Our "worst" business decision ever

November 01, 2021


They’ve started again. Target has a Snoopy shirt that shows the beagle holding a box, proclaiming “OKAY, BUT FIRST PRESENTS.” Another has a cute sloth on it and reads, “Hangin’ around for the presents.” It's for girls, so of course it's glittery and pink.

No peace, joy, or goodwill to other humans to be found; just the naked greed of ripping into presents under the tree. But coming from big box stores where humans are actually wounded and injured trying to obtain coveted Black Friday doorbusters, maybe that's fitting.

Oh, the holiday shirts are coming. Boys get "Naughty," and “Dear Santa, I can explain.” As if bragging about bad behavior is cute, and aw shucks, boys will be boys, and bad behavior is an essential part of boyhood. These shirts never seem to have girl versions, either, reserving their troublemaking / Santa-explaining for boys only. 

There’s the “Dear Santa: Leave Presents, Take Sister” shirt at Walmart, and the Old Navy shirt featuring a grouchy Grinch grumpily proclaiming “Merry whatever."

Three years ago we looked around at this and we knew we could do better at embodying the joy of the season in graphic tee form. We knew it.

But here's the problem: for a company of our size to sell even one holiday tee was an uphill battle. You get maybe a month and a half to market and sell the thing, and then poof! The season is over. Hope you made your money back.  Here at Free to Be Kids it usually takes us several weeks just to get the word out about any new design, so time was not on our side. When you're little, this strategy is a straight up terrible idea.

Plus, we knew we wanted to create a Hanukkah design to stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters after the past few flagrantly anti-Semitic years. But only 2.2% of Americans are Jewish. That meant only one in 50 people who would ever see our Hanukkah shirt would potentially consider buying it. Even if we had a year to market it, this was an objectively awful business decision. Try pitching that  to a VP at Wal-mart.

Drew and Ayana wear "Keep Shining," available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 4XL.

But here's the awesome thing about running your own tiny business: you get to make questionable business decisions and do things from the heart if you want to. You get to sidestep debates about shareholder value and put your own values into action. So we took a risk. We went full throttle on launching a holiday collection. It felt important, and we did it with gusto. We released three positive Christmas-y tees, plus one super happy Hanukkah design, and one all-the-holidays mashup design.

Liv wears "Holly Jolly", available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m to Adult 4XL.

This was objectively a bad business move. We knew this. But we loved each design dearly and really couldn't have been prouder.

Because we all need a little more love in the world -- especially around the holidays. And putting a little more love into the world, one t-shirt at a time, is what Free To Be Kids is all about. We think it’s time to kick negative clothes to the curb and choose something more gentle, more kind, more in tune with peace and love, with harmony towards our fellow humans. It’s what we want to teach our kids, after all.

Ayana wears "Whatever You Celebrate, Have A Happy One," available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 3XL.

And you know what? Against all odds, and even against our own expectations, it worked. Our terrible business decision worked. People dug the shirts, and even the Hanukkah one sold well! Because the customers who did find it were so excited that they got the word out and their friends came and bought it. Was it a bestseller? No. Was it worth it? I mean, it probably wouldn't have been worth it to a bigger retailer. But to us? One hundred percent.

Tavis wears "Very Merry", available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 3XL.

The other shirts were embraced and loved too, purchased and worn, even featured in people's holiday card photos. Our hearts burst open every time an order came in, and our customers were super enthusiastic about the good vibes. We had a blast printing and packing our happy holiday shirts.

Canon wears "Wake Me When It's Christmas," available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 3XL.

The holiday season is a time for giving, not greed. The holidays are about sweetness and love, not presents. We want goodness and joy, not cutesy naughtiness that isn’t actually cute at all. We need more love in this world. We need more helping hands, more happiness, more merry and bright. And it was pretty awesome to see that we weren't the only ones who felt this way.

We need to keep shining. And we need to teach our kids that, like the shamash candle that lights the other eight candles on the menorah, when we give our light to others, we are not diminished by it. Our own light doesn't dim at all. 

Teagan wears "I Think Your Holiday Is Awesome" available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 3XL.

Fast forward three years and we're still here, still all in on holiday shirts. In fact, we're in even further over our heads! We have all the original shirts we launched two years ago, plus two new multi-denominational tees highlighting even more holidays, and even a Yule/Solstice shirt for our pagan/Wiccan customers! Yes, we found an even smaller sliver of society to design a shirt for -- about .4% of the population, according to Pew Research. But this shirt means an awful lot to that .4%, and that means an awful lot to us.

Teagan wears "Yule Rules," available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 4XL.

So here’s to a holiday season of peace and joy. Here’s to a holiday season of love and gentleness -- no matter how your family chooses to celebrate.  

Jonah wears "Whatever Your Reason, Celebrate the Season" available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 4XL.

Oh, and I nearly forgot - here's to a season of baking delicious holiday treats, because yes, we made shirts (and aprons) for that too! What can I say... we can't stop ourselves. 

Gingerbread Baker shirts are available in our Holiday Shop in sizes 3-6m through adult 4XL.


New to Free to Be Kids

We design and create baby and kids clothes with positive messages and nary a gender cliche in sight. We believe clothes send a message, and our mission is to spread positive messages one fashion statement at a time.

Visit our Holiday Store >









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