This week’s adventure is actually a profile of one my favorite conservationists, someone who is out there making change on a day-to-day basis. This installment is from T-shirt creator and conservationist, Duncan Carson Founder of Ban T-Shirts which are quickly becoming the thing to have for activists of all ages. I asked Duncan a few questions about how he got started and what he thought his ultimate goal was. Enjoy!
1. Explain a little about what you do and why. Give me a little background.
I have always loved T-shirts with cool and funny comments or designs on them. I used to blog about T-shirts that I liked but after I got laid off from my job I thought maybe I could start to create some of my own designs and make a business out of it. Politics is something that has interested me for a long time – well, maybe not so much the politics, per se, but the issues that affect all of us whether we recognise it or not – the state of the planet, pollution, extinction, conflict, human rights, and so on. To me those issues are what politics are about, and the politiciansm themselves are the ones that make people think that politics is all about in-fighting and party allegiances, the politicians themselves are often the ones that put people off getting involved. But I think they probably like it that way. They say they want democracy.. but not TOO MUCH democracy. Anyway, I decided to start making shirts that actually said something interesting and of worth rather than just being funny for the sake of being funny.
2. How did you get into the T-shirt business? And why the subject matter? Is there a personal story behind it?
I think I’ve kind of half answered this in question 1 (I started rambling!). As far as the subject matter is concerned I just do T-shirts on things that matter to me. They are sometimes about things that annoy me, such as Glen Beck, Fox News, the literal interpretation of the Bible and the lack of corporate accountability, and they are sometimes about things I just care about, such as our Mother Earth.
3. How has social media helped you become successful? For those entrepreneurs out there, what advice would you give them?
Social media has been a big help, especially Twitter. I think Twitter is a godsend for the little guy. With a little hard work you can start to get your business name and brand out there. I’m lucky in that I actually enjoy spending time on Twitter interacting with people and sharing ideas. If I had more time I would spend more time on it, but the other aspects of running a business (like creating new designs for shirts!) stop me from doing so.
As far as advice goes I would say take a little time to get to know your social media apps and take it slowly at first. Most of all you have to enjoy it, because if you don’t enjoy it, it’s going to show and it will be a waste of time. If you don’t like using Twitter, then try something else, maybe posterous or Facebook. Whatever floats your boat! I’ve actually found that posterous is pretty good. Posts seem to get a lot of views. Also, if you are going to spend time on Twitter (or any other social network) remember that it is a SOCIAL network. Look at it like you are in a room with a bunch of people – you wouldn’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, buy one of my shirts!”, it would be kind of rude! So just hang out with people, and let them find out what you do, and share stuff with them if they are interested. But don’t do a hard sell, it’s very off-putting!
4. Have you had other businesses either online or off before this one? Were they similar in nature?
No, this is the only one.
5. You are pretty outspoken politically. Do you find that it helps or hurts your business in any way?
I think it probably hurts it and helps it. It hurts in the sense that some people may like some things about the website or shirts (eg, they may like the look of the designs, or the fact that most are organic), but they might not be into the messages, they may want something a little more laid back or of a different political persuasion. But I think it helps in the sense that it’s fairly obvious that I’m only doing shirts about things that I believe in and care about, so there is a sense of authenticity there, that you don’t get with most businesses and products. Integrity is important to me and I wouldn’t be happy doing right-wing shirts, the whole exercise would lose value and validity.
6.What message do you think/hope it sends to young people who might buy and wear the shirts?
I want to bring messages and “issues” out of the ether, out of the TV, radio and internet, and bring them into the real world that you and I live in. These things are not just happening somewhere else, they are things that affect us day-to-day. You wear a Ban T-shirts tee and you’re showing other people that you’re not just passively accepting what is being beamed out to us from corporations and the government, you’re thinking about this stuff, you’re participating and you have your own angle on what’s going on.
7. Lastly, what is your ultimate goal in doing what you are doing? What do you hope to accomplish?
I just want to keep on making shirts that lambast those that need to be lambasted and support those causes that need to be supported. I’m not going to change the world – but then again, who is? I just do what I like and do my best to do it with integrity. I am a great believer in living according to your beliefs. It’s not always easy in this society, but I think we should try our best. I hope people feel inspired to get more active and demand more from the rich old men that are in power.