What was first developed as a means to help raise some extra money for a church project or a mission trip is quickly becoming something even more impactful.
Fund the Nations/52 Threads is a design company for T-shirts, based in Southaven. Close to 20 people, led by Bubba Crowder, a former church staff member turned business owner, together work on designs for fundraising T-shirts that are then sold by their clients to raise money to finance their special project or mission trip.
The fundraising arm of the company works under the Fund the Nations banner, but today, 52 Threads has appeared on the scene and is growing its own brand as a means for businesses, athletic teams and others to have shirts designed for their needs.
Crowder said the concept came to him while on staff at Trinity Baptist Church in Southaven.
“I had this idea to help people raise money for mission trips by designing them shirts that they could sell,” Crowder said. “I started with one friend, whose dad was a missions pastor who was going to Malawi that summer, did some shirts for them and had our first order. I started passing the idea on to some friends of mine in college, seminary and adults, and helped raised $8,000 that first year, which I thought was fantastic.”
From there, Crowder said similar efforts were done for people with adoptions, nonprofits and other groups needing a specially-designed shirt for them.
Crowder has a global map at the Southaven home base of operations that has tagged every country a Fund the Nations-designed shirt has impacted. To date, that map has more than 150 pins on it.
“To date, we have helped raise about $9 million in close to 10 years, which will be this coming February,” Crowder said. “We have 19 full-time staff and most of those live here in DeSoto County. Some of them work from home in other states, but 16 of our 19 live here in DeSoto County.”
As Fund the Nations is a design company all done on computer, staffers can work from the office or from home, basically anywhere they have an internet connection.
“There is no set space, they just come in and work wherever they want, or they can work from home,” Crowder said. “It just really depends on what you are in the mood to do. Some people work here for half the day and then work the rest from home, there's kind of an open working environment.”
After the shirt is designed, the client sees and approves the concept, places and then pays for the order. From there, the shirts are printed and the client gets the finished product. Crowder said the client determines the final selling price, but the number of shirts done is dependent only on the amount needed by the client.
While Fund the Nations works with nonprofits, Crowder points out it is not a non-profit enterprise.
“We are creating a product for them to sell to their friends, family, co-workers, church, social media, any circle of influence that they have,” Crowder said. “It's like Girl Scout cookies, but with T-shirts. They're showing them a picture of a T-shirt, here is what they are going to look like, this is what I am doing with the money, and then I'm going to collect all of the orders and place it at one time. You're guaranteed to make money because you don't actually have to order the shirts until they've already been sold.”
All the ordering can be done through the firm’s website, fundthenations.com.
With the success of Fund the Nations, Crowder has now started the 52 Threads arm to handle requests from people needing shirts, but not for mission or non-profit purposes.
“Last year, we launched something called 52 Threads,” Crowder said. “We have had for years people who wanted to use us for baseball team shirts, church shirts, business shirts, and we always said yes. There's no separate staff members, it's just a separate website and a separate marketing avenue.”
Crowder said 52 Threads is promoted more locally now and Fund the Nations has more of a global focus.
“The fundraising clients may only come to you once ever,” Crowder noted. “The more consistent customers we can get through the 52 Threads side, the better financial base it can give us to operate. The bills get paid more by the 52 Threads side and the Fund the Nations side is more or less us being able to help people.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.