Student business struggles for credibility

GVL Archive / Brian B. Sevald
Random acts of kindness is something everyone can do.

GVL Archive / Brian B. Sevald Random acts of kindness is something everyone can do.

Susie Skowronek

111Senior Kyle Fetner and junior Brock Hyder co-founded the Random Acts of Kindness or RAOK (pronounced ROKE) – Project. The project launched Jan. 1.

“(It’s) kind of like a TOMS Shoes-meets-Meals on Wheels type of thing,” Hyder said.

As with TOMS Shoes, the RAOK Project operates on the one-for-one principle: when a customer purchases a t-shirt, the company will donate a t-shirt.

Shirts come in pink or blue and cost $20 bought locally or $25 purchased from the online store with free shipping. The project has sold about 25 shirts.

“The online store just launched. That’s kind of a new thing,” Fetner added. “We’re trying to get people geared there, but then again it’s hard to gear people for the website to give us their credit card number when they don’t really know who we are yet. … I think people are a little skeptical right now.”

Half the money from shirt sales goes toward the purchase of the matching shirt for charity. The rest of the money goes toward investment in the RAOK Project, Fetner said.

“For each shirt that is purchased, one will be given to a child in need,” the RAOK website reads.

Fetner and Hyder said they want to give the t-shirts donated to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, but they cannot yet confirm that the hospital will indeed receive the t-shirts.

“This is a building point,” Fetner said. “We call Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. We tell them what we’re doing. We tell them who we are. To be honest, they’re still kind of skeptical about who we really are.”

Despite its many obstacles, many have shown their support for the RAOK Project. About 500 Facebook users have “liked” the project, including GVSU student Kristen Kloosterhouse.

“They help the underprivileged with their donation of shirts, but more than that, I appreciate the reminder that those shirts give others,” she said. “They remind us to be kind to others and to think about the way our actions affect those around us. Even the smallest of actions can give hope and make someone’s day a little brighter, causing a chain reaction of kind moments.”

Fetner said the project welcomes suggestions from people who purchase the shirts – wherever they see a need.

“We’ve talked about literally walking around Grand Rapids and finding a family that’s in need and giving them five shirts for a whole family,” Fetner added. “Just because that’s what we’re about. We’re about affecting people that we don’t know directly but that we know are going to get an impact from it.”

The RAOK Project’s slogan is, “New reason to buy. New reason to wear. Make the change.”

Fetner said he wants people to remember to do the simple things for other people when they wear the project t-shirts – to perform random acts of kindness. Hyder offered a personal example.

“There was a gentleman who got on the bus, the 50, coming back to Allendale on crutches,” Hyder said. “So I let him sit down in my seat because it was a bus full of people.”

Still, at this time, the RAOK Project is categorized as a for-profit business. Traditionally, owners and shareholders receive a share of the profits from such corporations. However, Fetner said that until he can find a nonprofit partner, he will run the project like a nonprofit.

“We don’t take money from this,” he added. “I’ve spent money, (Hyder) has spent money, and we’re not asking for repayment. Our repayment is making a difference.”

The cofounders hope to find a nonprofit partner in the near future.

Fetner and Hyder said they also hope to have a second series of t-shirts available soon, and the money from these sales will benefit a charitable organization – preferably one that benefits children.

“We hope, especially with younger children, to get our generation connected with the younger generation, to pass on the idea that passing on acts of kindness is what you should do,” Fetner said. “And then through that, we hope to bring up the morality of our generation, feeling that we’re actually making a difference.”

To learn more about the RAOK Project or to purchase t-shirts, visit

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