T-shirt printing company helps other small businesses stay afloat

Blk Ankr owner Matthew Reese returned to the drawing board during the pandemic and used his own small business to help others stay afloat.

WASHINGTON – For most of his life Matthew Reese, originally from Maryland, was very interested in design. After years spent at a nine to five job, he finally left to pursue his passion.

Today he owns Blk Ankr in Annapolis, a t-shirt printing company where he can produce 12 to 3,000 t-shirts per order. Then he sends the shirts to local businesses and communities near and far to help them achieve a look they are proud of.

“What I do is more than just a t-shirt,” Reese said. “It’s a way for a business to set itself apart and start a business, which then is income for that business, which then feeds and pays all of those employees who depend on that work. “

Everything was business as usual in Blk Ankr until the pandemic hit.

Orders from its regular customers like schools and offices stopped while virtually everything was moving. Reese asked for help from her daughter and son and even a part-time intern, but things were still far from normal for her own business and for her clients.

“These people who are my clients, many of whom are my friends, and one by one I saw and heard that they had to close their doors and were losing any opportunity to generate income,” Reese said.

As the only full-time employee of Blk Ankr, Reese searched for a new alternative to help his own business and support the locals he has grown to love. Finally, in a community Facebook group, he found one. He called a few companies and pitched the idea to them: he would design shirts for them and give them half of all the profit.

“We’ll print the shirts, we’ll do all the work, we’ll do all the shipping, we’ll handle the orders, we’ll do everything,” he called a few companies and told them. “All you have to do is accept it. Tell us what you want your shirt to look like. And then promote it to your customers.

The campaign was called “Stronger Together” and by the end of it, over 3,300 orders had been placed for a shirt representing local businesses and a few others across the country.

“We got orders from Germany, Canada, someone in Colombia,” Reese said. “A lot of these people were Annapolis residents who left, and they still had that pride, interest, and community feeling of being a part of Annapolis, and they wanted to support wherever they were.”

Stronger Together shirts officially sold out as restaurants began to reopen and today Black Anchor is back in commercial printing for the community.

“It’s a very heartwarming thing to see happen,” he said. “I just hope this continues as things get back to normal, that sense of community and oneness continues.”

The shirts are available to order from the official Blk Ankr website.

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About Catharine C. Bean

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