The final weeks of the spring semester proved especially busy for Liam Marshall (MSB ’23), who had to push through finals week while running a growing charity effort.
Marshall sells “Thank You!” lawn signs dedicated to frontline workers for $15 each and donates all the proceeds to Feed the Frontline, a New Jersey charity that provides meals and supplies to medical providers in the state. Since launching his business in early April, he has sold nearly 3,500 signs and raised around $30,000.
“There was one weekend where we delivered a thousand signs while I was also studying for my finals, so it was really tough to balance school and the fundraiser,” Marshall said in an interview with The Hoya.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on New Jersey, which has recorded 154,154 infections and 11,133 deaths because of the illness as of May 24. Some New Jersey hospitals have struggled to cope with sudden upswings in cases.
Marshall did not originally anticipate the large response to his initiative. His business took off after Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) covered in one of his press conferences April 17. Shortly after, Marshall spoke on Fox News about his efforts, which also increased awareness of his business.
“I did not expect it to reach so many people, although I’m really happy it did,” Marshall said. “The big thing that helped out was when Governor Murphy covered it.”
Since Marshall did not foresee such a large response to his initiative, scaling up production was a challenge. Marshall also ran his business while school was still in session, which made it challenging to balance academics with the business.
“I wasn’t prepared to produce thousands of signs every weekend. I definitely couldn’t do it without all the people that are helping me, but it’s been a tough transition trying to manage school,” Marshall said.
Since April, the business has expanded to chapters across the country. In total, the entire fundraising campaign has sold over 5,000 signs.
Marshall’s friends and family have supported his business and have been key in ensuring its growing success. Kate Gilles (MSB ’23), one of Marshall’s close friends from Georgetown University, has expanded Marshall’s initiative to her home state of California and helped Marshall create a website outlining their initiative and showing others how to get involved.
“Liam reached out to me when his initiative was in its early stages,” Gilles wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I loved the idea and wanted to start it in California. I’m from a small, close-knit town, so I knew people would want to get involved and show their appreciation to essential workers.”
Despite the challenges, Marshall said the initiative has been gratifying, as he has been able to make a difference in peoples’ lives and gain experience in entrepreneurship.
“I’ve received emails from people all over the country saying how thankful they are for initiatives like this and how something like this has made their day, made their week, made their month,” Marshall said. “In times like this, that’s what really makes it worth it for me.”