EASW Project Aims To Help Area Small Businesses

EASW owners and staff attempt the recommended 6-foot social distancing while posing for a group photo. From left to right (back row): Molly Colford, Lynn Meredith, Brittanie Ferden, Beth Youngblom and Danielle Tramp; Left to right (front row): owners Jen Holst, Andy Holst.

A local screen printer is doing what he does best — selling T-shirts — to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the weekend, Yankton’s EASW (Embroidery & Screen Works) owners Andy and Jen Holst, added “#Here For Good 605” to their website. That part of the site sells T-shirts of local small businesses and splits the money with them.

Through the site, businesses that shut down or are cutting back because of COVID-19 social distancing policies implemented over the last couple of weeks have a chance to reach out to their customers and bring in some needed cash flow.

All a local business has to do is send EASW its logo, pick out some colors and share the link to its shirt on social media.

Followers of those businesses can order shirts for themselves or loved ones online and in the safety of their homes.

Since Monday, the page has brought more than $7,000 worth of orders.

The page currently features T-shirts for a growing number of local businesses, including EASW, Ben’s Brewing, Charlie’s Pizza, Riibe Outdoors, Backspace Brewing Co. and Bunyan’s Bar & Grill in Vermillion.

Wooden Legs Brewing Company of Brookings also has a shirt on the page.

Holst hopes to add small businesses from all over, he told the Press & Dakotan

“I came up with this slogan: ‘One small business helping many small businesses and communities, one T-shirt at a time, to unite America while we’re socially distanced,’” Holst said. “We’re just trying to make this thing go crazy, and it is.”

Other small businesses love the idea and are clamoring to get their shirt listed, he said.

“People just love it.,” Holst said. “Today, I had a business friend in Yankton say, ’My kids are basically quarantined in their houses across the country, and they’d love to have a T-shirt that reminds them of Yankton.’”

Two weeks ago, EASW was working at full capacity — but then it was as if a faucet was shut off, he said.

“We went from telling our staff that they were at 20 hours all last week, all of them — and they’re normally at 40 — and we were basically looking at paring down probably 25% of our staff this week,” Holst said. “Now, we’ve called them in and they’re all working 40 hours right now.”

The important thing is to raise as much money as possible for small businesses and communities, he said.

“We’re going to keep our people busy as long as we can,” Holst said. “As the other parts of the economy and the country shut down — which they’re going to — we’re going to be busy, and we’re going to facilitate these orders in a safe fashion. We are already talking about how that’s going to work.”

First and foremost, the Holsts and the staff are doing their utmost to ensure that working conditions are safe, he said.

“We’re making sure we’re running staggered work schedules and educating our team on the CDC guidelines and rules,” Holst said.

The “#Here For Good” movement was started by another screen printer, Sloane Coleman, in St. Louis, after the screen printing industry ground to a halt last week in the face of business closures across the country.

Last week marked the beginning of efforts across the U.S. to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that emerged from Wuhan, China, last year. South Dakota schools were closed, along with schools in every state, as well as government buildings and many businesses including bars, restaurants and others in the service industry that were not considered essential during a pandemic.

Small businesses started feeling the pinch almost immediately

Coleman posted the idea on an industry Facebook page last week, he said.

“We were strategizing over just coming up with some kind of witty T-shirt about toilet paper or whatever, and I just didn’t like that idea,” Holst said. “So when this idea percolated out of St. Louis, we jumped on it because I knew that we could get some hours for our employees, and if we can stimulate other small businesses by providing them cash, that’s a no-brainer. … It’s a win-win for the community.”

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