FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Jessie Frenkel was just excited about sharing a new T-shirt her startup had for sale; she wasn’t expecting all the blowback that came with it.
Frenkel is one of the founders of a company called CureGear, a company that began with the idea of making leggings out of images produced in the lab.
The startup turns clothing and jewelry into a way to raise scientific and disease awareness.
One of the products they’re selling is a T-shirt that says, “Vaccines cause adults.” The post advertising the shirt, which has been shared more than 2,000 times as of Wednesday night, had hundreds of people arguing about vaccination in the comments.
Frenkel said she was browsing the internet one day when she came across a quote she thought would make a great T-shirt.
It seemed perfect, especially since Frenkel is working toward getting her Ph.D in immunology at Colorado State University.
“So vaccines are just something really near and dear to my heart, and I think that a lot of people feel that way. It is kind of a controversial area, obviously,” she said.
After checking to see whether there were any trademark issues, CureGear started making the shirts.
Though Frenkel knew it would be a controversial item, she wasn’t expecting the response the post got.
It had been up for a few days when the comments started pouring in.
“All of a sudden on, I think it was Sunday evening, we just started getting bombarded with anti-vax comments,” Frenkel said. “I guess my initial response was like, I was kind of intimidated.”
With just two people running the Facebook page, the comments section on this post seemed daunting, but the company's followers soon entered the conversation.
“Our platform followers so far are really science enthusiasts, and they’re the people who love this stuff. And you’re going to ask anybody, they will know all the facts,” Frenkel said.
Sure enough, once their followers noticed all the negative feedback on the post, they jumped into the conversation.
“Everyone was just super on board defending it, and so we could really just step back and, I guess, let them take care of it,” Frenkel said.
Jessie and her husband, CureGear co-founder Daniel Frenkel, have been monitoring the comments in the meantime to make sure things don’t get too bad.
CureGear usually donates a portion of its profits to fund scientific research. Those who purchase their products can choose which area they’d like to help fund by choosing from a drop-down menu.
For this shirt in particular, the company will give $5 from each one sold to the Gates Foundation to help vaccinate children against polio.
“We actually ended up adding the Gates Foundation in for this post just because I think it fits in, obviously, really, really well," Frenkel said.
If you’re interested in buying one of these shirts, you can order them here.