By Jennifer Ramsay / The Nugget
“If you give a man the gospel, wrap it in a sandwich,” said Charles Spurgeon. “And if you give a man a sandwich, wrap it in the gospel.”
That quote is a huge inspiration for Dahlonega based business owner Kalie Smith.
Except instead of sandwiches, Smith is using T-shirts.
That was the idea when the Dawsonville native launched Rohi Clothing in 2017.
“I felt a calling,” she said.
It all started with a mission trip to Cuba two years earlier.
Smith realized it would be impossible to talk to everyone, but what if there was a way to advertise Christ without speaking?
Months passed, and an idea began to form as signs started appearing.
“I have a business degree and an art background,” said Smith. “And God says, ‘It’s T-shirts.’”
That was the beginning.
“The next week, someone said to me, ‘I think you should start a T-shirt company,’” she recalled. “And someone else…And I’m like alright.”
JESUS AND TACOS
First Smith needed a name.
She considered different verses and phrases, but nothing seemed to fit.
She eventually asked her father, a pastor, for some suggestions and the phrase “Jehovah Rohi” (pronounced Ro-High) came to light. The full phrase means “The Lord is my shepherd” and is the inspiration behind the sheep that appears on the brand. Once they had the name, the ball was rolling.
“At that time” Smith said, “I already had the first design drawn.”
From there, she had to figure out how to produce the shirts.
At first, it was done through a local printer, but as demand grew, she recruited her family and they got to work investing in their own equipment, which means the shirts are all created, printed, and shipped from one location.
The shirts sport spiritual phrases that range from “Then Sings My Soul” to “I love Jesus and Tacos.”
Smith said everything about Rohi is local, from the shipping to the setting of their popular pics on Instagram.
Her friend, a local wedding photographer, helped her out in the beginning, although Smith takes most of her own photos now.
The models are all people she knows, from her hairdresser to church friends. It might even be possible to catch them in a photoshoot, as the picture locations range from Yahoola Creek to Hancock Park to the downtown Dahlonega square.
“Really, anywhere that’s pretty, natural, well lit and clean,” said Smith.
Smith said she faces challenges every single day.
“We misprint designs…shirts,” she said. “But it’s part of learning.”
But she said she’s never gotten down because she knows what she’s doing serves a higher purpose. And of course, with the lows have also come the highs.
Rohi recently shifted to wholesale, meaning it can be bought in various places around the state and the south east.
Locally, High Cotton on the Dahlonega square carries Rohi Clothing, as does Cumming’s Ashley Jay Salon and Bloom Salon & Spa in Cleveland.
FROM CANDLE TO COTTON
Julia Norton, owner of High Cotton, enjoys the partnership.
She first came into contact Rohi when Smith came into her Humble Candle shop. Smith showed her the designs on her website, and Norton, who had been looking to add a T-shirt line to High Cotton, thought it was a perfect match and opened an account.
“It’s great to partner with local folks who know the market,” said Norton. “Being able to deal with the owner of a company who comes in to touch base, build rapport and be friends with…It’s a very good partnership,”
Customers also enjoy having Rohi in the store, said Norton.
“They’re very happy with the shirts, particularly the message,” she said.
Norton added that she often hears conversations in the store based on what the shirts say, not to mention the quality of the shirts.
Rohi shirts can be also be found on their website at rohiclothing.com.
Smith’s visions for Rohi are even bigger than just internet and wholesale. Eventually, it will have its own storefront, but for now she’s focused on outreach and fundraising.
She is also a champion for adoption and mission trips and is willing to help those who want help in the expensive processes the opportunity to fundraise with Rohi by offering discounted shirts that buyers can resell to help with costs.
Already Smith has one success story, as a couple was able to raise enough money for plane tickets to fly and get their adopted child.
At its core, Rohi Clothing is about ministering to others, and Smith wants to combine that with helping those in need by handing out shirts along with necessities and food.
In other words, Smith is hoping to give a literal sandwich to go along with that gospel.