Optimism Fits Company to a “T”
Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
They say, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." At T-shirt company Life is Good when the going gets tough, they get optimistic. For over twenty years the Boston-based company has turned optimism – coupled with creative designs – into a $100 million business.
Founders and brothers Bert and John Jacobs say, "Each one of us has a choice: to focus our energy on obstacles or opportunities. To fixate on our problems or focus on solutions. We can harp on what’s wrong with the world or we can cultivate what’s right with the world. What we focus on grows. That’s why the Life is Good community shares one simple, unifying mission: to spread the power of optimism."
Looking for a way to combine their art skills with business after graduating from college, the brothers came up with the idea for a T-shirt company on a cross-country road trip. Soon they were selling T-shirts on college campuses and on the streets of Boston, making just enough money to avoid having to get full-time jobs.
Then in 1994, during an economic downturn similar to the one now, the T-shirt entrepreneurs got to talking about how everyone was worn down by the media’s constant focus on negative news. To counterbalance things, they had a keg party at their apartment and put some of their drawings on the wall, asking their friends to write comments next to them. A smiling stick figure - who was soon nicknamed "Jake" - exuded happiness and captured everyone's fancy.
The Jacobs brothers paired Jake with the words "Life is Good" – and a business was born, filling people's cravings for something upbeat and fun.
Now, along with its smile-inducing T's, the company has caps, athletic and sleep wear, pet products (to keep Fido smiling, too!) household accessories, stationery, and even automobile tire covers to keep you happy on the road.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel are Life is Good fans and have our own favorite shirts. And, when we're at the beach there is no telling where the ever present T's with Jake's smiling face will pop up to remind us to look at the positive side of life.
The brothers say that their mother Joan paved the way for their optimistic approach to business by being a powerful optimist herself. At the dinner table each night she asked her children to "Tell me something good that happened today." Whenever they have setbacks or problems, the T-shirt duo keeps those words in mind.
To achieve its goal of spreading optimism, Life is Good relies on what it calls the Life is Good Superpowers - ten powers that are available to all of us: Gratitude, Creativity, Authenticity, Love, Courage, Compassion, Simplicity, Humor, Openness, Fun.
Life is Good is about more than marketing, It's about improving people's lives. And, to help the next generation have happier lives, it donates 10% of its net profit to kids in need through the Life is Good Foundation. Partnering with schools, hospitals and social services agencies, the Foundation is working to make life good for kids.
As part of its mission to spread optimism, just like the founders' mother Joan used to do, Life is Good asks people to share "something good that happened today" on the company's website. In return, the company donates $1 to help kids.
With the power of optimism driving it forward, who knows where Life is Good will go next...or what new businesses will use that power to launch their own start-ups and make the world a better place?
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