"We have a vision in creating My Happy Shirts to serve orphaned children. The My Happy brand not only promotes happiness through the what is on the shirt, but also through knowing your purchase can make a difference" - Eric, Chief Happy Guy & Orphan Advocate.
Eric Anderson is a positive guy. About 8 years ago, the CEO of Rhode Island business enviro-clean started thinking of ways to promote optimism and happiness simply, with a t-shirt to spread his message. The idea percolated for a few years, and then in 2009, when he and his wife Laura were in the process of adopting their daughter, they were introduced to the world’s orphan crisis. The number of orphans in the world is staggering – some estimates are greater than 200 million. Armed with this information and a desire to make a difference, Eric and his family began to shift their life purpose to one that promotes giving and spreading love.
The Anderson family decided to launch My Happy Shirts as a way to share their message. Initially, the idea was to donate half of the revenue of each shirt to orphan care programs. But the goal was to help their customers participate in the giving. So, in an effort to create something that reflects what it means to love your neighbor as yourself, they decided that for each shirt purchased, a t-shirt would also be given to an orphaned child. In addition, half of the revenue is used toward orphan ministries and programs – their “giving partners”. One of these partners, Bring Love In, whose mission is to create new families from widows and orphans in Ethiopia, will be visiting Providence on September 5th, hosted by the My Happy Shirts team at 745 Westminster St. at 6:30 pm.
In Spring 2011, Eric and Laura traveled to Ethiopia to meet their 6-month-old daughter and complete the adoption process. On that trip, they visited five orphanages and on the second trip they visited another four. This “giving” experience changed their lives forever. The shirts were a hit, and in some homes, they fulfilled a need for clothing. The Andersons experienced the conditions in those homes, which by American standards would be considered tragic. The children experienced the gifts of love and time, as well as clothing from strangers.
The company’s growth has been impressive. In the fall, My Happy Shirts brought on a business partner, Brandon Kunkel, who will be working primarily on creative. To date, they have given shirts away in Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Liberia, and Ecuador. Social media has proven to be an effective way of spreading the word - My Happy Shirts now has over 20,000 fans on Facebook. Recently, they’ve launched their “orange for orphans” bracelets; 100% of the proceeds are to orphan care programs.
“I love your shirts. It just so happens that my beautiful almost 1-year-old (adopted) daughter is known to me as "My Happy" (before I knew about your shirts). I couldn't believe it when I found you! I am planning on getting quite a few shirts!" – Erin Laughery Carson, Recent Customer
The enthusiasm and support from local businesses has been tremendous, with support from Bryant University, Leadership Rhode Island, SVPRI and Buy with Heart. My Happy Shirts has a co-branded offering, which creates a custom happy shirt and co-brands it with a company, club, non-profit, etc. It will display the “My Happy” mark. Some recent partners have been Bryant University, Leadership Rhode Island, World Play, Stick with Kids, and Johnny Lightning Race Club.
The fundraising component of My Happy Shirts is similar to the Girl Scout Cookie model for groups, and teaches kids about their social mission. Most fundraisers earn $5 per shirt. Eric also speaks at local high schools and other organizations, and says he would love to speak with PTAs, schools and clubs who are looking for new fundraiser ideas.
Local businesses wishing to offer goods or time are welcome, and Eric says they are always looking for advice, help and resources, as well as co-branding opportunities.
The My Happy Shirts Mission
"It's not about us, though our attitudes and actions will influence those around us. Optimism is a choice and we embrace it. We bring hope to orphaned children and strengthen those who provide direct care. We raise awareness about the worldwide orphan crisis. We work and love with passion and purpose, courage and love integrity and gratitude.
The fine print:
Give. Give randomly. Give generously. Give often. Find Courage & Be Courageous. Have Faith not fear. Share. Love. Create & Exude Energy. Energize others around you. Be Passionate whether it's work or play. Simplify. Be Kind. Always. There is no reason not to be and every reason to be. Even to those who make it difficult Make time to exercise. Make time to pray or meditate.
Listen. Be Humble. Speak only truths. Don't lie. Build trust. Build Loyalty. Laugh & make others laugh, but not at anyone else's expense. Be fair be just. Serve. Teach. Learn. Respect. Give. ForGIVE. Teamwork. Gratitude - always. Don't complain. Give hugs. Be authentic - for yourself and for others. Let go of regrets. Enjoy progress. Enjoy life. Enjoy people. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy your success. Embrace it all. Discover your purpose. Do it. Think, but don't over think. Make smart decisions and don't over analyze. Be thoughtful. Appreciate others for who they are. Appreciate your surroundings for what they are. Enjoy the sun. Live in the light."
Eric and Laura have just started the process to adopt again; this time they are headed to the democratic republic of Congo. Currently they have three children: 2 “bio-boys” – Caleb (8) and Sam (3), and their daughter Claire Tegegnech (almost 2).
For more information:
Visit www.MyHappyShirts.com to watch the video by WPRI’s Street Stories.
Eric Anderson can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org