February 02, 2018 / UNLEASH THE POWER OF JOY
February 02, 2018
Five days after the launch of their business, Colleen Berkowitz received a text from Colleen Stine, “I can’t believe I’m saying this. My sister was just killed. I’ll talk to you soon.”
The two women still had never met. They wouldn’t for another two months.
Berkowitz and Stine met online through Stine’s Etsy shop. They shared the same name. They had babies on the same day. They became texting friends, bonding over a shared exasperation about sassy messages on kids’ shirts. So, they decided to counterprogram with an online business, Mama Said Tees, and a brand built on spreading a message of kindness.
Their first shirts, sized for kids, were “Kind is the new cool” and “Love one another”.
Stine’s sister, Shannon O’Malia Hall was shot and killed by her estranged husband in July 2014. After killing her, he shot himself. Their sons, then 8 and 10, were in the next room. Colleen Stine moved back to her hometown and adopted her sister’s boys, whom she is raising along with her three children.
When she texted the business partner she had never met with the tragic news, Stine’s next text was,
“Keep it alive”.
“We went from not knowing what we were doing to trying it out while dealing with this heartache,” explains Berkowitz. “We were trying to stay afloat while trying to keep Colleen afloat.”
Over the past three years, Mama Said Tees and its message of kindness and tolerance has continued to grow. A campaign to redefine normal pushes back on stereotypes and discrimination with the message “Everybody is different. Different is normal.” Their Human line of t-shirts recognizes that despite a world of differences, we all are human.
“Our little company was started for a reason much bigger than we first thought,” says Stine. “Shannon’s passion was the match that lit a fire in us. I’ll never stop trying to honor my sister. It’s a way to help her live on and keep teaching. The bigger it gets, the more passionate we become about making the world a better place.”
Shannon was the first to ask for an adult-sized shirt from Mama Said Tees. Her sister remembers that she lived in comfy things. The soft, comfortable Mama Said t-shirts are a nod to her.
Colleen Stine is a non-teacher in a family of teachers. She acknowledges that there was a time when she knew her family believed she had more to give the world. With her little company and big heart, she now gives more than she first imagined.
“We definitely underestimated what this would be. I honestly thought it would be a fun way to do my little part. It would entertain me, and do some good in the world. It would allow me to be who my parents wanted me to be,” says Stine. “But now, there’s so much responsibility for thousands of people. It is a much greater purpose. The number of people who feel comfortable sharing their lives and stories with us makes every bad day feel wonderful. So many of our followers feel like family.”
And all of those followers, say Berkowitz and Stine, are a part of helping them spread a message of kindness.
“We want you to put that shirt on your kid and be open to the conversation when someone asks about it on the playground,” Stine notes. “Some people, even some celebrities, just have t-shirts for their kids. What we want is to have a conversation with everyone else. We’re just two moms who want the best for their kids. We’re trying to really change viewpoints and get people to go out and do something. We want people to see that you can be better than yourself and go above and beyond. These things can change someone’s day.”
“Kindness is trending now,” says Berkowitz, “but when we started, none of this was out there. We chose to spread the message that we wanted. We want our t-shirts to spark the conversation and to start the change for people to live in a way that the message reminds you.”
While their company has grown quickly over the past three years, it is that message that matters most to Colleen and Colleen.
“Our company is more than just what we sell,”
Berkowitz explains. “We are trying to make a difference.”
Launched in a moment of unspeakable sorrow, Mama Said Tees is doggedly upbeat. Says co-founder, Colleen Berkowitz, “If you want more kindness in the world, put it there.”
Shop Mama Said Tees.
Read more from Lori.
From a passionate idea to a funded company. https://t.co/l5tBNw3QH7