary employment, please email with your opportunities. HospitaliltyTN is coordinating efforts to keep Nashville’s hospitality community employed while the city recovers.