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Meet the 2021 WISP Award Winners: Marj Easterling
Marj Easterling
Founder/Fairy Gothmother | Big Lick Screen Printing
Roanoke, Virginia

“SHE’S JUST funny and smart and badass,” says Kristine Shreve. “And totally unafraid to own her work and her personality and her life.”

“One of the original female members of Shirt Lab, she has parlayed that into being one of the founding members of the inaugural Business Sprint Support Program with twice a week update and coaching calls,” says Michael Woolbright, president, ExpressTees.com / Graphic Tees. Marj was also instrumental in the Hear For Good program providing over site and guidance for other states to implement this tremendous program helping small businesses when they needed it the most. Her efforts alone contributed over $50,000.00 to the local community.

Your nomination form states, “She sets a bar for inclusiveness. She’s open hearted, open-minded, and willing to say what she thinks.” Why is inclusivity important to you (personally and professionally) and how can we be a more inclusive industry?

Inclusivity was never something I thought about. Growing up, we were always taught to treat everyone with equal respect and to make the best choices possible. This authenticity builds the confidence to be fearless of other’s judgments. Additionally, having my father diagnosed with Huntington’s disease (a rare genetic terminal illness akin to having Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s together) definitely played a role. “Accommodations” became a natural progression in our family life and even my sons pitched in to help. We do what must be done and take care of family. I was never embarrassed to take my dad out for lunch, even though he would knock things over and spill things and make a mess like a three-year-old. I would just clean it up and go on. The way we handled his deteriorating condition affected his mindset tremendously. He handled his situation better because we didn’t make it a negative issue.

This roll-with-the-flow attitude has naturally carried over in my business. I have a mentally handicapped family friend, Stacie, who likes to come “help” on Fridays. She will hang out at the shop, visit with customers, and just watch me work. She even has her own shop shirt because she’s part of our shop family! I think an easy tip for our industry to be more “inclusive” is to stop the automatic resistance default to new situations. Instead of thinking of all the reasons why something or someone won’t work, stop and consider how you can make it work. Inclusivity isn’t always problem solving.

Your nomination form and your website highlight your strong sense of community. How has your local involvement impacted your career and your business?

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My whole philosophy is based on being successful by helping others. The better care we can take of our customers, the more business we’ll get, the more our Big Lick family grows. Children are always welcome here. We even have a treasure chest full of lollipops – “big licks” if you will. My shop is located beside an autism school, and we host school groups regularly. Seeing a face light up when a child can print their own shirt is always worth it. I will never miss an opportunity to make someone’s day!

What does being a woman in the screen printing industry mean to you?

I did not realize what a male-dominated industry screen printing was! I have numerous stories of being slighted, ignored, etc., but those instances are never my focus. I have built a solid business to serve a much-needed space in our community and I’m exceptionally proud of the work we do. I don’t see myself as a pioneer – I’m not special. I do what needs to be done and take care of my family. Is this not what we all do?

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

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