Teens today are more socially conscious than ever. Twitter campaigns and worldwide Instagram hashtags provide daily opportunities to dial into the latest issues. Tired of feeling like adults have tasked the next generation with tackling everything from cancer research to global warming, five North Shore high schoolers banded together to give the youngest generation a voice — in the shape of politically charged baby onesies.
Twins Jake and Katie Abrams, Caroline Berkman, Casey Borovsky and Tyler Froelich are the founders of Born to Be Tees, a company that lets babies speak for themselves, even before their first words. Featuring onesies plastered with slogans such as “I’ll Stand Up To Cancer…Just As Soon As I Can Stand” and “Change My Diaper, Not My Climate,” Born to Be Tees has partnered with a number of related charities and pledged to donate a third of the proceeds.
Aided by the hospital supply company Medline, founded by the Abrams’ great-great-grandfather, the teens were able to buy a small number of baby clothes to get started and have since built their own website where the onesies are available for sale.
“We wanted to do something with babies because we were sick of hearing, ‘We don’t need to deal with that, the next generation can deal with it,’” Berkman says. “We wanted to stress the next generation is here, and we need to give them a voice.”
One of the reasons Born to Be Tees sells only onesies is because it keeps costs down — they have a source, and they can easily buy in small quantities. Since the group hasn’t engaged in any fundraising efforts yet, low production costs are an absolute necessity.
One of the first onesies to be created reads “Born Perfect” (proceeds go to the charity Best Buddies) and spawned the name for the company. With that particular slogan in mind, the students wrote the mission statement by asking what is each person born to be?
“You can be whoever you want to be and there really isn’t a limit,” Berkman says.
From there, Born to Be Tees was, well, born. Currently the onesies are only available for sale online but after the New Year, they will also be available for purchase at Goodies in Highland Park as part of their baby baskets.
“We pitched the idea that when they start selling [in stores] the suggested retail price is $15,” Berkman says.
A third of that would go to the store, a third toward operating costs and a third toward the actual charity with which the onesie is aligned.
Each student in the group has a specific cause they wanted to make sure was represented. For Berkman, that cause is climate change. Born to Be Tees has partnered with Waterkeeper Alliance, a charity Berkman respects and admires.
“I’m really into being eco-friendly and [fighting] climate change and I think it’s really something we have to respect and value,” Berkman says.
Born to Be Tees has connected with each charity and is attempting to engage in cross-promotion to drive more traffic to both parties.
Wendy Abrams, Jake and Katie’s mother, says it’s been amazing as a parent watching all the kids take such a steep learning curve at a run.
“Every time they came up with a different t-shirt they had to find someone at that organization and say, ‘We want to make you a beneficiary.’ It’s been good, as a parent, watching them go through the process of how do we do this,” Abrams said. “Waterkeeper Alliance was like, ‘Sure, we’re thrilled to be your partners.’ Stand Up to Cancer was more contractual and much more formal and it’s all a good learning process.”
Abrams helped the kids with the seed money to get Born to Be Tees off the ground but from there she and the rest of the parents have taken a significant backseat.
“It’s a small group and all the moms have been great but I want the kids to do it and run it so I want Katie to have to go to the bank and edit the website and call the screen printer,” Abrams said. “I went with them to one store [to pitch] and then they said, ‘Okay we’re going to go to another, you can go home.’ and they spent the whole day networking with businesses.”
Although the idea for Born to Be Tees was sparked nearly a year and a half ago, it hasn’t been until quite recently that the team has seen progress and watched their idea become reality.
“Short-term, we’re really trying to get the word out,” Berkman says. “Long-term we’re going to try to go bigger and see if we can really take this to something more than just a local website.”
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