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10 Wonderful and Inspiring things that Happened in 2016

2016 has been a rough year by most standards. There’s war, attacks of all kinds, social and political turmoil and lots of people would like nothing more than to put it bed. These issues are impactful and not to be taken lightly but there are a lot of positive stories too. We’d like to end this year by featuring some inspiring events, stories, and reports that have taken place recently and sincerely wish everyone a Happy 2017!

Teenage Felons Experience Act of Kindness from Opposing Team Players

In Gainesville Texas a group of teenagers that typically never have anyone cheering for their side got a heartwarming surprise thanks to the wishes of a few members of the opposing team. The Gainesville Tornadoes aren’t used to having cheerleaders, cheering fans, or any of the usual bolstering that is typical of high school basketball games. That’s because the Gainesville Tornadoes are not made up of your typical high school athletes. They are actually felons who get to participate on the basketball team as a reward for good behavior.

None of the details of their crimes are revealed in this story but given their age, we’ll give them some latitude and accept they are paying their debt to society. That’s what a couple of the students from The Vanguard, a private school that was hosting the Tornadoes did. The students asked some of their fan base to cheer for the opposing team. The reaction from the players for the Tornadoes is priceless. The encouragement and acceptance they received from total strangers will leave a positive mark on them for years to come.

EnChroma glasses leave Dad blown away by the color of the eyes of his children

Most people take the gift of seeing the world in color for granted but when this father of three sees color for the first time, his emotional response is touching. You can see how he’s overcome almost immediately after the putting the glasses on. Color blindness impacts roughly 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. EnChroma glasses cut out sharp wavelengths of light to enhance the specific colors of red and green also impacting purple and orange.

Women gets Cochlear Implant and hears her boyfriend for the first time as he proposes

We don’t know the back story of this sweet video but this woman gets a Cochlear Implant that restores her hearing. Cochlear implants work differently than traditional hearing aids which amplify noise. The implant bypasses the damaged part of the ear. Although the nature of the hearing is different, recipients are able to understand speech in person and over the phone. The first words her boyfriend utters to her is a proposal of marriage so not only is she extremely happy about gaining a sense, she is beseeched by her best friend to spend the rest of their lives together.

Man is able to move paralyzed limbs with brain chip implant

During a diving accident in his teens, Ian Burkhart was permanently paralyzed. This year he was the recipient of a brain chip implant that connects to electrodes in his hands, he’s able to will movement in his hands for the first time in five years, completely bypassing his damaged spinal cord. The seemingly miraculous technology differs from other technology recently developed to help paralyzed people in that it’s not a detached prosthetic. The implant is not overtly invasive and the electronic sleeve is paper thin. The technology is also a smart technology in that it’s part of machine learning continuously improving with interactions. Currently the technology is only available in the lab but a wireless model is being worked on.

The hole in the ozone layer of our atmosphere is slowly on the mend

During the 1980’s, our use of chlorine containing chemical compounds like the kind used in aerosol sprays caused a horrifically scary problem, a hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic. The chlorine in our atmosphere destroyed ozone because of a reaction with natural conditions. Without the ozone layer we would be exposed to deadly ultraviolet rays. The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty drafted to eliminate the use of these chemicals and levels have been on the decline resulting in 4,000,000 kilometer shrinkage of the ozone hole. That’s wonderful news for everyone!

Free dental care for veterans

Veterans around the country were offered a day of free dental care compliments of Aspen Dental. More than 300 offices across the nation opened their doors to provide much needed services to veterans that would not normally be able to afford this type of care.

Kids meditate rather than get detention

A school in Baltimore decided instead of punishing bad behavior with detention, children that were disruptive would instead be sent to the meditation room. The school’s students start each morning with breathing exercises. Baltimore is one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. and many of these children experience a lot of negativity in their home life. Instead of punishing, they teach them breathing exercises to control their impulses and reactionary behavior. Since implementing the program the school has reported far less behavioral issues within the student body.

National database created to make sure hungry people get the food they need

A young woman that has spent most of her life involved with charitable food pantries worked with a programmer to develop a nationwide database that helps disperse excess food donations. Organizations sign up to identify who they are, what they need, and how far they are willing to travel to pick up the charitable donation. Restaurants, grocery stores, and food pantries no longer have to throw away excess food. If the need is there and the donation matches what’s needed, users receive and alert. 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger and the development of the Means database is a step towards solving this problem.

Canadian city starts program for recycling textiles including old t-shirts
recycling old clothes

In Canada, one city has tackled the issue of textile garbage in a big way. The government officials of Markham have been all about the sustainable life for decades but what they found out about one recyclable material was disturbing. Only 15% off discarded clothing was being recycled, mainly because people only donated their nicest discards, the rest went in the trash because there wasn’t an understanding of additional ways to recycle textiles. Garments can be repurposed in a variety of ways including industrial. Carpet padding, home insulation, landscaping fabrics and even diapers can be created from recycled textiles. The city now has textile recycle receptacles all over the city.

Brewery creates edible six pack ring material

Saltwater Brewery in Florida invented a revolutionary idea. Edible six pack rings that actually feed marine life instead of endangering it. Marine biologist have warned about the deadly impact of plastic on marine life and even though a lot of people now cut plastic rings, fish still ingest pieces. Not to mention the impact on the environment when plastic deteriorates. The owners of the brewery partnered with engineers from Entelequia, Inc. to create the first biodegradable and edible packaging in the beer industry. The material is made from barley and wheat rivets, natural discards from the brewing process.

Make Your Own Ugly Sweater for Cheap

Ugly Sweater parties are a cultural phenomenon. Gaining popularity and notoriety as far back as 2001, the trend seems to have originated in Canada. Of course Canadians probably have more access to sweaters so they can plan out their ugly sweater well in advance of actually being invited to an Ugly Sweater Party.

Since the trend has been around for some time, most of the truly ironic ugly Christmas sweaters have been snatched up from thrift stores. Even undecorated sweaters that are generally ugly have probably already been appropriated by hipsters.

ugly sweater work party

Before you give up and buy your ugly sweater from an ugly sweater website where you’ll run the risk of someone else showing up in the exact same sweater, make your own ugly sweater for cheap! Starting with a strong foundational garment is important. To stay on the cheap side, start by scouring your local thrift shops, swap meets, and flea markets. Discount and bargain bin stores are an option too but you’ll be paying more for an item that will likely only be worn once.

ugly sweater that's too small

Christmas holiday colors are important so green, red, and white are the best. If none can be found maroon, black, or blue can be alternative choices. Basically think of traditional Christmas decoration colors.

The sweater needs to be relatively thick to support the decorations you’ll be adding so avoid very thin or open mesh. It’s great if you can find one that is oversized to load up on the ugliness, however, a sweater that is undersized offers it’s very own humor even before the hot glue gun touches it. Any sweater that has sparkle or shimmer can be an amazing base to start with too even if you’re a guy.

While you’re looking for your foundation, keep an eye out small Christmas decorations that can be used for your masterpiece. Evaluate things creatively. For example, an old tree skirt with Christmas characters like reindeers and snowman can be cut up and applied like applique. Tinsel will be your friend, but don’t discount other materials like tulle, felt, even cotton balls.

hand decorated ugly sweater

The most vital tools you’ll need are a hot glue gun and scissors to get your party started. A hot glue gun opens up tons of possibilities including gluing Christmas candy and other not so obvious ornaments like bottle caps, balloons, live pine tree branches, and laser printed images directly onto the sweater.

felt santa ugly sweater

Dollar stores are pretty much available nationwide and if you’ve never been inside of one, they are treasure trove for ugly Christmas sweater material. Cheap is good in the case of the ugly Christmas sweater! Consider what can be done with plastic strings of beads and a bag of bows.

Create a theme with your ugly Christmas sweater. Holiday movies like the Nightmare before Christmas, A Christmas Story, The Grinch, Elf, and Home Alone all have elements that would be relatively easy to construct with felt and magic markers without the hefty price tag you will have to pay for professionally printed licensed material.

If you’re lucky enough to find a sweater with a character on it, try to incorporate the character into the Christmas theme by fashioning a Santa or elf cap for it.

ugly sweater with character

Drawing with hot glue and quickly sprinkling glitter can create impressive effects with very little effort and that much glitter will leave a trail of Christmas cheer wherever you go.

Lastly don’t forget that accessories can add a lot of detail to your outfit. Look for Santa’s hats, elf hats, festive mittens, silly scarves, and jingle bells to round out your entire ugly sweater outfit.

Custom Apparel Marketing Tips from the Queen of England

Being in the public spotlight for all of her life, the Queen of England must measure her words very carefully as she not only represents herself, and her family, but also her kingdom as a whole. Even if the concept of monarchy is literally foreign to Americans, we can look at some of her inspirational quotes and extricate pearls of wisdom which can be applied to an overarching custom apparel marketing strategy.

As the longest reigning monarch in British history, she has realized the importance of adapting to a modern world to embrace new generations. Due to her longevity and illustrious family line, she has seen many markers of what makes a person great:

“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.“

Queen's coronation

In most cases, you’ll be working with many others to market your custom apparel line. Understanding how to best utilize the resources others offer will be critical to your marketing success. You may have a strong vision when it comes to your brand but taking advantage of others specialization, experience, and objective observations can be a source of strength. Strong leaders listen to other people and learn. When people feel their opinion is valued, it builds loyalty which fosters free exchange of ideas. Nothing turns people into creative misers more quickly than when their ideas are routinely ignored.

Segueing from this insight:

“Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom.”

Queen posing with Prince

Being opinionated and self-assured are hallmarks of people that command attention which is certainly valuable when marketing, however, keeping an open mind and ear to what your target audience is interested in is the path to success. Even if you’re in love with your latest design, if social reactions and sales are underwhelming, there’s a problem. It could be the apparel product you picked, or perhaps the color combinations. Test out different variations of the design, product, and color combinations. If it still falls flat, keep going, but in another direction. Understanding demand economics as your audience defines it will also help you price your work appropriately.

Expect to work hard at marketing your custom apparel.

“Work is the rent you pay for the room you occupy on earth.”

There is certainly something to be said about being in the right place at the right time, some successful ideas and businesses seem to have everything going for them as if the universe is magically on their side. That’s not most of us though.

Marketing can be fun, especially when you’re stretching your creativity and getting positive feedback, but the reality is there will be plenty of times when you lose your motivation. When you hit a wall, take a break, look at other successful people.

Queen behind sofa

“There are long periods when life seems a small, dull round, a petty business with no point, and then suddenly we are caught up in some great event which gives us a glimpse of the solid and durable foundations of our existence.”

Don’t feel like you only have to emulate other successful ideas in custom apparel. There is inspiration in all types of industries that you can apply to your own work. The trick is applying their successes in manner that will fit your business goals.

Queen's sketch

“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.”

Keep going. Marketing success is brought about by consistency. It may make for some long nights and working weekends. Pay attention to when your customers are online looking at social feeds. There are at the very least, rudimentary analytics available for almost every social channel. If you get the most reaction in the morning, then post in the morning, etc. Look at days of the week, too and save your best material for the highest chance of engagement.

Reward people that consistently support you on social channels. As the Internet and social channels become more competitive, brand cheerleaders get more scarce, so if you notice a particular person that loves what you do and shows it, consider giving them a free sample or at the very least a public thank you.

Queen with flower

“It's all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you're properly trained.”

Marketing your custom apparel on one or two channels isn’t enough. The reason being is it leaves you vulnerable. If you build your presence only on Facebook or only on Instagram, and that channel declines in use or something happens and you’re no longer able to use that channel, you’re sunk. Learn from marketing pros by subscribing and reading blog, articles, white papers, and attending seminars.

“We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep.”

Queen's formal portrait

Although digital marketing is an extremely important means of reaching your audience, work on building your local audience too. You are less likely to lose your entire customer base should a new search engine or social algorithm come out and this happens all the time.

If you’re lucky enough to have a brick and mortar place of business, focus on building out your Yelp and Google My Business page with pictures and well-crafted service and product descriptions. Check these often to make sure you respond to inquiries. Use a contact email address that is monitored frequently and respond promptly to inquiries. Your response time really matters as its made public. If you take days to get back to someone and others can see that, they are less likely to make their own inquiry.

These channels are also a great way to generate reviews. Don’t be shy about asking satisfied customers to review you and respond to disgruntled customers in a professional way. If you’re not sure how your response will be perceived by the public that has no background information on the reason for the complaint, ask a trusted friend to evaluate your response before posting.

“I don’t like to badmouth people. But I’m the head of a monarchy that began in the ninth century, and I’m apparently more modern than Chris Christie. Look, I know he has to appeal to the crazy right-wingers in his party, but the fact is, he’s not as forward-thinking as an eighty-seven-year-old lady who wears a crown on her head. It’s pathetic.”

Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Keep your custom apparel marketing fresh and relevant. Even companies that have experienced amazing longevity like Sears, Coca-Cola, and Ralph Lauren have to keep up with the changing times and bend.

[Before each of numerous portrait sittings:] “Now then, with teeth or without?”

Queen's in yellow suit

Keep your sense of humor. Humor and music are languages that transcend all borders whether it’s geographical, age, backgrounds or genders. Even the most serious of entities have used humor to endear the public.

20 Unbelievable and Surprising facts on T-Shirts

T-shirts are the vehicle by which much information is shared. In the spirit of utilizing these mini billboards, here are 20 fun facts that will fascinate and surprise you printed on t-shirts of course!

Ten percent of all the photos ever taken were taken in the last 12 months

photo t-shirt

This seems hard to believe but if you take into account that we have more people alive on the Earth right now than at any point in the past along with the fact that more people have cell phones than toilets, it becomes more believable. Considering there are almost as many cell phone service subscriptions as people, to the tune of 6.8 billion, and most of these phones have cameras, it makes sense, especially in the era of the selfie.

Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn

scotland t-shirt

It’s really true. Historians believe that the unicorn was chosen by King Robert in the 1300’s likely because the unicorn was believed to be a natural enemy of the lion. Scotland’s arch enemy was England which had recently chosen the lion to represent themselves as a nation. The unicorn was also believed to be a ferocious animal, not the tender beast we associate with fairy tales in the modern era.

Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, minerals, water and vitamins

bee t-shirt

Honey is the only food humans eat that is produced by insects. Beyond producing delicious honey, bees pollinate 70 of the 100 crops that sustain 90% of the world’s population, so think twice before you swat at one. To make one pound of honey, bees have to visit 2 million flowers and the average person will eat one pound of honey per year. Imagine all the work that goes into its production and you’ll never think of honey the same again.

The Facebook Like button was originally planned to be named the Awesome button

facebook t-shirt

How different would life be if we all got excited about someone “awesoming” our post instead of “liking” it? Mark Zuckerberg was the biggest opponent of naming what is internationally known as seal of approval. We like his decision.

Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other at the same time

leonardo da vince t-shirt

He was ambidextrous which means he could perform tasks with both hands that most of us can only do with one because we’re accessing a specific part of our brain which is dominant to the task. It’s believed he practiced this to stimulate his mind for creative thinking. He also looked for patterns in the ashes of his fireplace, juggled, and kept his notes secret by writing backwards as if in a mirror.

Blue whale fart bubbles are large enough to enclose a horse

blue whale t-shirt

A typical horse is 6 feet in height and 8 feet in length. That being said, it’s not a wise idea to follow a blue whale in the ocean regardless of your size.

Frowning burns more calories than smiling

frowning t-shirt

It’s a well-loved and frequently quoted Internet adage that it takes 100 muscles to frown and only 10 to smile, so why would you waste precious energy with a sour face? Before you start extolling the benefits of weight loss, the calories burned would be miniscule and certainly not worth going through life looking like a grouch.

On Jupiter and Saturn it rains diamonds

raining diamonds

Scientists believe this could be the case because of the atmospheric makeup and conditions. Methane in the upper atmosphere is turned to graphite by lightning storms which then are turned into diamonds as the pressure increases as it falls through the atmosphere. As the diamonds continue to fall the pressure is so tremendous, it’s likely the diamonds liquefy when reaching interior depths. Booh!

The largest snowflake ever recorded reportedly measured 15 inches across

snowflake t-shirt

Reported by soldiers stationed at Fort Keogh in the U.S. state of Montana, the snowflakes were part of a winter storm system that took place on January 28th 1887. Apparently freakishly large snowflakes can occur under specific conditions. When there is a water store in snowfall, separate flakes can stick together to form a larger than normal snowflake. Likewise, if there are strong winds, snowflakes may be forced together to form extra-large snowflakes.

Police in Japan are trying to get elderly drivers to give up their driver’s license by trading discounts on ramen noodles

chinese ramen noodle shirt

In Japan, 4.8 million people are over the age of 75 and recently there have been a series of deadly accidents caused by elderly drivers. In a plea to get the elderly to give up their licenses, police have come up with a promotion with a local chain restaurant offering a certificate that entitles them to a steep discount on ramen noodles.

Barns are painted red because red paint is cheap

red barn t-shirt

Barns are typically quite large but they need to be painted to preserve the wood. The upkeep on an outbuilding that requires repainting every few years can be very expensive so the cheapest paint is an attractive option. The reason why red paint is cheaper than other colors is the abundance of red ochre which is comprised of iron and oxygen. It’s abundant because dying stars make heavier elements as they collapse stopping at elements that are made of 56 protons and neutrons which is iron.

Alligators are a problem for NASA

nasa with alligators t-shirt

NASA bought 145,000 acres of land in Florida during the 1960’s as part of the space program. They only needed a relatively small amount of the land for the actual facilities so they decided to leave the rest open and undeveloped eventually becoming a wildlife habitat. Since Florida is gator country, they are the biggest nuisance to NASA employees. Workers are encouraged to be cautious and always check underneath cars before getting in.

Buddha’s hair is not actually hair, its snails

buddha shirt

In some versions of the Buddha, he’s shown with what might be described as tight ringlets. As the story goes, they aren’t ringlets but snails that climbed onto his head and sacrificed their lives to protect his bare head from severe heat while he was meditating. Now you know.

Uranus was almost named George

uranus t-shirt

The astronomer who found the planet known as Uranus originally called his discovery Georgium Sidus in honor of his patron, King George, It was renamed later to conform with the nomenclature of the other planets named after Roman and with the inclusion of Uranus, Greek Gods.

Anonymous sent thousands of all-black faxes to the Church of Scientology to deplete all of their ink cartridges

anonymous t-shirt

Anonymous is hard to describe, some call them terrorists, others call them social vigilantes. Regardless of how you might view their actions, they did send a barrage of all black faxes to the Los Angeles Church of Scientology headquarters which of course drained them of ink.

We are born with 300 bones which decrease to 206 bones because they fuse together in adulthood

skeleton t-shirt

The number before and after is really only an estimate. Some people have more and some have less. Bones fuse as we grow and age up to about 25 years. Some bones, such as the cranium are not solid at birth so the baby can navigate the birth canal.

The ancient Greeks could vote to banish any citizen for 10-years, it’s called ostracism

greek t-shirt

Notably, you had to anger or worry at least 6,000 people so most people that received this sort of punishment were public figures, think politicians. While less harsh as some punishments like death or permanent exile, being asked to leave your home for 10-years was nothing take lightly.

The letter X in Xmas is the Greek letter Chi which is the Greek abbreviation for Christ

christ chi shirt

It’s not a war on Christmas even though some people believe it is so. Actually the shorthand for Christ has been used since the 4th century when Roman Emperor Constantine the Great was inspired to carry a flag with the first two letters of Christ written on it. The Greek letters are Chi and Ro and subsequently the symbol was shorted to just Chi which appears as an X in the English language.

Black cats are considered to bring good luck in Japan

good luck black cat shirt

Black cats get a bad rap in American culture but in Japan they are seen as bringers of fortune, luck, and happiness. If you keep your black cat happy, you’ll be happy.

When a crow dies, other crows investigate to evaluate if there is an avoidable threat that caused the death

crow shirt

Crows are among the most intelligent of birds. It was discovered through a two year long experiment, when a crow dies, other crows will investigate to understand what caused the death and how and if the same circumstances can be avoided.