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Emerson Students Aim to Unite the World with T-shirt Business

t shirt with map of massachusetts on it

By Zenebou Sylla ‘22

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired two Emersonians to create an online T-shirt business in order to help out those struggling during these difficult times.

Apart But Together was created by Visual and Media Arts majors Christopher Rodriguez ‘21 and Grant Rosado. The shirts, which retail for $34.99, are emblazoned with a picture of individual states or nations, with the words “Apart but Together” overlaying the maps in the country’s native language.

In just a little over two weeks, they have sold about 50 shirts, with over $1,000 raised for the United Way COVID-19 Community & Response Fund, which helps families and people in need of access to critical information and services like food, shelter, and more.

“We know people are proud of the country that they live in and are proud of where they’re from, where they have ancestry from or what state they’re from,” Rodriguez said. “So we decided that each state, each country is doing their part to help out the greater population, and that’s why we designed it with the map of each state or each country that are most affected by the pandemic,” said Rodriguez.

Last month, as the numbers of people being affected by the coronavirus increased, both Rodriguez and Rosado were laid off from their part-time jobs and had to leave Emerson’s Boston campus. They eventually ended up in Rosado’s Texas hometown.  

“We just thought this is really inconvenient, but I can’t imagine what it would be like for those people who actually depend on living paycheck to paycheck, and are either getting furloughed or laid off, and we just thought how could we make a difference for those people, how could we help these people?” said Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez, who is participating in the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) program, was reminded by one of his professors of the Boston Strong T-shirts, which were also developed by two Emerson students to help people affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. From there, the two students were inspired to create their own.

Being stuck inside has motivated them to spreading the message that even though we are apart, we can still help each other out if we do it together. 

“Our inspiration is mainly that we were stuck in quarantine and we were feeling down, we realized it was a lot harder for other people out there,” Rosado said. “[E]veryone is doing their best and just because you are stuck inside it may not really seem like your best is accomplishing much of anything, but our inspiration was the shirts. To tell people that your best doesn’t stand alone, it stands with everyone else because we’re apart, but together.”

Both Rosado and Rodriguez created the designs for the shirts, developed a website, got in contact with local printing businesses, and are handling ordering and shipping.

“Our main challenge is really getting the word out,” said Rodriguez.

“Honestly, it’s been a little bit of a challenge, but… it gave us more time to focus on it all… Everyone right now is very isolated, but I think everybody feels united in that,” said Rosado.

Balancing online classes and a business has forced them to budget their time wisely and set goals for themselves, challenges made easier by the knowledge that they’re able to help people in some way, they said.

“Like anything, we set a goal for ourselves for the day and we work on our time management and we make sure not to sleep in… and it’s just kind of been a community effort,” Rosado said. “We’ve been getting other people around us to help and everybody’s just been supportive and so that support really goes a long way,” said Rosado.

Currently, the T-shirts are only being shipped domestically, but Rodriguez and Rosado have plans to ship internationally.

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