*The Small BIZ Strong Campaign has come to an end. While T-Shirt orders can no longer be placed, the spirit of going above and beyond to support our local small businesses is something we all hope carries on!
If you’re reading this, you likely have a branded promotional item somewhere in your home. Remember those logoed pens, keychains, koozies, etc. that used to get handed out at events, back when events were a thing?
Imagine you’re an apparel and promotional items provider and the phones just stopped ringing. What would you do? Becky Mackowicz, owner of RiverBend Apparel & Promotions in Mishawaka, kept on doing her thing: helping to promote local businesses.
Back in May, Becky decided to start the local #IsupportsmallBIZ campaign. The idea being to unite local Michiana businesses who were in a similar position of uncertainty and offer another non-contact way for Michiana to be able to support those struggling financially. The “Small BIZ Strong Michiana” shirt could (and still can) be purchased for $20, with $10 going to the production of the shirt and the other $10 to the purchaser’s choice of any participating business. We think this is a simply awesome way to support local businesses and we encourage you to learn more from Becky herself!
While the donations from shirt purchases can make a world of difference for business owners and their families, the aspect of the campaign that Becky speaks most passionately about is the conversations the campaign has opened the door for between her and other business owners who all share a similar story. Sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re not alone in an adverse situation.
We don’t want to paint a picture of these interactions being “pity parties.” After spending some time around Becky, it’s clear that they would not have been. While still being grounded in the reality of the current situation we’re all facing, she has a very optimistic and driven mindset, pushing for solutions. That was assumed to be the case before meeting her, once made aware of her t-shirt campaign through an advertisement we saw in the Michiana Saver magazine. Her optimism shines through as she points out that the times have led to beneficial reevaluations of RiverBend Apparel & Promotions business processes and finances, which they hope will help them to an even better position than they were before the pandemic.
RiverBend’s brick-and-mortar shop is located in the heart of Mishawaka, just across the street from the recently closed West End Bakery. Mason, Becky’s son, who keeps operations running smoothly while she focuses on business solutions and opportunities, lives just blocks away from the shop and can’t say enough nice things about their surrounding neighborhood. Becky and Mason shared with us that a sense of community is still very much prevalent in this particular neighborhood and informed us that it has been home to a Belgian community for decades.
Becky also has an incredible support system in the shop - alongside Mason, Jeff Kuroski is another ace. Jeff is the previous owner of RiverBend and now serves as an advisor. Jeff’s interest in entrepreneurship began at the age of 12 and he started his own marketing business in 1982. Thanks to years of experience in the industry, Jeff has learned many things about not only running his own business, but himself and how to work towards his goals. Jeff has been a great supporter and has shared that knowledge with Becky countless times.
Becky hopes to pass on her knowledge to other Michiana business owners in a similar way, especially women entrepreneurs. RiverBend Apparel & Promotions just became WBE (Woman Based Enterprise) Certified, opening doors for more opportunities, such as collaborating with larger corporations who are inspired to diversify their partnerships. She encourages any other women business owners to go through the process of becoming certified as well!
Businesses who have been fortunate enough to keep their doors open until now have survived, but they need to continue to survive. This third quarter is huge for businesses as it’s not just about meeting financial targets, but easing the losses brought forth by the pandemic.
We hope many local residents share in our excitement to safely get back out into the community and shop locally, because Michiana supports Michiana. Fortunately, people like Becky have chosen to use their platform to further support our community. We have an immense amount of respect for Becky for finding an innovative way to support her fellow business owners even when she was uncertain of what was ahead for her own business. Through her #IsupportsmallBIZ campaign, she has provided a platform for members of our community to make a difference by buying a shirt.
While it’s fun to dream big about the potential impact of large numbers of shirt purchases, our new friends at RiverBend Apparel & Promotions hope that what the shirt represents outshines the shirt itself. What does the shirt represent? Neighbors looking out for their neighbors. Our local businesses are the backbone of our community. Right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important to uplift our community by being there for our local businesses and neighbors.