This is the story of how I walked into a t-shirt store, thinking it was just a t-Shirt store, when I was actually walking into the story of a contemporary company that can be exemplified as one of the symbols of Israel today.
I started a 5-month internship program in Israel, Career Israel. Based in Jerusalem, I began working part-time at my first internship.
After spending the first two months in The City of Gold, I realized that the city is not only important for its historical sites and spiritual meaning. Although Jerusalem is usually perceived differently, it’s the home of several small, big and developing businesses that carry with them a cool, hip and modern style of business.
With that in mind, I started to look for a second internship in any institution that would fit that description. I found three opportunities- the first would give me chance to meet the most influential people in the world. The second, a famous non-profit that supports the Israeli-Ethiopian population, would be a comfortable choice because of my previous experience. But for a 21-year old young man who left South America to intern all over the world, the comfortable zone is not that comfortable. So I choose the third option: to intern for a for-profit that produces cool T-Shirts related to social causes or quotes and faces of famous world leaders. “The unique thing about NU Campaign is that it’s not about t-shirts, but about stories. Every t-Shirt tells a different story, and that’s why we print the story of it on the inside of the t-Shirt, so you carry it with your heart”. This is what David Kramer, NU Campaign’s creator and CEO told me, my internship coordinator, and every single client who passes by the store on Ben Hillel Street, just by Ben Yehuda– the place to be in Jerusalem.
Initially, my job at NU was to produce videos that had the potential to go viral. I remember well the very first time I went to the store to speak with David. I thought I would be going to typical office. But I was wrong. “This is our office”, David said, as we sat in the middle of the store. Then, we started to talk. “I’ve read your resume”, he said, “but I don’t remember much about it, can you tell me more about yourself, please?” I smiled, loving that this gave me an opening to tell my story. I told him that I was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and at the age of eighteen, I moved out of my parents’ home to study Cinema and Video, which turned out to be a poor choice when I realized that I didn’t want to spend my life inside a movie set. But I decided not to drop school, and instead use my studies in a way that would help me find good opportunities.
I found a job at the Jewish Film Festival in the Brazilian city where I went to school. What I expected to be just an internship became the first step for a big change in my life. Suddenly, I became the producer of the festival, dealing with international producers, fundraising, publicity, and prominent press. The success of the festival improved my resume and 3 months after the event I found an internship at the Foundation for Jewish Culture in New York. After working for six months at the foundation in several different areas, the foundation invited me to come to Jerusalem and continue to intern in one of their programs, the American Academy in Jerusalem.
After I finished telling my story to David, he gave me the sweet, smart smile that I would see so many times after that day. After telling me that I should be one hundred percent honest with him (and he promised to be the same with me), we spoke about why I was unhappy with my study choice. He asked me if I was ready to produce a couple videos for NU, which enjoys big online sales all over the world, especially North America thanks to its marketing strategy- Nu always invests in the global market through social media. So I prepared an idea for a video, which I described in every detail. There was that smile on his face again.
NU has a policy that says everyone who is involved with the company has to work at the store in a rotation system. When David first told me that, and asked me if I was okay with staying six hours once a week at the store, I have to admit that the thought of “I’m too good to spend my time just selling T-Shirts”, did cross my mind. I was raised in a culture that looked down upon “lower jobs,” such as selling T-Shirts. But I said yes, and that’s when I started to understand NU’s philosophy. Every Wednesday I started to go to the store, but because of my lack of Hebrew, David wouldn’t leave me by myself. I was basically sitting there with him for six hours, watching him engage with clients. For me, the experience was great. I was learning a lot by talking to him, I was never afraid to ask questions, and he never hesitated to answer them.
“How did you start?”
“From where did you get the money to start the company?”
“Is the retail store worth that money?”
“What are the plans for the future of the store?”
“What’s your relationship with this or that employer?”
His answers were honest and well explained. I was learning and growing a lot, but again, I was concerned. What was I giving back to NU? And with that obsessed question in mind, I started to change.
I was determined to prove to David and NU that I wasn’t there just to soak up knowledge, but to prove my value, leave my mark, and be part of the story of NU Campaign, the same way NU Campaign is now part of my story.
I decided to focus on two things: being more useful with the sales and writing and producing at least one video. Coincidentally, an opportunity came up right away. David had to leave the store and I was in charge, by myself, for the first time. As the first clients walked at the store, something happened. I found myself engaging with them, teaching them NU’s story, and listening to their own stories – like David always did. I also saw myself engaging on what these t-shirts and those people represent, the story each one of us have to tell.
I finally understood that “just selling T-Shirts” while producing videos, or even while acting as the CEO, is part of what a contemporary company is all about. It’s not about levels, it’s about pieces. Each one of us contributes our own piece to NU, adding and sharing to it so the company grows.
Now I was building my own story at NU, proud to be wearing the T-Shirt. And I was proud of myself, NU, David, Jerusalem, and Israel. The country that my friends back in Brazil believe to be a constant battlefield and the city that even Israelis believe to be a closed-minded giant synagogue were giving me the pleasure and opportunity to be a storyteller, connecting people through cool T-Shirts.
After that day, I knew what I had to do. I felt inspired and David suggested to me that I write ten scripts for videos and we’d pick two to film. The idea for the video that I chose is based on inspiration and stories, exactly what NU represents. I also realized that I had other skills that could be used to NU’s benefit, such as my Latin blood. I wanted to show David how Brazilians loved to buy T-Shirts, so I began to look for my fellow Brazilians in Israel and brought groups to the store. When the first group came, I felt their happiness listening to Portuguese in downtown Jerusalem. They bought more than ten T-Shirts, and while I was speaking with them, I could see out of the corner of my eye David’s sweet, smart smile.
“They didn’t buy the t-shirts only because they found them cool, they did it because they felt connected to you,” he said after they left.
Through NU Campaign’s creativity and owner ambitions, it is engaging the world with the story of what is Israel and Jerusalem today, T-shirt by T-shirt. And I’m buying that T-Shirt.