Small businesses work together to survive the pandemic through a t-shirt fundraiser

CHICAGO -- After COVID-19 shut down thousands of businesses, including Barrel Maker Printing, owner Justin Moore pulled together 18 Chicago-area businesses to start a fundraiser.

They made t-shirt designs for each business, publicized them, and then sold them and over three weeks.

They raised more that $71,000 to evenly split between the companies.

"We were thinking of ways to keep business moving along with all the events that got canceled," Moore said. "It just made sense to pool together companies and help give us work to do and also give them a little bit of income as well."

The fundraiser was so successful, Moore decided to do it again with 15 different small businesses, joining forces with VSA Partners to help with design and PR.

"Everybody wears t-shirts and we knew how to design for them. Having that to be a tangible thing to create a financial boost for these companies just seemed like a direct connection for our design teams," said Samuel Christian, associate creative director at VSA Partners.

Moore said he wants to make sure the small businesses he loves survive because they help make Chicago the city that it is. Other small business owners agree.

"Chicago has this sort of 'won't give up' attitude and it's something we're proud to be a part of," Co-Op Sauce owner Mike Bancroft said. "We just need to make sure that we come out of this in a way that doesn't homogenize the city."

"At the end of this if small businesses aren't highlighted, there won't be any left," Bru Coffeeworks owner Cory Creighton added.

The t-shirt fundraiser ends May 30th.

To order a shirt visit Barrel Maker's website.