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State College Natives Giving Back Through Instagram Clothing Business

Not many students can say they’ve launched a virtual non-profit clothing brand in their first year of college. Tia Oliver and Kelly Snyder are doing just that with the Love Always Project.

These neighbors-turned-best friends originally began the Love Always Project as an initiative to help people in need. This small project has since snowballed into a successful “thrift-flipped” clothing business where 90% of the profits are donated to organizations like Feeding America, The National Alliance to End Homelessness, and Black Lives Matter.

Courtesy of Tia Oliver

Growing up in State College, Oliver and Snyder were no stranger to the hustle and bustle of student life. After growing up together, the two girls decided to part ways for college; Oliver headed off to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Snyder decided stay close to home and attend Penn State.

When they both went off to college, they knew that freshman year was bound to be full of exciting, yet confusing experiences. It was during these first few months of college that the Love Always Project began.

“I started taking pictures of students around campus and asking them about their experiences with love, what it meant to them, and how they share it with others,” Oliver said. “I interviewed around 20 people from both UMass and Penn State and shared the pictures and stories on our Instagram.”

After their Instagram account started to gain followers, Oliver and Snyder developed shirts, sweatshirts, and stickers with their logo to raise money for The National Alliance to End Homelessness.

When the pandemic hit and stay-at-home orders were established, they decided to rebrand the Love Always Project into a sustainable clothing brand aimed to spread love and positivity through simple and chic designs.

The entire process starts with Oliver and Snyder collecting clothing items from local thrift stores or donations from their friends and family. The girls then choose between five and six items to revamp. They brainstorm ideas to embroider on each clothing item based on timely messages they identify with and what they think their audience would wear.

“We use a lot of female empowerment mantras like ‘Girl Power,'” Oliver said. “In our last drop, we painted a shirt with the words ‘I’m Speaking,’ which was a reference to Senator Kamala Harris in the vice presidential debate.”

In the week before a new collection is launched on Instagram, Oliver and Snyder spend about 10 hours revamping the clothing. Snyder sews and embroiders, while Oliver paints.

After the launch, the girls spend their days communicating with buyers, dealing with finances, and shipping the products. During this time, they also manage their social media presence and keep track of any ideas that pop up for future collections.

“We try to be realistic about the amount of time and effort we put into the project,” said Oliver. “Some months we can do two or more drops, but we can’t always make that happen. We want the Love Always Project to be a positive part of our lives, so we do our best to keep a relatively low time commitment while still producing content we feel proud of.”

Despite all of their hard work, Oliver and Snyder don’t personally keep any of the money they earn. The girls donate 90% of the profits to various organizations and invest the other 10% back into the project.

“We don’t have any financial incentive to do this, so our shop is purely based on wanting to help people and spread positivity,” said Oliver. “We want to promote a responsibility to give back to the community and those in need. That’s really important to us.”

In the future, Oliver and Snyder would love to expand the Love Always Project beyond social media. Their goal is to have their clothing in local State College shops or on their own website.

To purchase items from the Love Always Project, check out their Instagram and direct message to order. Shipping is free for State College residents.

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a sophomore writer from Houston, TX majoring in broadcast journalism. She loves watching the news, drinking absurd amounts of coffee, and saying "y'all" whenever possible. Contact her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at [email protected]

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