Apparel printer pitches in to help displaced workers

Good Ink uses fundraising platform to aid breweries, restaurants, salons and other small businesses.
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A Holland-based business owner has changed the mission of his business.

Dave Ornée is a co-owner and the director of operations for Good Ink, a custom apparel company that was launched in 2016. The company was started with the purpose of helping individuals, nonprofits and other organizations raise money for their causes by selling custom T-shirts through its website (goodink.com).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Good Ink now is offering its services to local small businesses such as breweries, restaurants, salons and spas to raise funds for their employees and prevent business closure through access to its fundraising platform.

To benefit from the opportunity, businesses must detail their cause, create a custom design they would like on their apparel, which include sweaters, short- and long-sleeve T-shirts, and Good Ink will do the apparel printing, embroidery and provide a check for the amount of funds that were raised on the website.

“A lot of small businesses are feeling the pinch, big time,” Ornée said. “I reached out to a number of other small business owners and they are all feeling bad, not only for themselves but for their employees who are out of work. We are working with the (businesses) to create some unique designs and start campaigns to raise money for people who are out of work and out of a paycheck right now.”

One of those business owners using the Good Ink website to raise money for furloughed employees is Chris McKellar, owner of Love’s Ice Cream in Grand Rapids. As of March 30, there were 45 T-shirts sold with the Love’s Ice Cream theme and $800.45 was raised.

“Everything is a bit unknown,” McKellar said. “Hopefully, this (fundraiser) is a short-term thing that we can do to put a little money in our staff’s pocket while they are out of work. We hope we’ll get back to work as soon as it makes sense for everyone to do so. We don’t want to be a part of the problem.”

McKellar said while he is trying to help his staff now, he is aware of an even bigger issue looming in the future.

“Bankruptcy is a real threat if we can’t earn any money for the long-term,” he said.

In an effort to avoid bankruptcy, McKellar has resorted to curbside pick-up, a pretty unusual step in the frozen treats segment. He also is doing deliveries, which he said he has never done, for individuals who order online. Love’s Ice Cream uses local organic and minimally processed ingredients to make treats on-site.

Another business owner using Good Ink to print T-shirts is Trevor Doublestein of Our Brewing Company in Holland. Doublestein said he and Ornée have been friends for nearly two decades and when he opened his brewery in 2012, he started a business partnership that allowed Good Ink to print custom-designed apparel to be sold in the brewery, which was seeing an average of 200 to 300 visitors per day. The brewery was an entertainment spot with trivia night, karaoke night, playing vinyl records and offering live music performances.

Today, the brewery is forced to offer only “to-go” orders and, never having had food options, relies solely on its beverage sales. Doublestein now is contemplating the purchase of a food truck to supplement sales.

While he mulls the food truck idea, Doublestein said he has been using Good Ink’s site for fundraising for his employees. As of March 31, 122 Our Brewing-themed items had been sold, raising $2,277.64. All the proceeds will go directly to the bartenders who are currently out of work, he said.

“We have six bartenders and two production people, which are myself and our brewer,” he said. “We have eight total staff. We keep it lean. We have had pretty much the same employees for all of the seven years that we have been open. Everyone is like family.”

Good Ink is helping about 23 businesses raise money during this time when people are told to stay home.

“It is super important to support any of your local restaurants that you love because if you don’t, then it is very possible that they will not be reopened,” McKellar said. “It is a very real thing, so we are doing our best to just try and get by because we don’t know how much, if anything, by way of help is coming from the government. We can’t wait to rely on that either.”

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