Local Lamp Still Lit: Lightning Bug’s Print Local Love a Success
With the major success of the first round of Print Local Love, the owner of Lightning Bug Gift Company is happy that she has found a way to be supporting other local businesses in the area during this time. “The whole idea is that with one purchase, you are directly supporting two local businesses,” says co-owner, Becki Hollen. As many already know, small businesses and businesses of all types are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After Governor Wolf’s restriction on having non-essential businesses open, businesses were stuck with very hard decisions to make. But Hollen wanted to try and help in any way that she could.
The Print Local Love project was created to help keep local businesses supported during this time were most of them had to close their doors. “Each shirt has either their logo or just a design that related to the business, each goes for $20. Half of the money goes directly to the business the shirt represents and the other half is put towards printing and the shipping of the shirts to the customers.” The origin of the project came after Hollen and her husband learned that they would have to close their doors due to COVID-19. “A lot of our income comes from in-person sales at our storefront or at events. I saw that a print shop in St. Louis was doing this and, actually, there are a lot of print shops all over that are doing something similar.” They wouldn’t have to go far to be able the create the shirts for this project. “All of our printing equipment is in our home because we never got to move it into our commercial space. We felt that, because of this, it was safe to be able to offer this to people.”
Many businesses have been forced to rely on websites and e-commerce sales to get buy but there are some in our area who don’t have that luxury. Hollen wanted to offer them a space on her website with this project. “We had a website that was set up to sell. A lot of businesses don’t have that set up so we thought by offering them a spot on our website, it would be a way to help.” The variety is hugely represented on the site as well, with many businesses having unique designs and colorful t-shirt selections.
As for the public’s response, Hollen was excited to see people reaching out and buying up the shirts from every business. “I think it’s going very well, “ says Hollen. “I know it’s a tough time for a lot of people and they don’t have a lot of money to spend, but for those who are still receiving some income, it’s very important to be supportive of your local businesses.” The first round of shirts sold got close 500 in numbers and there were 26 businesses to choose from. This second round is featuring only 20 businesses and there are folks reaching out, wanting to be involved. When asked if there would be a Round Three of Print Local Love, Hollen said, “I definitely think we’ll do another round after this one. But we will put a week between it so we can finish up the second round of shirts.”
When asked about the importance of supporting small businesses right now, Hollen had a lot to say. “I think it’s super important. Firstly, small businesses are what make communities, like ours, unique. You could go to a Walmart anywhere and it’s always going to be the same Walmart. When you visit areas and small towns, they all have different and unique small businesses.” She continues to speak about her experience of being a business owner in today’s world. “As a small business owner, most of us are not set up to deal with catastrophic events. That might be too strong of a word to say, but we have insurance and we have things in place to cover with loss of income for small amounts of time. I don’t think anyone ever expected to be closed, at least I didn’t, for this long and perhaps longer.”
The effect that closing their business had on Hollen and her husband was difficult at first. “We just want everyone to be able to make it through this. I know, for me, in the beginning, I was feeling very helpless. The very first week, we were going back and forth wondering what we were going to do. We were also talking to a lot of the other small business owners who were feeling the same way as us.” She goes back to her efforts with the Print Local Love project. “At least this feels like we are doing something. $20 doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things. It’s something whenever you don’t know."
All of us are feeling the effects of social distancing, not going out to see our friends and family, not being able to go shopping and Hollen misses being in her store and seeing her customers. “Everything that we have in the shop is made by makers we have with known in the past or who we’re still friends with.” Compared to seeing those things in person, Hollen always talks up the products when customers see them or are browsing through the shop. “I like being able to go up to someone who’s looking at a product and tell them a personal story, either about that product or the people who made it. Like going up to someone and saying, ‘Oh, so and so lives here making these products.’ It’s mostly the face-to-face interaction with customers. That’s what I miss.”
The people in our community are being strong with everything that is going on, but it’s important to be supporting the community in multiple ways. Becki Hollen from the Lightning Bug Gift Company is encouraging everyone to go and support local small businesses in any way possible. Whether it’s ordering from a local restaurant or buying a t-shirt from Print Local Love, giving back to our community will keep up moving in the first direction. Remember, we are all in this together!
Round Two of Print Local Love ends on Friday, April 10th! New items from the store are going to be added to the website soon, so check out https://lightningbuggiftco.com/ for some of the most unique and one-of-a-kind Pennsylvania themed products out there!
Don’t forget to follow Becki, her husband, Chris, and their shop on Facebook and Instagram,