They may get some financial support out of it but the sense of camaraderie is what’s important.Sonja Scott
RINCON — Sonja Scott’s mind is a geyser of ideas. The latest one to gush from her creative brain has been a boon for small businesses in Effingham County.
Teach Right! owner Marian Hodge couldn’t have described it better.
“It was a godsend,” she said Thursday. “It was something we needed.”
Many small businesses in Effingham County and across the country are hurting financially because customer traffic has slowed to a crawl or stop because of social distancing restrictions initiated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scott suggested that local business owners could make up some of the shortfall by selling T-shirts emblazoned with “Effingham Strong.”
“I was sitting there listening to ‘Savannah Strong’ (on television) and thought, ‘We could do that and maybe take it to another level,” Scott said. “... I wondered who would catch the ball if I came up with the idea.”
Scott presented her idea to Tim Polk and Brittany Trull of Peachy Tees in Springfield. A sizeable portion of their business, the printing of youth sports jerseys, has stopped because of the pandemic.
“They are people with great compassion,” Scott said. “I can tell that.”
She continued, “The goal was ultra low-level pricing so that small businesses can do a little markup and kind of make their rent,” Scott explained. “Brittany said, ‘You know what? Yeah. My dad and I just got through having the same conversation twenty minutes ago.”
Within 24 hours, Trull developed a design for the shirts, which are gray and feature black letters and an outline of familiar Effingham County landmarks.
“We spoke on Monday,” Scott said. “Tuesday at noon, we had a design. By that Friday (March 27), we had sold more than five hundred shirts.
“That’s a God thing. I’m crazy enough to call people and ask them to do crazy things. That’s kind of my (modus operandi).”
Scott and her husband, Roger, have owned multiple small businesses. She is well aware of the challenges they face.
“We get it as entrepreneurs, small business owners,” she said. “It’s tough. If you can’t find a way to make it over the hump, it’s not a pleasant thing. It can be disheartening.
“Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. You have to be passionate and extremely resilient.”
Scott has promoted the T-shirts, which cost $12 plus tax ($13 for XXL), via Facebook, television and the newspaper. She conduced a media event at The Local on Laurel, whose owner, James Carlson, is a supporter of the project.
The T-shirts are available at Peachy Tees, Teach Right!, Effingham Navigators, JoAnn’s Florist, Largesse Boutique, Rincon Day Spa, Sassy Southern LLC, Wileys Home Center, Scott and Sons Trucking, RACK of Georgia LLC, Paddles Coffee, MooMcGinn’s Magic Creamery and Rincon CBD Store.
More than 700 shirts had been sold as of Friday.
“They are a blessing,” Hodge said. “When I found out they were open to us (to sell), I jumped on right on it.”
Hodge initially ordered only 60 T-shirts. She has sold at least 200.
“(Sales) have been a pleasant surprise,” she said.
Scott said the T-shirt project is headed toward a second phase.
“We want to do one for houses of faith,” she said. “We may call it ‘Faith Strong’ or ‘Prayer Strong.’ We realize the grieving that is in small businesses is also in the houses of faith.
“We know that the schools are dealing with the same thing. These little campaigns are about, ‘Does anybody get what I am going through?’ They may get some financial support out of it but the sense of camaraderie is what’s important.’”