We didn't intend to start an apparel company back in the winter of 2013, it just kinda happened that way. Originally founded as a local shopping app and failing quite miserably, we made the decision in 2014 to use the social media platform we created for our failed project and 100 t-shirts to raise funds and awareness for a local charity serving the kids of Kentucky. 100 shirts went online on a Friday morning at 10AM and to our surprise, they sold out within the hour and we donated 100% of the funds to the Toy Chest Children's Charity.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
After our first t-shirt, we made the decision to design a few more Kentucky themed wares and try and sell them online and travel around the state selling them at festivals and pop-up shops all while Joni was 7 months pregent with a 5 year older daughter by our side. We quickly found out in order to create the quality of the product we envisioned for our brand, we would need to control every facet of the process from manufacturing to shipping. So, for the next two years we traveled the state, grew a social media following, and saved every penny in order to build a production facility to produce and ship our wares worldwide. In 2018, we purchased a 15,000 sq. ft. warehouse in Lexington, Kentucky and spent three years renovating both the warehouse and our new permenant retail location, The Shop, all the while expanding our retail footprint into Bowling Green and Covington, Kentucky.
In March 2020, the unthinkable happened with the Covid-19 Epidemic. Because we knew supply shortages would come, we purchased thousands of shirts right away and crossed our fingers for the best! We had just opened two new retail stores in Bowling Green and Covington, Kentucky that were beginning to take root! We knew it would be bad, but had no clue how quickly things would turn. Within a few months, it became clear we could no longer operate the two new retail locations, so we closed those locations perminently and focused solely on e-commerce. The gamble to close those stores truly saved the company and kept the business afloat. We found solace in selling funny shirts about the pandemic and it resonated.
POST PANDEMIC WORLD
In the post pandemic era, we once again made the decision to redefine what we do as a company. Prior to the pandemic, we were beginning our journey to become the one stop shop for licensed collegiate apparel. Not just the big schools like UK and U of L, but also the smaller institutions across the state. So, in January 2022, we picked up where we left off seeking out licensing agreements from every school that would have us! Fast forward to fall 2022, and we are slowly releasing our first 11 licensed collegiate collections.
We just set out to try and make a small difference with what we had.
- Rick & Joni -
FINDING THE NEED
In 2017, after perfecting our printing and production processes, we now knew we were able to produce at a higher volume to create fund raising and awareness campaigns at a scale that would allow us to make a larger impact. Kentucky Strong™ was born. A charitable giving initiative that takes something as simple as a t-shirt to raise life changing funds for those in need. We knew that it would not be as impactful if we restricted our efforts to one particular campaign, so we made the decision to fill the need as they arise. Knowing our production capacity, we made a goal to raise $1 million for various life changing causes through Kentucky Strong™ campaigns by 2022.
In August 2017, the first need based fundraising effort arose through the landfall of Hurricane Harvey impacting the Houston, Texas area. We created our first Kentucky Strong™ tee with the 'God Bless Texas' fundraising campaign that raised over $80,000 for relief efforts. It was clear that Kentuckians truly cared and wanted to help and this gave a tangible way of not only supporting a cause financially, but also showing support through posting the tees on social media, and creating conversations around the need within our community.
REACHING THE GOAL
As the years went by, this amazing community has supported hurricane and tornado relief in Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and here home in Kentucky, a Kentucky officer shot in the line of duty, food insecurity, the Australian Wildfire relief, Covid-19 relief, Black lives matter, the community action fund for Harlen and surrounding counties coal miners, DanceBlue, and much, much more.
In December of 2021, tornaodoes tore through Western Kentucky leaving a trail of devistation and loss. In response, we created the 270 Kentucky Strong tee and Kentuckians came together to raise over $400,000 for the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund in just one week and marked Kentucky Strong™ raising over $1.1 million dollars for life changing causes in just over 4 years.