Helping Small Businesses, One T-Shirt At A Time

Bryan Goltzman and Benji Bearman, the owners of Liquid Screen Design, have three main areas that they work in when it comes to creating swag: Education, recreation, and non-profit organizations. As the effect of the coronavirus on business became clear, they soon realized that things were starting to dry up – and fast.

“We had 99 percent of our orders on hold or canceled, and it happened at the busiest time of the year,” said Goltzman.

The company, which has dozens of camps, youth sports organizations and Chicago’s Adler Planetarium among its clients, started planning in mid-March for various scenarios: The most optimistic, where everything would blow over and camps run for the latter half of the summer; the baseline scenario, where there are no camps, and in fall things come back to normal, including schools; and the worst case, which Goltzman called the “Zombie Apocolypse”: summer and fall activities are off, no one orders anything, and we’re in lockdown for the foreseeable future.

Part of their plans was what would happen if businesses weren’t ordering.

“Every small business is hurting,” Goltzman said. “We work with Butter Café, Yoni Reinharz at Pimento Kitchen, they are really hurting. Every small business is. You realize there are hundreds of small businesses that need something.”

Keeping in line with what they do in the best of times, they set up an online store: The Save Small Business Store. They offered solid color shirts, one-color printing of a logo, for $20 each. For every shirt sold, the small business got $10. They’ve helped small businesses raise more than $30,000.

“Our people jumped on it and knew of other businesses,” Goltzman said. “People kept coming in and it opened up whole new markets for us that we had no connection to. Fishing is a huge industry in Wisconsin, we got connected to one and now we have all these fishing-related companies.

“What ended up happening is that someone buys a shirt from a company we know, and then another completely random shirt because they liked the logo. There’s no way someone knows Eagle River, Wisc. and Padoca Bakery (on the Upper West Side) in New York.”

Sarah Routman, whose laughter yoga business Laugh Healthy is in the store now, appreciates that Goltzman and Bearman are looking out for small businesses, even as their own business was taking a hit.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” she said. “Here’s someone doing something like this when everyone’s businesses are hurting. When push comes to shove, who are you going to remember? Those who treated you well.”

Liquid Screen Design is finishing up its second iteration of the store on July 6, with limited selections of shirts still available.

“It’s something we can do that wasn’t going to cost us anything because shirts are made to order, and make it’ll make a difference to people we care about,” Goltzman said. “[Our business] is very much relationship-based and not about the product. We knew our friends were hurting and we wanted to get them something. Natural goodwill is what we wanted to build.”