Vail Valley entrepreneur wants people to ‘be good’
Vail, CO, Colorado
A bad couple of days for Kris Wittenberg just might start a pop-culture movement.
One day last spring, someone in the Vail Valley was rude – how, exactly, is long forgotten – to Wittenberg, the owner of SayNoMore! Promotions in Eagle. It was the last thing she needed during a hectic day.
“I came home and thought ‘Why can’t people be good to people?’,” Wittenberg said.
A marketing and promotions pro by trade and inclination, she immediately thought “Be good to people” might look good on a T-shirt. She did a little research, bought the begoodtopeople.com domain name and made sure the slogan wasn’t trademarked.
But SayNoMore! was taking up all her time, so she put the idea away.
As businesses cut back their orders for the pens, jackets and other promotional items that make up SayNoMore!’s trade, Wittenberg and her husband, Augie, also got involved in an unpleasant and protracted legal dispute. Wittenberg started thinking again – Why can’t people just be good to people?
The night before what was sure to be a heated meeting, Wittenberg got out some iron-on transfer paper, found a blank T-shirt and printed “Be good to people” on it.
The meeting went badly, but a handful of people asked, “where’d you get that T-shirt?”
As last summer rolled on, one of Wittenberg’s employees, Courtney Thomas started urging her boss to make the T-shirt. Augie started urging her on, too.
With SayNoMore! slowing down and with the encouragement of other friends and business associates, the Wittenbergs took the plunge.
The Web site isn’t up yet, and the company had its first formal outing last week at the Minturn Market, where about 70 shirts were sold.
“People seemed to totally get it,” Wittenberg said.
That seems to be the case with a lot of people.
Something to believe in
The idea of just being good to people got Jill Lipovsky out of her house and out to do some volunteer work for her friends.
Lipovsky was diagnosed with cancer last year while pregnant with her third child. Both are fine today, but Lipovsky said she was bowled over by the way friends, neighbors and others came together to help her last year, especially at a fund-raiser for the family.
“I thought maybe 30 people would come,” Lipovsky said. “It seemed like 500 people came out.”
Since then, Lipovsky has wanted to return some of the kindness and compassion she received last year. As soon as she saw the shirts, she knew where she wanted to put her efforts.
“This is brilliant,” she said. “It’s just what I want people to do.
Mitch Davis is a longtime client of the Wittenbergs. He heard about “Be good to people,” saw the shirts and immediately ordered $300 worth for the people in his office.
“It’s just a time when people are running around pretty tightly wound,” Davis said. “People aren’t doing good for others.”
Wearing the shirt, Davis said he’s more inclined to small kindnesses – it is, it seems, a little more difficult to give someone the finger when you’re wearing a shirt that discourages that sort of thing.
“You find yourself opening doors for people,” Davis said. “I’m more likely to let someone in line in front of me at the coffee shop. It really seems to have a cleansing effect.”
Wittenberg – who freely acknowledges she’s been known to aggravate people from time to time – calls them “magic shirts.”
And there are more than shirts. Using their credit cards – “I’ve never done that for a business,” she said – the Wittenbergs have put “Be good to people” on shirts, hats and items from water bottles to sticky notes and journals.
They also have big plans for whatever money they make. They’re putting 5 percent of the gross sales into a trust account. Once the Web site is up and running – including a place for people to tell stories big and small of people being good to people – the Wittenbergs will give grants to some of those people so they can continue their good works. Recipients will be profiled on the Web site.
The Wittenbergs know they’ve taken a pretty big gamble. But they’re confident they’re doing the right thing.
“We’ve been through our worst, rock-bottom moments in the last year,” Wittenberg said. “But since this started, I have less time, and less money, but I’m happier.
“Whether this blows up and gets huge or whether we just sell T-shirts at the Minturn Market, I know there’s nothing bad about this,” she added. “And you behave better when you wear it.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.
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