The Beatles created history with their hit "All You Need is Love" in 1967 and social entrepreneur, Alyson Schacherer thinks the message is still relevant today.
This multi-talented artist earns her living in a variety of ways. She works as a business manager for an off-Broadway theatre company, a speech and art appreciation teacher, a yoga instructor, and a professional emcee. But her I Love You Project is gaining national attention with a timeless sentiment.
It all started one day when Alyson was sitting on the couch in her Newark, N.J. studio contemplating her commute into Manhattan for work. She travels daily though Penn Station, the Big Apple's major intercity train station and observed busy commuters disengaged with the people around them, glued to their smart phones and digital devices.
Alyson herself admits how easy it is to fall into the zombie zone while navigating the masses of people around you. The lack of connection, non-existent eye contact, and emotional void left Alyson wondering what it would take to get people to start reconnecting with the humankind surrounding them in one of the busiest rail stations in the world.
She envisioned wearing a T-shirt with "I love you" clearly emblazoned as a message to invoke some kind of reaction from passers-by. Alyson wondered, "What if this was the message that we led with? What if it is a fact? We are love." And so the I Love You Project was born.
The Ultimate Re-Cycle
Alyson ignited a passion within her and is on a mission to spread the "I love you" message in a more universal way. She tapped the expertise of her brainstorm loving husband and came up with the idea of spreading the message by literally wearing it on her sleeve, or across her chest, as it were.
An experienced vintage collector, Alyson has spent the last 15 years finding hidden treasures at thrift stores, on Craigslist, and appreciating hand-me-down clothes, furniture, and household items. She values the history in things and honors this principle by purchasing her I Love You Project T-shirts from thrift and charity driven stores to celebrate their mission and pay-it-forward with the message of love.
Since she is passionate about keeping the I Love You Project shirts affordable for all, Alyson keeps the costs down by purchasing gently used shirts from thrift stores. She also likes the idea of not generating more stuff in the world by recycling. Alyson hopes these shirts become your go-to shirt in the drawer -- soft, cozy, and comfortable like a favorite pair of shoes.
Pass It On
Her process is relatively simple. Alyson washes the gently used shirts then screen prints the "I love you" message and sells them for a very reasonable price of $10 per shirt. She learned to screen print from artistic neighbors in her building, a husband and wife duo that run Nightingale Projects. They swapped their artistic expertise for yoga lessons from Alyson. A wonderful trade-your-talent scenario that has proven fruitful for both parties.
The T-shirts are available in a variety of sizes from newborn to adults and the colors and styles vary depending on what Alyson finds on her thrift store excursions. Shipping is a flat rate of $5 and Alyson donates all profits beyond her material costs to charities that support others in need including: The Happy Hearts Fund, Angel's Gate Animal Hospital and Yele Haiti.
Spread Your Love
Without consciously doing so, Alyson has become a role model social entrepreneur invoking social change, one T-shirt at a time. She aspires to create a worldwide community of love and to track where her T-shirts land with pins on a world map. Her Facebook page showcases photos of I Love You Project T-shirts worn by fans around the country.
While the venture wasn't started as a career endeavor, business is picking up and Alyson may soon need to recruit some additional help to screen print and mail the shirts to those who share her passion for spreading the love. I told her to consider an I Love You Project intern -- perhaps someone looking for a career change opportunity to make a difference.
She hopes corporate T-shirt manufacturers like Hanes, Gap, or American Apparel will consider donating T-shirt "seconds" that can't be sold in retail stores to the I Love You Project for re-purposing. This would be a great way to keep her prices down and a way for those companies to pay-it-forward. Alyson wants the shirts to always be affordable so the "I love you" message becomes universal.
I Love You Project T-shirt wearers report that reactions range from spontaneous "I love you too!" responses to knowing smiles and full-on double takes. Most people glance and keep on going but the perceptive Alyson knows that the message has given them pause and reboots their consciousness, at least for a moment, and that's a good thing.
"Equal parts social experiment, self expression, art, and fashion -- but all parts truth." -- Alyson dreams of a day when large crowds of people are wearing "I love you" across their chest. Not like an organized flash mob dance, but more of an organic movement to bring love back into our vocabulary and our behavior more often than not.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
I Love You Project T-shirts could become the hottest holiday gift item this season. An affordable expression of love that allows you to share the message with your people -- one t-shirt at a time. Be sure to order your shirts early as this one-woman operation still works multiple jobs to earn her living but her I Love You Project is the most gratifying endeavor of all. You can contact Alyson at Alyson@iloveyouproject.net or http://www.iloveyouproject.net.
Alyson is sharing a message worth spreading: Love. Consider joining the I Love You Project movement by ordering your t-shirt today.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name (www.carolinedowdhiggins.com). She is the director of career & professional development and an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and she also hosts a weekly CBS Radio show called "Career Coach Caroline" -- Tuesdays at 5 p.m.