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How to Start a Movement: Part II

For today's #ServiceSunday, I'm posting the second half of last week's "How-to." Big thank you to everyone who reached out regarding How to Start a Movement: Part I. The feedback was great and, as always, appreciated.

Check out the wrap up of this mini series and let me know what other topics you'd like me to touch on in the feature.

  • What do you give them?

  • When The Smile Project began, I was marketing an emotion. Now, though, I’ve progressed to simple merchandise sales with clothing and stickers. It isn’t much but it’s still providing a good in return for money. Yes, what you are trying to do matters. But people aren’t going to listen until you tell them what you do for them. Whether you’re providing them with information through a public speaking engagement or you’re giving passing out bookmarks as a promotion tool, people want to be given things or see a real difference made in their life as a result of interacting with you.

  • Merchandise:

  • It took me a while to get into this. Shirts are one of the easiest things to do. When I began, I worked through the graphic arts department of my high school. I was able to make shirts for $5, sell them for $10, and profit $5 for the various charities I was supporting at the time. Unfortunately, it won’t always be that simple and your deliveries won’t always be to a geographically close knit group of people. Most of my shirt orders have involved self-distribution—as in I get all the shirts delivered to me (or in the case of the high school, I picked them up) and then I mail (in a tiny postal) the shirt wherever it needs to be. (When shipping shirts, always include an additional shipping cost. That adds up very quickly). I would hand deliver the rest (usually to my college campus / hometown).

  • Online shirt orders: I ran one through You can even see that although the campaign has ended, if enough people show interest, they will be reprinted. This was easy because once the shirt was designed, all I had to do was promote it. The payment was handled through the website as was distribution to each individual customer. The tanks were a little more expensive than usual merchandise so I didn’t sell as many, but it was definitely easier. Though I haven’t used it, I’ve heard amazing things about Booster (which works in the same way).

  • My favorite (only) company I’ve worked through for mass orders has been Allied Shirts. There are a lot of custom shirt websites but from what I’ve seen, Allied Shirts has the best prices and amazing customer service. I’ve done three orders through them, each time receiving a massive box and then handling distribution and payment on my own. A little bit more work but I am able to keep the costs low and therefore sell more shirts. Allied Shirts also constantly has sales so make sure to never pay full price for anything.

  • When it comes to things like business cards or stickers, I’ve used Vistaprint and been very satisfied. I didn’t order business cards until recently so don’t feel like you’re suddenly overwhelmed with things to do. It doesn’t all have to be done at once.

  • One of the biggest things with merchandise is figuring out how much things cost vs how much people are willing to pay. You also have to know the demographic you’re reaching. With The Smile Project, I am mostly working with college-aged people who don’t have a lot of money. Therefore I try to keep my costs low and show that the money that is raised on behalf of the sales goes to something meaningful. (Millennials love to make a difference through donations but they love it even more when they get something for donating, even if that’s just a shirt). Also don’t be afraid to do sales or add promos. You are totally in charge now so you can literally make up the rules as you go.

  • Ex: I had mailed a shirt to a girl but wrote a 6 instead of a 4 on the address line (something small like that) so it was returned to my house. I quickly resent it but there was about a week delay from when she should have got it to when she actually did. I immediately reached out to her to confirm and apologize for the issues (always, always, always communicate) and even put a sticker in her package for her patience (they usually cost $1 but it was nice to include something to thank her, no added charge).

  • Content: One thing my brother told me in a discussion about The Smile Project was that I just had to be putting out cool content all the time. Whether your content is an informative video or a well-designed shirt, the more you put yourself out there the more likely you are to see results. Your content can be as simple as having an informative, interactive, and fun social media stream.

  • Network: Kind of like the mentor thing, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to other people who are doing the same things. Many people will be looking to cross-promote themselves and if there is a way you can work together, most new start-ups are totally for that. Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out to local news stations, radio, or newspapers. You’ve seen the kind of things that can go viral on a whim. Even if one person hears the radio story and is interested, you’re now on the radar of one person. And never underestimate the power of one.

  • Stand behind it: This can be the toughest one sometimes, especially when you’re just starting out. It can seem like insurmountable and like you have no idea where to begin or what to do. But you have to tell someone. This is only 3 minutes but it’s still one of my favorite TED Talks of all time. You need that one champion of the cause. Together, the two of you will be able to do whatever you want to do. Make sure you believe in it wholeheartedly and everything, everything else will fall into place.

  • Good luck!

  • For more, read: Shake the World by James Marshall Reilly – hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life

Thanks for reading and let me know what other topics of service I should cover for #ServiceSunday.

Love always,


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