Check out the full shop at: wildfiretees.bigcartel.com
BC: Who is behind Wild Fire Tees? How did the shop get started?
WFT: After horrible wildfires in Texas last year, a Texas design company called AIRSHP designed t-shirts and sold them as a benefit for Texas wildfire relief. Austin Buck, co-owner of CoPilot Creative in Colorado Springs, remembered that idea as he returned home on Monday, June 25th to a state (and specifically, our city) on fire. Instead of feeling helpless to do anything, Austin pitched the idea to his CoPilot team — who immediately were committed to the cause. After that, he called up several designers, marketers and artists in Colorado Springs who are also friends — Chris + Jenny Schell of Design Rangers, Sara + Troy DeRose of Fixer Creative Co., Tucker of Magneti Marketing, Mathias Valdez and Inaiah Lujan at LastLeaf Printing in Pueblo, CO, and several other artists — with a question: Can we do this same thing and help our city? Everyone responded immediately with a resounding YES.
With plans to launch on Friday, June 29th, our group of co-founders began putting designs, the website, and the plan together, expecting to sell 200-300 shirts and hand-screen print them ourselves over several weekends. We reached out to designers and artists we know in Colorado Springs to request designs.
Then, on Tuesday evening, June 26th, a perfect storm of hot conditions, a blazing fire and 65 mph winds from thunderstorms united to send the fire over the ridge and raging down into the city. After days of watching smoke pour from behind the mountain, we all watched as orange flames erupt down the hill, followed by blankets of smoke, and 30,000 people evacuating out of the neighborhoods in and around the blaze.
We knew then that we needed to take action quickly. We launched the website at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, with our only goal being to raise more money collectively than we would be able to give individually.
BC: How have the people behind Wild Fire Tees been affected by the Colorado fires?
WFT: Thankfully none of our team members live in any of the affected zones. However, every single one of us have friends and clients who were evacuated, displaced, lost homes, lost businesses. Beyond that, we’ve watched as beloved neighborhoods, trails, businesses burned to the ground and our safety called into question. It’s not anything we take for granted or will ever forget. One of our designs was created by an evacuee, who found out this weekend that his home is safe.
BC: With such an important cause to motivate you to start raising money quickly, how did you spread word about your store?
WFT: To be honest, this should be a case study in the awesome power (for good, in this case) of social media. Having our respective businesses in Colorado Springs for years, we all have relationships and connections to people, so we got the word out to everyone we knew primarily through Facebook and our awesome website hosted through you (note: with the overwhelming volume, our website hasn’t crashed once. We heart BigCartel).
BC: Can you talk to us about the success you’ve had so far? How much money have you raised for the cause?
WFT: By the end of the first day, we had reached $50,000 in sales. We made a (lofty to us) goal of $100K in sales. We passed that last Thursday night. We just recently passed $400K. It’s humbling, inspiring, and amazing!
BC: Where will the money be going? How will it help those who have been displaced and affected by the fires?
WFT: 100% of our profits are going directly to wildfire relief. That means that the only money not going to those who have been affected by the wildfires in Colorado is the money we need to actually just produce the shirt — everything else is volunteered, donated, or underwritten. The profits from our 1st batch of shirts (we’re on a pre-order system) are divided evenly between the Colorado Red Cross and Care and Share Food Bank Colorado, with both organizations currently serving the immediate needs of wildfire evacuees and victims — food, shelter, relocation assistance, etc. The profits from our 2nd batch of shirts is going to the Colorado Wildfire Relief Fund 2012 with money available for immediate needs as they arise. We set up a fund with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation which will disperse the funds to these organizations and also notify us when there is an immediate relief need that we can meet.
BC: Anything else you want us to know about Wild Fire Tees and what you are doing?
WFT: Our goal is to give as much money as possible. We have a current feature that allows people to buy a shirt for a firefighter, and we’ll start delivering those to the brave men and women who continue to fight the fires in our state. We’ll be launching kids tees soon, and a new batch of awesome shirts after that.
Victims of tragedies are often the victim of short attention spans — the cameras chase other news, and people forget the very real problems that exist after the tragedy. In our case, hundreds of people have lost their homes across the state and need to rebuild, businesses in the affected areas are in danger of closing, tourism is down, and our beautiful landscape is scarred. We need to rebuild, and we need to have the funds there to help people do that.
We hope there isn’t a need for a drive like this in the future, but we are making plans for the future and how we can keep the spirit of Wild Fire Tees — spreading love like wildfire — around to be able to serve people in the future through the Wild Fire Tees non-profit and the Wildfire Fund we’ve established.