How we created a viral t-shirt to commemorate the times


I believe that when you lean into your community, your community leans back.

At My HOME Apparel, a Canadian-made and owned clothing and apparel brand, we are living this truth.

When news broke of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, I was on an island in the Philippines – physically close but far removed. Fast forward to March 10 when we landed at the airport. Aside from signage addressing travel to and from China, we received no instructions and went home.

Days later, my world flipped. I closed my shop doors following the first provincial announcement on March 13. Laying off my team and sending them home was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew I would be okay, but my team relies on these jobs, and it might be – could still be – the end of My HOME Apparel.

When Stephen McNeil urged Nova Scotians to “Stay the blazes home” it hit me right away. I was going to print that on a shirt. What did I have to lose?

My HOME Apparel is rooted in our community. We believe that everyone deserves the dignity of a safe resting space – a home. It’s hard to think about how many people can’t self-isolate; who aren’t ordering takeout in their sweatpants.

COVID-19 hit our province and we wanted to help. That’s how our “Stay the blazes home” shirt was born. We covered costs and wages, but 100 per cent of proceeds supported local response efforts – through Shelter Nova Scotia, Feed Nova Scotia and the QEII Foundation.

The Saturday we launched, I sat there refreshing the shopping cart. By Sunday morning, we had raised $50,000. Today, we’ve raised more than $120,000 – and it feels amazing.

I knew by investing in the largest hospital in our region – the QEII Health Sciences Centre – we would help the most critically ill people and help purchase vital technology. We would support the centre with the resources to help hospitals across Nova Scotia.

Sales came to a grinding halt at the beginning of the pandemic. People weren’t buying clothes. They were stock piling toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

When we launched the t-shirt, it took off – from my hometown, to shipments across Canada, to Finland, the Middle East, Croatia, South Africa and Australia – you couldn’t even imagine the countries we shipped to.

My guess was that we’d sell a couple hundred shirts. We sold thousands. And while we did not profit off the COVID-19 fundraiser – we saw sales of other items pick up as a byproduct.

It’s not always about financial donations. Often it’s just being the person to help organize things and start conversations – to stand up and say “this is needed and people need us.” It’s partnering with likeminded organizations that share your values.

I still don’t know what’s ahead for My HOME Apparel, or how we may be affected in the coming months, or years – by this shifting new world.

But my message remains constant: Lean into your community. See how they lean back.