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Hearts on your sleeve

Posted: September 30th, 2016 | Cover stories, Features, Top Story | 1 Comment

By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor

Local personalities launch philanthropic venture

Gather together some great photography, the work of a few emerging artists, toss in a number of local charities, add a community activist who knows everybody in town and another guy with a technology and textile background, mix it all up with a whole lot of fun … and what do you get?

Fund2Wear: a new socially-conscious, print-on-demand apparel company that practices both fun and philanthropy.

Founded in April by Mike “Big Mike” Phillips and Eric Arts, Fund2Wear aims to put a festive shirt on your back and a few dollars in several different pockets at the same time.

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(l to r) Eric Arts and “Big Mike” Phillips have launched a new business that will have you wearing clothing that is both “fun to wear” and gives back to the community with every purchase. (Courtesy Arts and Phillips)

The two men originally met through mutual friends back in 1999, when Arts, a Dallas native, first moved to San Diego seeking greener pastures outside of Texas. Things didn’t go as planned and Arts returned home in 2003.

Earlier this year he returned to America’s Finest City, and ran into Phillips again while he was tending bar at Jimmy Carter’s. The two struck up a conversation about the challenges of making a living and began exploring how they could help one another. Phillips, who has been bartending for four decades, said while he can still “out-ring the best of them,” the long days behind the bar were getting harder on his body. He and Arts soon realized that their backgrounds meshed with their individual long-held goals; one thing led to another and now they are managing partners of this new venture.

“We compared our combined knowledge and experience and just made it work,” Arts said, adding that after nearly six months of jumping the hurdles required of a new business, they just officially launched their website.

“I’ve always wanted to do a T-shirt company,” Phillips said. “But if I’m going to do something I have to give back to my community because I believe what comes around goes around.”

Tali Lopez (with his dog Hamilton) is one of the local emerging artists putting his artwork on Fund2Wear garments (Photo by Big Mike)

Tali Lopez (with his dog Hamilton) is one of the local emerging artists putting his artwork on Fund2Wear garments (Photo by Big Mike)

Phillips said his original idea for a company name was “Fun to Wear,” but while they contemplated their mission together, the name soon morphed into “Fund2Wear,” which highlights several aspects of their business model in one short, easy to remember name.

Since the production process is print-on-demand, the company’s entire “storefront” is online, meaning Phillips and Arts don’t need to deal with stock, overruns, warehouses or even failed ideas. If a design doesn’t sell, they simply remove it from the website.

Most images are transferred to the products using direct-to-garment (DTG) ink printing, others by using an “all over dye sublimation,” where the ink is printed to a sheet and then transferred to the garment.

Charities that get involved with Fund2Wear don’t have to “pay a dime,” Phillips said, all they want is for them to direct people to the website.

No matter how long you have lived in San Diego, there is a good chance that you know of “Big Mike,” because Phillips is no stranger to philanthropy. In the 1990s, Phillips and his friend Nigel Mayer started “Ordinary Miracles,” a nonprofit that raised money for local HIV, cancer and pet charities by asking their fellow LGBT bartenders to donate their tips for one day out of the year.

“Nigel told me, ‘People in our community don’t really think bartenders give back to the community,’” Phillips said. “We raised over $300,000 in five years.”

Though those particular miracles ended after a time, Phillips has continued his philanthropic work through his annual “Big Mike birthday bashes.” Next January will mark his 60th, and Phillips wants it to be his biggest yet. In the meantime, he has found a way to help the community give back on a daily basis.

Every time someone buys a T-shirt, coffee cup, pillow, tote bag or a pair of leggings from the Fund2Wear website, one of the many charities they’ve partnered with will get a portion of that sale. Charities currently aligned with Fund2Wear include The Trevor Project, Being Alive San Diego, Imperial Court de San Diego, International Court/Jose Julio Serrano Student Scholarship, San Diego LGBT Community Center, Christie’s Place, Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Harvey Milk Foundation, Harvey Milk/Nicole Murray Ramirez Scholarship Program, Stepping Stone and the Beagle Freedom Project.

A graphic designer and web developer by trade, Arts worked with Dallas area nonprofits for years and was also the art director for a large textile manufacturing company in San Diego. Like Phillips, he was ready to make a difference.

“I really wanted to do something that makes me happy but I’d rather focus on something that makes me feel good about what I am doing,” Arts said. “If I can actually do it in a more socially responsible way, then why not take a portion of everything we do and give it back to others who are trying to make a difference?”

The products on the Fund2Wear website are where the “fun” comes in. , Arts and Phillips are longtime photographers, so their artwork adorns many of the products, as well as the work of local artists. In addition, they have a few special lines that they expect to catch people’s attention, including an exclusive collection of shirts designed with DTG images of Empress Lala Too’s personal jewelry.

“I always wanted to do a fashion show with gorgeous guys with muscles in bathing suits and actually have jewels like [Lala’s] for them to wear in the fashion show … so then I thought, maybe we can put them on T-shirts,” Phillips said, explaining the inspiration for the exclusive line. “They are fun, they’re campy … and I want people to know it is not just for girls.”

The jewelry tees can even stand in as eveningwear for a gala; just throw on a nice jacket and you’re set. Phillips said the T-shirts were imagined for the guy who wants to “stand out, have fun, be campy and show your creativity.” They assure customers that every piece they carry will be unique and want people to return to the website often, since designs will be constantly added, especially around holidays.

As artists themselves, Phillips and Arts hope to empower local artists and are currently working with three: Jeff Amante, Trish Amante and Tali Lopez.

Big Mike reveals how classy Lala Too's jewelry on a T-shirt looks with a jacket. (Photo by Eric Arts)

Big Mike reveals how classy Lala Too’s jewelry on a T-shirt looks with a jacket. (Photo by Eric Arts)

“The whole concept of this is to pay it forward — not only with the charities, but the artists we hope to help and promote,” Phillips said. “We want to get their work out there and as we grow we can do special events and art shows for them. We really want to stress that there are a lot of people who are talented in our community they just need a little help.”

Their immediate plan is to be churning out products by mid-October to take advantage of holiday shopping. By next year, they hope to have employees running the nuts and bolts of the company so that Arts and Phillips can focus on expanding the business and its concepts. Currently, Arts is carrying the weight of all the techie work behind the scenes with both the website and production, and Phillips is out in the community, spreading awareness about the business while vetting nonprofits and artists to work with.

“We want to be known for our creativity, our positive thinking and the fact that we are moving forward with other people,” Phillips said. “It’s not just about us; we want to include as many people as possible to be able to grow with us and because of us; and it is because of them helping us, that we grow. So it is a community effort building our business, building their brands, building up awareness and raising money for charity. It’s a real win-win-win situation.”

Investors take note: The men are looking for serious investors and they also hope to launch a crowdsourcing campaign soon to assist with seed money.

To browse their product line or make a purchase, visit Fund2Wear.com.

—Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at morgan@sdcnn.com.

One Comments

  1. Ngel Mayer says:

    Great article and congratulations to my good friend Big Mike and his new partner and business

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