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Woman Turns Cookies Into T-Shirts

AP MEMBER FEATURE EXCHANGE FOR USE NOV. 2-3 - In this Oct. 16, 2013 photo, Kristen Golden displays a T-shirt emblazoned with a fortune cookie message in Amherst, Mass. A motivational message from a Chinese fortune cookie on her refrigerator prompted Golden to start Fortune Cookie Wisdom, a business that creates T-shirts she hopes will inspire and motivate others. (AP Photo/Daily Hampshire Gazette, Sarah Ganzhorn)

AP MEMBER FEATURE EXCHANGE FOR USE NOV. 2-3 - In this Oct. 16, 2013 photo, Kristen Golden displays a T-shirt emblazoned with a fortune cookie message in Amherst, Mass. A motivational message from a Chinese fortune cookie on her refrigerator prompted Golden to start Fortune Cookie Wisdom, a business that creates T-shirts she hopes will inspire and motivate others. (AP Photo/Daily Hampshire Gazette, Sarah Ganzhorn)

Amherst, Mass. — A motivational message from a Chinese fortune cookie on the refrigerator in Kristen Golden’s kitchen prompted her creation of T-shirts she hopes will inspire and motivate others.

Seeing the saying “You are free to invent your life” daily, Golden came up with the idea of putting these uplifting messages on a line of clothing.

“Fortunes are both unique and universal,” said Golden, founder of Fortune Cookie Wisdom. “People think fortunes speak to them.”

In July, Golden was one of about two dozen women selected as winners in a business pitch contest known as “Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence” in Brooklyn, N.Y., helping women small business owners grow their companies.

Golden is participating in a business accelerator program featuring weekly conference calls to talk about challenges and learn new skills, with the aim of getting everyone up to $250,000 in annual sales within a 12- to 18-month period.

Golden, 55, came to the Pioneer Valley in 1999 to serve as executive director of Safe Passage, where she worked for five years, and later served as interim director of Class Action. She had previously written for Ms. Magazine and was a project manager for Take Our Daughters to Work Day while living in New York City.

Working both in the anti-violence field and with organizations that promote equality, Golden said some of the people she met, and experiences they had, were devastating.

“I learned both how to take care of myself and how survivors built their resiliency,” Golden said.

Golden admits that working with women affected by violence was challenging, and she found inspirational messages helpful. Such ideas — including her own philosophy that people can’t always determine their circumstances, but they can determine how they respond to them — helped bring comfort to these people.

By putting similar messages on T-shirts, the idea would bring smiles to people’s faces and give affirmation and hope to the wearer, Golden said.

After developing the concept in May, Golden turned to designer Julie Waggoner, who runs MicaBlue Creative in West Whately.

Golden wanted the fortunes to appear to be attached directly to the shirt. After several failed experiments, one of which portrayed a crumbled fortune cookie, the finished design shows words written in the same Helvetica font and use of small smiley faces popular on some of the fortunes. The letters undulate to simulate the curves of a paper fortune and shading makes the fortune appear to pop off from the shirt.

Once the design was ready, Golden brought the product to ES Sports in Holyoke, which is manufacturing the shirts using American Apparel ream-spun cotton that is both durable and comfortable.

People who purchase the T-shirts have four options for the messages. The first sale she made, on the streets of Amherst, was to a woman who purchased a T-shirt reading, “You are free to invent your life.” Coincidentally, the woman was such a fan of fortune cookies that she already has an image of one tattooed on her hip, Golden said.

One of the most popular T-shirts so far has been the one with the message, “The courage to be great lies deep within each of us.”

Golden said one woman purchased two T-shirts with this saying for the coaches who work with her autistic child at Special Olympics. In fact, Golden is working with the Autism Project, an Rhode Island-based organization, to sell her shirts and support its work.

Other messages in her line are “A great pleasure in life is doing what others say you can’t” and “The Earth is a school. Learn in it.”