An epiphany during Mass at St. Mary's Church in Georgetown led Heidi Donovan to develop her line of inspirational 'Be strong, be true, be you' T-shirts.
Georgetown resident Heidi Donovan was in a dark place three years ago. Dealing with some personal issues, she sat in St. Mary’s Church before Mass, praying quietly and asking for guidance. This was the moment her life turned around.
“I felt a hand on my shoulder, and received the message ‘Be strong, be true, be you,’” says Heidi. “I felt this message was really powerful. It was my ‘a-ha!’ moment.”
She returned home and began planning on how to share this message with other women who might gather strength from it. She began designing T-shirts in her mind, and contacted several T-shirt suppliers.
Heidi received plenty of encouragement from her family — Brian Donovan, her husband of 25 years and general manager of an industrial division of General Electric in Plainville, Conn., younger daughter Kailey, 14, a freshman at Georgetown Middle/High School, and her older daughter Kristy, now 19 and a sophomore majoring in fashion merchandising and business administration at the University of Rhode Island.
Heidi began creating a series of designs for T-shirts, all of which would have the powerful message “Be strong, be true, be you” on the back.
Having lived in Georgetown for more than nine years, with five years spent as residents of the happy extended family of neighbors on True Lane, Heidi and Brian invited their friends from True Lane over for a big lobster party to celebrate her birthday in August of 2005. She showed them a few sample T-shirts from her brand new venture.
“They just loved the shirts, and everybody wanted one,” says Heidi. “I was originally only doing shirts for women, but my customers would say ‘I’d like one for my daughter,’ so this year I started making them for young girls and babies as well.”
The original line was for women, with teens wearing the small sizes. Now there are even shirts for babies, featuring a cute little bee drawing in the middle of the slogan “Baby [bee drawing] strong.” In response to demand, there will be a line of soccer mom shirts coming soon, as Heidi responds to her customers.
“I’m working for them,” says Heidi. “I’m keeping my business small because I just love the connection to my customers, and I like to keep that open. I like getting to know the people. I like talking to them.”
“Heidi like the small-business feel, and wants to keep that,” says Brian.
Now there are T-shirts in many designs and wonderfully vivid colors. Heidi can custom-design shirts for anyone wanting at least 15 of them, or sell a single shirt from her pre-designed line.
“I can get any style, any color and any size, as long as you want 15 of them,” says Heidi. “I’d love to do custom orders for anybody — for cancer walks, ladies groups going on vacation together, for a party, bridesmaids, a sports team, a 50th birthday or anniversary party, or the True Lane block party. But on the back they will all say, ‘be strong, be true, be you.’”
There is something about reading a message on a T-shirt that brings it home, according to daughter Kristy.
“All my friends at school wear them,” says Kristy. “You’d be surprised at how much a T-shirt can do. Being a fashion major, I’m around a lot of things. The message on a T-shirt, if it’s powerful enough, you remember it.”Heidi feels her shirts’ message is important for teens.
“With all that’s going on these days regarding image for teens, I think it’s important to encourage them to be their authentic selves,” says Heidi.
She applied to the government for a federal trademark granting her sole rights to the slogan “be strong, be true, be you,” and then the waiting began. Finally the trademark was granted.
“I was doing a flea market on Dec. 7, when Brian walked in waving the envelope,” says Heidi.
Heidi also designs hand-stamped tag necklaces and greeting cards. The baby bee strong shirts cost $10, and the price range on her entire T-shirt line is from $10 to $29.“I’m happy to deliver the shirts locally,” says Heidi.
If you are interested in seeing the shirts and learning how to order them, you can call Heidi on her business line at 978-500-2324, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.bestrongbetruebeyou.com.
In the meantime, glad to see her business continuing to grow after three years, Heidi plans to continue reaching out and inspiring women and girls — one shirt at a time.