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Interview with Ashley Wang, Founder of Food for the Frontlines

For this post, I wanted to highlight something amazing that my friend and classmate, Ashley Wang, did to bring a bit of light into these dark past few months.

Around the beginning of the pandemic, Ashley started a small, local business: Food for the Frontlines. Her goal was to raise enough money to buy meals from her father’s restaurant franchise and donate them to medical workers in the metro Atlanta area. Her and her team created personalized, embroidered, and tie-dyed shirts and sold them to teens and adults all across Atlanta.

In the interview below, I asked Ashley everything about her project, from what inspired her to start her small business, to what challenges she endured along the way. Ashley’s drive and motivation to do what she could to help local doctors and nurses was a selfless act that spread happiness, love and style to the both the heroes who fight on the frontlines everyday as well as her friends and family.

1. What prompted you to build Food for the Frontlines?

The idea of this project was actually inspired by my dad, James Wang. He recently opened the restaurant Jinya in Athens, GA, and donated a total of 90 meals to Piedmont Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Hospital. When the hospitals thanked him by sending pictures of smiling medical workers eating their food, it made me want to support these amazing people too!

2. What made you choose to sell personalized t-shirts instead of something more different/more generic?

It took a little while to figure out what we could sell in order to raise enough money to buy at least 50 meals for each delivery. Funny enough, after a few attempted ideas, I was scrolling through Tik Tok one day and I came across a few videos of people embroidering sweatshirts and sweatpants. This made me think about selling embroidered shirts, so, I bought myself a few trial shirts from Michaels, a sewing needle, embroidery string, and the embroidery hoops and taught myself how to embroider through simple YouTube tutorials. On my first try, I learned it to be a pretty easy task, so I continued creating t-shirts to sell!

3. Was the business more successful than you expected?

I expected our project to raise around 30-50 meals, but I never expected to be delivering 190 meals in total which is crazy! It definitely turned out to be more successful than I initially thought and I know my team and I are so happy with the results.

4. Did you face any challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Beginning to plan this project seemed quite intimidating because an initial goal of 30-50 meals seemed like a far reach, however, my team mate, Aahil Lalani, helped me calculate a break-even analysis on a spreadsheet to determine how much our meals would cost, how much our expenses would cost, and how many shirts we would need to sell in order to reach our goal. As a whole team, we have most definitely learned to better our communication between what needs to be delivered, when the shirts need to be delivered, and more.

5. How would you say you used style to positively impact the current challenges in the world?

I believe style positively impacted our current challenges in the world through our project because without the selling of our customized shirts we wouldn’t have been able to provide meals for our medical workers. Each customer was able to completely customize their design and colors to be unique for them! Their personal styles quite literally fueled our project and it was so much fun seeing everyone wear their shirts!


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