Merch Aid: Starting a Small Business to Help Small Businesses

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R/GA creatives Zack Roif and Chloe Saintilan look at helping local merchants and the racial justice movement with a creative and digital boost
Merch Aid: Starting a Small Business to Help Small Businesses

When Zack Roif and Chloe Saintilan, two creatives at R/GA in New York City, pitched the agency’s leadership on letting them pitch designers to produce exclusive merchandise - t-shirts, tote bags and prints - to help small NYC businesses survive quarantine life, they had no idea their idea, Merch Aid, would grow into a national phenomenon.

“Seeing all of the coffee shops, the cafes, the barbershops, the dry cleaners struggling during this time, these are the places that make our neighbourhoods special,” Zack said on the latest edition of FutureVision Conversations. “We are trying to create a way to help preserve them and give them additional financial support and backing during a time when brick-and-mortar is obviously suffering.”

“It's also been really lovely,” Chloe added, “the cases of a lot of the designers picking their favourite local businesses and learning a bit about their emotional attachment with that business.”

Speaking with R/GA global chief marketing officer Jess Greenwood on the podcast, they recall how designers such as Matt Starr, Felicia Liang, New York Nico and Timothy Goodman stepped up, dropping fees and even agency rivalries to support businesses in their neighbourhoods, with 100% of proceeds from each merchandise drop going directly to the merchants.

In addition to producing and selling the merchandise, they formed an R/GA team that designed and built a website, managed social media and marketing, and handled orders and fulfilment—including customer service and the other details that merchants must do to survive.  

Since launching on April 6th, Merch Aid expanded to Austin and along the way attracted press attention from GQ, Refinery29, Monocle, fashion and food blogs, podcasts and more. 

"In light of what was unfolding following the death of George Floyd, there was the potential for Merch Aid to play a bigger role." said Chloe Saintilan, R/GA

They were getting ready to make a swing back through New York with a fresh crop of designer and business collaborations when the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests and marches in support of Black Lives Matter and against police brutality.

“In light of what was unfolding following the death of George Floyd, there was the potential for Merch Aid to play a bigger role,” said Chloe. 

“We made the decision to push back the launch of the new New York Collection two weeks (to June 15th) and instead work really hard on organising some partnerships between Black designers and relevant organisations that are helping those who really need it right now.”

Find out more in our latest podcast about the new Merch Aid collection supporting Black designers and organisations fighting on behalf of the Black community, which was unveiled on Monday, June 8th at getmerchaid.com and on Instagram.

You can listen to more FutureVision Conversations on Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play and Stitcher as well as right here on rga.com.

Want to be part of the conversation? Get in touch with us at futurevision@rga.com.  


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R/GA New York, 2 months ago