Local nonprofit screen printing company Blue Button is promoting a T-shirt design competition aimed at college clubs and dorms. The competition will start this week and ends March 20 according to Blue Button Director Scott Ellis.
Blue Button's website states that 30 free T-shirts will be awarded to contest winners. Clubs can submit their designs to Blue Button through the company's website. The designs will be put on the Blue Button Facebook page, where people can vote for the designs they like best.
"Each club or hall can submit a design," Ellis said. "They'll have a month for friends and family to give a thumbs up on Facebook."
According to Blue Button's website, contestants will be given a 15-percent discount on their orders, just for participating. This discount would save students about $1 per shirt.
The goal of the contest is to spread the word about the company. According to Ellis, few clubs at Gonzaga order from Blue Button. In order to expand the business, new customers, especially students, are needed.
"We print a lot for Whitworth," Ellis said. "Our goal this year is to branch out. We'd love to print the Kennel Club shirts."
"We're here and we have a social justice mission that allies itself with Gonzaga's values," Ellis said. "We'd like to see all the shirts at GU made by us."
According to Ellis, Blue Button uses water-based inks and soy-based cleaners to make their shirts, so masks and gloves are not necessary. Because of this, the quality of Blue Button shirts is better than regular T-shirts in which the ink sticks out from the shirt and tends to fade or crack.
Ellis said that he orders his shirts from fair trade companies that have an environmentally friendly history and use biodegradable dyes. He orders only from companies that use fair trade practices, hiring workers who receive fair compensation and work in safe conditions.
Besides an environmentally friendly standpoint, Ellis said students should support nonprofits like Blue Button for their social justice mission.
Blue Button tries to help high school students in need. According to Ellis, many Rogers High School students are homeless, have financial burdens or transportation issues. Companies like Blue Button give opportunities to these kids. Mac Graham, a Gonzaga senior and volunteer at Blue Button since last May, said Blue Button's "mission is to provide a stable environment for at-risk youth to be mentored and also to learn how to work in a work environment."
Blue Button opened in March 2008 and has employed seven students since that time, according to Ellis. "We work with all our students on good financial practices," Graham said.
"[Ellis] is a Whitworth graduate and his family is from Spokane. He debated between opening a coffee shop or screen printing business, knowing nothing about either, but finally decided screen printing was the best option," Graham said. "My limited accounting skills were really able to help this non-profit and it's helping me with building my own skills. It's a win-win situation."
Both Graham and Ellis stressed the importance of local community support for companies and organizations like Blue Button.
"Going back to sustainability, if it's a really good cause but it has no customers, it won't last," Graham said.
To contact Blue Button about T-shirt designs or the contest call 509-481-9149 or go to their website
www.bluebutton.org. Blue Button will help create designs according to customer specifications. A link on Blue Button's website allows online submissions in picture or PDF form.