It all started with an idea and a t-shirt with four words boldly printed on the chest: “Support Your Local Anything.” Hundreds of these shirts have been sold in just a few months, and you can spot a growing number of Wichitans proudly wearing them around town.
The purpose of the shirts is just as simple as its black and white design. Founder of Support Your Local Anything, Nathan Beste, says he loves when people ask about the shirt. “It seems to be the ‘face palm’ when people realize what it means,” he says. “A sort of ‘Duh,’ if you will. We already know that we should support locally, but sometimes we need a reminder.”
The shirts serve as walking advertisements for the community and make people think twice before spending their dollar at a corporate chain or online. If nothing else, the shirts are a conversation starter. As Beste says, he is met with compliments and questions everywhere he goes while wearing one.
As a local business owner and designer, Janelle King of The Workroom sees the benefits of the SYLA movement and how it strengthens the local economy. “The purpose is giving back to your community and keeping local businesses open,” she says. “Giving a mantra to those who make a conscious decision to spend money locally instead of the big box stores.”
The Workroom, located at 150 N. Cleveland St., is a “one-stop shop” for all home decor needs. It features items made by Wichita area artists, one-of-a- kind accessories and custom products. King says she believes her business has been successful because it links customers with local artists. “People come in and feel a personal connection with their community when they are able to support local artists,” she says.
After seeing the SYLA logo and shirts online, King knew it would be a great fit for her store and immediately told Beste she wanted to sell the items. She says it has brought customers into the store that otherwise might not have come, and most of the items have already sold.
King says she has enjoyed seeing other people in the community embrace it, not only in the local business settings, and she hopes it continues to grow. “It reflects community pride and aware- ness of spending local,” she says. “Only good can come from something such as SYLA.”
Beste points out that if you spend $100 a week locally, that’s $5,200 a year that is invested back into your community. “I spend more than that easily, but imagine if the whole city participated,” he says. Beste’s passion for the concept comes from his involvement with many local businesses. “I have seen the benefits of local support and wish to show others the impact it could bring to your community and city,” he says.
SYLA recently organized the Walk Your Block Pub Crawl, but it was no ordinary “pub crawl.” Participants walked, biked or skateboarded down Douglas Avenue, stopping at local breweries, enjoying free food and picking up trash along the way.
“The Walk Your Block Pub Crawl required more involvement and more footwork,” Beste said. “We made an immediate difference in the community while spending our money at local breweries and restaurants. And we were safe doing it. Some people even joined in on the trash pickup simply by seeing others do it. Direct effect.”
Beste believes consumers have the power to determine the success of any business or product — “voting with your dollar,” as he calls it. “If you stop buying at Walmart or online, then they will not make that product anymore or they will adapt. The demand is not there. The same goes for local businesses. If people don't spend money at a certain local business, they can't stay.”
SYLA has taken Wichita by storm, but Beste doesn’t plan to stop here. “My hope for SYLA is a nation of rich and thriving communities that don't rely on corporate or outsourced products,” he says. “Nine times out of 10, your local product is more nutritious, more reliable or a better quality overall. If everything goes to plan, we will rely on each other, plain and simple. If we get back to relying on each other, this will truly be a great nation again. We will stand for each other and not for a faceless corporation that has no intention of helping the community. Vote with your dollar, Support Your Local Anything.”
Join the SYLA movement
Support Your Local Anything t-shirts and tanks are available at Valentine Eclectics, 42 Degrees Below, Demo Skateshop and The Workroom for $15.