Spreading ((hugs)) from Forsyth to Hollywood
Forsyth mom creates text-based T-shirts
By ALLISON GOLDSTEIN
Appen Newspapers Intern
It’s 2012 and many of us are suffering from a technological addiction: text messaging. From brief greetings to friendly reminders, quick messages like “be home for din @ 7” have replaced drawn out conversations and answering machine messages.
Recently, a Forsyth County mom has figured out a way to fuse this impersonal technology with personal emotions, and created a thriving new business that has landed her products on the backs of Hollywood’s hippest stars.
Spreading happiness through text messaging is precisely what Mary Guenther had in mind when she started start her T-shirt company in October 2010. She took her design idea, added memories of growing up with a mother whom she described as a “hugger,” and gave her company a name that was entirely appropriate: TxtHugs.
“So many times we text people a message and they don’t know the emotion behind it,” Guenther said. “I want to spread ‘positive-ness.’ And that’s what this is all about.”
Guenther’s entrepreneurial motivation stemmed from the memory of her close friend Adrienne Eaton-Smith, a vivacious optimist who passed away in 2009 after battling various forms of cancer. Eaton-Smith always dreamed of starting a business with her girlfriends, and her energy and spirit live on through Guenther’s company.
“I was devastated [by her death], but also motivated to fulfill the dream I shared with Adrienne of starting my own business,” said Guenther, a mother of two.
After initial Internet research, Guenther found that adding double brackets to a word could imply ((hugging)), and so it became the inspiration for her first line of T-shirts.
“Hugs are universal; they make everyone feel better, and even texting a hug can make something that’s usually impersonal a little more caring,” she said.
But TxtHugs is more than just a business. Guenther has implemented a philanthropic angle in large part a tribute to her friend, Adrienne. For every shirt with the breast cancer message, a 10% donation is made to organizations active in the fight against breast cancer. A similar donation is made from the sales of the ((hope)) 4 Africa line, with proceeds going to the Africa Millennium Foundation, an organization that helps African women and children.
Two years after launching TxtHugs, Guenther was catapulted to national prominence when she was asked to contribute her T-shirts for the 2012 Teen Choice Awards. Her products went into the “goody bags” for celebrity winners and presenters at the show.
“I initially thought it might be a hoax,” laughed Guenther, recollecting the original phone call. “But I soon realized the organizers were legitimately interested in my work.”
The producers left it to her to decide which designs to include in the bags, so Guenther formed a focus group to determine which of her T-shirt lines would best reflect her company. She ultimately decided on two: ((hope)) 4 Africa and g2g USA. Eaton-Smith’s two children modeled the selected T-shirts, which was something Guenther said was very special.
Although she was thrilled to have the opportunity to provide the Teen Choice Awards with her personalized T-shirts, Guenther noted it was really “just a bonus.”
“If nothing else, I hope the celebrities and everyone else wearing my shirts take away the same message: texting can be positive and make people happy,” said Guenther.
Within the next few years, Guenther hopes to expand TxtHugs beyond inspirational T-shirts to something even greater, whether it be additional products or even her own cause. With constant motivation from Eaton-Smith, Guenther said she’s constantly coming up with new ideas and new ways to spread happiness.
“From a small ‘leap of faith’ idea a few years ago to the Teen Choice Awards, TxtHugs has really come a long way,” said Guenther.