Screen printer lifting up formerly incarcerated people opens retail space

A custom screen printing company advocating for and employing formerly incarcerated people has opened its first brick-and-mortar retail space on Grand Rapids’ far south side.

For Everyone Collective in late October opened the storefront at 2215 29th St. SE, alongside the company’s production space. 

For Everyone primarily employs formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, and does custom screen printing and design, in addition to creating and selling its original clothing line. 

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At approximately 700 square feet, the new retail space will allow customers to purchase For Everyone designs in person in addition to shopping online, while providing a lounge space for customers and supporters to gather. 

For Everyone founder Sky Rich said the space is about having “an open door to the shop, where before it’s been closed.” 

Rich founded the worker-owned collective in 2018 as Forgive Everyone, with the intention of using clothing as a platform to raise awareness about discrimination toward formerly incarcerated people. 

For Everyone storefront
The storefront is located alongside the company’s 5,000-square-foot production space. Credit: Courtesy of For Everyone Collective

“I had recently learned a lot about the prison system and had my eyes opened to a lot of the barriers people are facing when they get out — around employment, housing, and general discrimination against people because they have a criminal record,” he said of his inspiration for the brand.

The initial goal of the screen printing company was to donate a portion of each sale to prison reentry organizations. With that in mind, Rich started screen printing his own designs and taking custom screen printing orders, which led to the realization that the company had potential to employ formerly incarcerated people. 

“It’s not just a clothing brand, it’s actually helping people who are impacted by the things the clothing is talking about,” Rich said, describing the collective as “a side project that started taking up more and more of my time.”   

From there, Rich formed a group of like-minded entrepreneurs into a worker-owned company renamed as For Everyone Collective. For Everyone is owned and run by a team of 11 from its approximately 5,000-square-foot production, design and shipping space on 29th Street, which will now double as a storefront for the brand. 

Despite the company’s small team and “scrappy setup,” Rich said For Everyone has fulfilled 10,000 orders for For Everyone’s custom designs in 2023. The brand screen-prints an average of 2,000 shirts weekly.

Rich said For Everyone focuses not only on creating designs and wearables that speak to their values, but also on paying employees an above-living wage, offering free dental, health care and life insurance, unlimited time off and using ethically-sourced materials. 

For Everyone Collective staff
For Everyone Collective’s staff. Credit: Courtesy of For Everyone Collective

Overcoming barriers

For Everyone recently connected with national cannabis reform nonprofit Last Prisoner Project and comedy duo Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong for a cannabis-centric design that Rich described as a “wild” collaboration. Cheech and Chong wore the shirts in promotional photos, and a portion of the proceeds from the collaboration were donated to support Last Prisoner Project’s constituent support services. 

“We are so thrilled to partner with For Everyone, a company that centers directly impacted individuals and their families, to design apparel that informs and educates the public on how prohibition was designed to disenfranchise communities of color from the start,” Last Prisoner Project Sarah Gersten said in an emailed statement to Crain’s Grand Rapids Business.

“We are especially proud that all proceeds will be going to our constituents currently incarcerated for cannabis,” Gersten added. “The collaboration came together naturally, given our shared goal of achieving justice for everyone still harmed by the War on Drugs.”

According to Massachusetts-based criminal justice think tank Prison Policy Initiative, the unemployment rate in 2018 for formerly incarcerated individuals was 27.3%, compared to 5.8% for the general public at the time.

Formerly incarcerated people tend to face barriers such as education, training, housing and work experience when applying to jobs. 

In Michigan, those issues disproportionately affect people of color. The Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C.-based organization addressing racial disparities in America’s criminal justice system, reported this year that more than half of Michigan’s prison population is Black, while 70% of Michigan prisoners serving more than 10 years are Black. 

In addition to selling its products in the new retail space, For Everyone hopes to offer designs from other Grand Rapids-area clothing creators, such as Transfigure Print Co., a local screen printing company focused on LGBTQ+ and trans-inclusive designs. The company also intends to add an art gallery to its offerings, featuring art from formerly incarcerated artists. 

“And who knows,” Rich added, “we’re technically in the Grand Rapids city limits, so we might have an ArtPrize venue here.” 

More from Crain’s Grand Rapids Business:

Amphitheater takes ‘big step’ forward with $15M in support from Kent County

Kent County indefinitely delays vote on John Ball Zoo surface parking plan

Business leaders form local chapter of national group for Black professionals

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