Tim Hickey, founder of the merchandise company respectandbekind, is on a mission.
Not to sell merchandise.
Not to make money.
But to make a positive difference in the world.
“The intent is not to become a merchandise company,” Hickey said. “The merchandise is really just a vehicle to get our message out. As far as I’m concerned, if I sold $10 million worth of merchandise this year because people liked the logo, I’d be a failure.”
Hickey launched respectandbekind, or RABK, in July 2018 after a series of impactful conversations with his three grandchildren. Together, the family concluded that respect and kindness constitute “the foundation for communicating with other people.” From there, respect and kindness went from a motto to a mobilization effort. The goal is simple: spread this message to as many people as possible.
The organization’s message, “Creating a kinder and more respectful world, one human interaction at a time,” is always poignant, but it takes on an even greater meaning on Wednesday, which is Random Acts of Kindness Day. Respectandbekind is here to remind people to think of others not only today, but every day.
“The goal is to become a widely known brand entity that is based on our initiative and belief,” Hickey said. “Once we have people and organizations enrolled in our belief, it will inspire them to support us by creating revenue through the sale of our merchandise, and give us the legitimacy and integrity to fundraise and truly benefit charitable causes.”
The brand’s logo features a geometric pattern consisting of a triangle, oval, diamond and star, and is surrounded by a circle, signifying unity. RABK is a self-sustaining business where Hickey buys merchandise — masks, shirts, stickers, hats — to sell. A portion of the profits from these sales will go to local charitable organizations, like food banks.
“I just want it so that people can leave and ask the owner, ‘What is this?’” Hickey said. “Even if we get just a small segment of people thinking on the right track as far as respect and kindness, so that when you do have differences and so forth, maybe you can talk about it instead of shutting someone out or fighting somebody.”
Hickey wants to see his profits go back into the community. He says he has plans to sell his branded merchandise in retail spaces, online and at pop-ups and festivals “as soon as COVID-19 is over.” The revenue from these sales will then be used for community investment initiatives.
When respectandbekind was born, Hickey left his goods everywhere from coffee shops to the local Wegmans so that passersby could freely pick them up. Then, respectandbekind stickers started appearing on car bumpers, public parks and lamp posts.
People started to notice what Hickey was doing and when somebody asked for a sticker or a shirt, Hickey simply gave it to them.
Hickey has big ideas for how to reinvest these funds in the community. He says he has a particular soft spot for the youth population because “they have no control over the craziness” happening around them. Hickey proposed giving newborn children RABK onesies, so “from day one parents are going to instill that [message] in their children.”
Hickey is also passionate about helping foster children. He hopes to use his profits to give away RABK backpacks so foster kids have better access to basic necessities like socks, underwear, shirts, journals and pencil cases.
Hickey also says he hopes to form partnerships with local businesses and integrate his organization’s message in communal settings by placing RABK stickers on windows and raising awareness in the community.
These small, incremental goals are how Hickey and his grandchildren hope to make a difference in the lives of others.
Hickey hopes his “mission-driven” brand can become a catalyst for change by growing organically. He views his mission the same way grassroots organizers do theirs: he wants his supporters to “feel it,” instead of sensing an obligation to contribute financially. Hickey understands that not charging for his product might not be the most prudent business model, but he wants others to “have the right heart.”
“If I can't get people on board with like minds at this time it really will speak to the shape that our society is in,” Hickey said. “I’m very hopeful and maybe I’ve got some pollyanna, but I feel like everybody has decency in them, it’s just a matter of inspiring them to have that decency come to the surface … I can’t think that everybody’s going to be on board but if we can get a lot of people on board, this could be impactful.”
Jack Porcari is an assistant features editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Jack Porcari is the assistant features editor at The Spectrum. He is a political science major with a minor in law and journalism. Aside from writing and editing, he enjoys playing piano, flow arts, reptiles and activism.