BANFF – Defending Awesome is a Banff-based custom T-shirt, sticker and signage company, that in the spirit of giving has made more than a few people’s holidays a little brighter this year by donating Christmas dinners.
The small business started out selling tie dye T-shirts at the Banff Farmers Market in 2010, and has since expanded operations to a storefront in the Bear Street Mall.
“The money for this project came from funds we normally put into Facebook ads at Christmas,” Jim Kwan, Chief Director of Awesome at Defending Awesome, The Tee Ninjas, said in an email. “We decided to keep it local and invest back into people in our own community instead this year.”
The spirit of giving is part of Kwan’s business philosophy, and not just at Christmas. By his estimation, close to $40,000 has been put back into the community through various initiatives over the past decade.
“As a small business this year, we were hit with a huge loss in spring sales. It is our busiest time. We lost a lot of sales that we do with the ski hills and school year end and baseball season,” Kwan said.
“And our Christmas sales have not been that great, but that was to be expected.”
Despite the setbacks, Kwan has seen the current situation as an opportunity to remind everyone that local businesses are an important part of every community, especially in hard times.
“At the start of COVID, we gave out 250 free door and floor stickers to essential businesses in Banff and Canmore, such as grocery stores and pharmacies and the Banff hospital,” Kwan said.
“All we had asked in return was for people to make a small donation of their choice to Banff Food Rescue, who were in much need of help for food.”
The Christmas dinner giveaway was set up as a no-purchase-necessary raffle, and in the true spirit of the season a number of people paid their good luck forward by donating their winnings to those in need.
In all 19 complete meals, including 11 turkeys and two hams with all the trimmings, three complete breakfasts and two dinners for two – enough food for roughly 100 people – was shared with the community. Curbside pickup and delivery of the meals was made from Dec. 21-22 in Kwan’s festively decorated Jeep, that included multiple strings of fully lit Christmas lights.
“I felt like the giveaway was a great hit considering the year we were in and with so many people going through hard times. A few small businesses in town have already reached out to me wanting to be a part of it for next year,” Kwan said, but was also eager to mention that supporting local can come in many forms.
“There are many things you can do to help your local small businesses without spending a dime,” Kwan said. “I think this is the biggest misconception with people. To show support like your favourite local company's Facebook or Instagram, engage in their posts, post pictures of products you love from them, make recommendations, write a review.”
The simple question Kwan wants people to think about when they do spend money is whether that money is going to a big international corporation or to a local business with community involvement, one that supports little league sports, or school programs or local charities.
With another successful act of philanthropy under his belt, Kwan is already looking forward to next year.
“I’m hoping we can do something similar again with even more turkeys. Maybe a grocery store will want to be a part of the initiative as well. A big shout out to the DA team (Jeff, Kelsey, Audrey) and also True North Christmas Lights, without these guys this would not have been possible.”
For a list of partners in the project and more photos of the Christmas dinner giveaway please visit Defending Awesome’s Facebook page.