By: Ayanna Pasha
In a world of equal parts chaos and unity Willie and David Combs make sense of it all through sharing messages on the t-shirts they print.
These men aren’t just brothers, community leaders, family men and business owners, they are The Tshirt Men.
While David swears to have “never printed a t-shirt before in my life,” he and Willie wanted to start a business together and were inspired by similar business models in Las Vegas. In 2012 the brothers began screen printing for small businesses in their apartment. With continued growth and success they were able to set up a physical location on Hilltop in 2014 where you can find them today.
Screen printing is an art of patience, precision and passion. But the statements they make aren’t limited to their t-shirt screen printing business – they are also looking to make an impact within their community.
See what David had to say about this in our interview below!
How can we support TSM and other Black-owned businesses?
In a time where we are actively pushing for systemic reform, David encourages everyone to demand action plans from our local policy makers to include Black-owned businesses as contractors.
“We need to push for policy changes that will bring real, true equity to Black-owned businesses.”
How do we do this?
He says, “Tacoma needs to make policies where a certain percentage of contracts are granted to Black-owned businesses.There are plenty of Black-owned businesses that provide services that the city uses.
Right now we are talking about defunding the police and recognizing there is systemic racism in the police and justice systems. If we can recognize that, then we also need to recognize there is systemic racism in all pillars of our society, even in business. “
David believes by showing policy makers a consistent unified front they will have no other choice but to listen to our demands. And since we need true reform across the board now is the time to be vocal about everything.
“People supporting Black businesses monetarily is great, but what will really make Black businesses sustainable is through policy changes.”
Where can Tacoma go from here:
“The Mayor (Victoria Woodards) is taking a strong stance and encouraging us to keep protesting until we see real change. I say we take her advice.”
What’s next for The Tshirt Men:
While racism is deeply ingrained into the fabric that is America, staying silent and stagnant about it isn’t TSM’s style. Pun fully intended.
Business has been steady and growing, but the Tshirt Men are looking into expanding Black-owned businesses, particularly in the Hilltop community.
“Our mindset is trying to take up more space on Hilltop. Whether that’s helping Black entrepreneurs open businesses or doing it ourselves… It’s very important for areas facing gentrification (like Hilltop) to give space for Black ownership.”
Do you plan to run for city council again?
“We planned for two campaigns in the beginning, and that (might) still be the plan. It’s three years from now…so we’ll see.”
Tell me about your daughter! Congratulations!
“She was born April 28th, 2020 at 8 lbs 12 oz…she came so quick! Everyone says she looks like me! This is my first child, but I’ve had a lot of practice with my stepdaughter who has been in my life the last 3 years. I love being a father, it’s a great experience.”
Fun fact: David’s daughter is named Cassius (yes after Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali) because he and his partner thought she was going to be a boy! Still, they have absolutely no regrets (and they shouldn’t!).
The Tshirt Men is 100% go-and-support-now material! Check out their info below and show some love.
Facebook: The Tshirt Men Co.
Ayanna is a Copywriter for M Agency specializing in creating impactful content and crafting meaningful messages. She leads with words of wit in a City of Grit. Ayanna grew up in Washington state, but is an Island girl at heart, an avid learner, yoga instructor, and mom!