Move over haute couture—at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than a comfy T-shirt. Local artist Sara Hickman creates fashion for the masses with her creative, witty and relatable designs. Buyers not only get quality apparel, available at their fingertips from the online store, but also the opportunity to support small businesses and organizations in the community with each purchase.
Sara Hickman Designs launched in 2008, morphing from preschool entertainment events to educational and illustration work, and then finally added apparel beginning in May 2020. When COVID-19 struck this past spring, Sara was furloughed from the corporate world. She observed how the pandemic was negatively impacting the businesses around her and she took the opportunity to meet a need.
“COVID happened and I thought, ‘Well, I have this opportunity to build up businesses,’” Sara shares. “I decided that when a customer would buy one of my Cinco de Mayo shirts, I would give them a $10 gift card to a local Mexican restaurant.”
Her apparel sales led to giving back to the community she loves. Now, each item sold comes with a $10 donation to participating small businesses and organizations. They see an immediate kickback each Friday, when Sara forwards the accumulated donations. She partners with several groups in the area, including The Edge Teen Center, Reach Out Lakota, Learning Through Play Café and more.
“I want to be known as a business that gives back to the community,” says Sara. “I have a goal to give back $50,000 in donations this year.”
Sara’s business was founded at the corner of mission and passion: she is on a mission to be a business with a heart, but her passion is art.
“I’ve been drawing my entire life—probably since I was four.” she explains.
Ever since she could hold one, Sara has had a pencil in her hand. She has a reputation for using it creatively.
“Earlier this year, I was doing some goal planning for the business. I had these huge pieces of paper taped to the door and I was writing on them. My mom called—she always does video calling—and when she saw what I was doing she said, ‘There you are, drawing on the walls again. At least you are using paper this time!’ So, I guess I used to draw on the walls,” she laughs. “I guess I still do!”
Browsing the web shop at SaraHickmanDesigns.com is a peek into the life of its owner. As a busy working mom of two, Sara’s designs reflect a humorous approach to life. You’ll find some familiar themes on her graphic tees, with a focus on faith, family and flamingos. When inspiration strikes, she gets to work.
“My whole business started with really simple designs: simple lines, fun, whimsical and bright, and family and faith-oriented,” Sara explains. “My design style is line art, like a coloring book. It’s really simplistic, but with lots of hand-style lettering.”
“My kids inspire me. They are hilarious!” she says. “They’ll say some of the wittiest little things. Also, I’m kind of a nerd. I have an art and science aspect to me,” Sara shares. “I find puns really funny.”
“Often, I’ll just be scribbling, and an idea will come to me,” she shrugs.
Once the design is perfected, Sara cuts it from vinyl and presses it with heat, turning out a handmade product sourced from local small businesses.
“My apparel supplier is local,” she says, “and I order vinyl from an Ohio company.”
Custom orders are Sara’s specialty. From a single order to outfitting an entire organization, she welcomes the challenge to produce an unforgettable design as well as an easy fundraiser. She does the organization, processing, setup and design at no cost. She even supplies an online store free of charge.
“I can do this very customized,” she says. “People are struggling right now. They shouldn’t have to worry about the setup or an upfront investment.”
The businesses that can best benefit from Sara Hickman Designs’ fundraising program are the “small to medium sized businesses that are competing with chain stores down the street—the community establishments that are helping to build the community,” Sara explains. “And the organizations that are fueling the community. The places where owners really want to know their customers.”
Support local businesses with a purchase from Sara Hickman Designs, or start a fundraiser of your own for a favorite community organization. Find your new favorite tee among Sara’s charming and humorous designs.
“Sometimes I use the humor to get the stress off my chest. You have to either laugh or cry, and I try to make people laugh,” Sara says.