|Jennifer Sandin Adams & Paula Sandin|
The sisters' transformation was so successful that they co-founded A Litttle Light, a Christian t-shirt business with designs that make the Christian/ vegan connection and inspire healthy eating. They're also writing a book about their individual journeys from debilitation to excellent health.
New Vegan Age: Tell us about your lives. Where were you born? How did you come to be vegan? When and how did you come to start your business?
Paula: We grew up in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. In 2006, I got very sick with a number of debilitating conditions and, as a result, lost my job. (I was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and its many accompanying corollary illnesses). After having been denied disability insurance, I was thinking about how to make an income. It was nearing Christmas, and I had gone on-line to look for uplifting Christian tee shirts as gifts for my sister and best friend. I could find none that appealed to me. Most were a little scary, to be frank. It was at that time that I thought there might be a market for tee shirts with positive and loving Christian/ inspirational messages. Thus, A Litttle Light, LLC was born. My sister was very involved from the beginning and eventually decided to officially become co-owner with me.
In May 2008, Jennifer suffered from a complete collapse resulting from heart problems and seizures. After many months of doctors’ appointments, she, too, was diagnosed with a litany of chronic and “incurable” illnesses. After a few years of research and still suffering with the “incurable” illnesses, my sister and I adopted a whole food, plant-based diet leading us both to completely restored health. The food did for us what no doctor or medicine could. We are now both healthier than we have ever been in our lives.
As a result of our vegan lifestyles, and our belief that our food choices should reflect deeply held Catholic Christian values about respecting all of life, we created a "Change the Food, Change the World" line of tee shirts that inspire healthy eating.
NVA: I love the name of your business—that the "misspelling" of "Little" with three ts is intentional, to symbolize the three crosses on Calvary. How did you settle on specializing in t-shirts, and not another product?
Paula: Seeing the great success of Life is Good tee shirts and their uplifting messages, we knew there was broad public interest in inspirational tee shirts with cute designs. A Little Light, LLC appeals to a somewhat narrower niche market. Our inspirational tee shirts are also uplifting and whimsical, but they point specifically to God, our true Inspiration.
NVA: In addition to the impetus for starting it, what makes the business vegan? Sourcing? Materials? A percentage of profits to vegan charities?
Jennifer: We aspire to be able to support a number of charitable organizations, including farm sanctuaries and vegan food/water charities that feed the poor and hungry. In 2014, A Litttle Light, LLC donated to Esther the Wonder Pig’s Indiegogo animal sanctuary campaign. Our ultimate goal is to create a foundation that supports farmers who want to switch from animal-based to organic, plant-based agriculture.
We are also very interested in partnering with non-profits to which we would donate a percentage of t-shirt sales. The types of organizations with which we are most interested in working are those that are Catholic (and other Christian denominations), as well as those organizations that support animal welfare and other pro-life issues.
NVA: You've found a way to combine your closeness as sisters with your strong personal beliefs, business passion, and life experience. Where and how do you market and sell your shirts? How do most of your customers find you?
Paula: A Litttle Light, LLC is an internet-based company, so our commerce is primarily done on-line. However, we did exhibit at the 2013 DC VegFest trade show and may exhibit at the Northern Virginia Christmas show at the Dulles Expo Center in mid-November.
NVA: Tell us about the design and manufacturing processes.
Jennifer: Together we develop the ideas for tee shirt messages and designs and sketch (read: scratch) them out on a piece of paper. My husband, Steve, then uses his own creative talent and graphic design skills to create something beautiful for us. We use a local company to print our tee shirts.
NVA: Do your offerings rotate seasonally? Annually?
Jennifer: We do offer seasonal designs, which also include holiday designs. For instance, we have created designs that are more appropriate for spring and summer, and we also have specific designs for Christmas. Right now, we are featuring our Fall collection of crisp apple tees. They celebrate the season and its abundant harvest of delicious, healthy foods.
NVA: What's been your most popular product to date? Why do you think it resonates with your customers?
|The Bee Still design|
Jennifer: The Bee Still shirt may be popular because it reminds people to slow down and give God the reigns. It has a double meaning, as well. It subtly reminds us about our need to protect bees from extinction. Aside from their own value as God’s Creatures, they also help us to maintain our food supply through pollination. We want the bees to still be around for future generations, hence “Bee Still”.
Paula: Our Green Apple shirt is popular with vegan audiences because it points back to God’s original plant-based eating plan for humanity.
Our In God We Trust Flag tee is popular because it points to the foundation upon which our nation was founded. As well, the three stars represent The Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, any tee that features “three” of something is our way of pointing to The Trinity.
NVA: Congratulations on finding a much-needed niche! We hope it will continue to find new markets and hearts as veganism grows. Will you offer any discounts or promotions for the upcoming back-to-school and holiday seasons? If so, how can readers take advantage of them at checkout?
Paula: We regularly offer discounts and promotions. We try to widely communicate them by announcing them on our website homepage and on Facebook and Twitter. Our best communications come from our satisfied customers who tell others about A Litttle Light, LLC.
NVA: Anything else we haven't yet discussed? Any other upcoming projects or plans you'd like to mention here?
Jennifer: We have just finished writing a book, Pick Up Your Mat…And Follow God to Divine Health, which chronicles our journeys from debilitating sickness to extreme good health by following God and adopting a whole food, plant-based diet (God’s eating plan found in Genesis 1:29). The book is currently with our publisher undergoing an initial editorial review.
Paula: In conjunction with the book, our vision is to be able to speak to audiences, including churches and colleges, about our health and spiritual journeys and share the incredible health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. So many people are sick (or will be), and we want them to know there is a way out of illness and debilitation.
NVA: Thank you so much, Jennifer and Paula. All the best to both of you as you continue your important work, and please stay in touch! We look forward to reading your book when it is ready.