Tees for Texas

With their new line of kids’ t-shirts, with positive rather than the more common snarky messages, Unitees is scoring.

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 2.22.21 PM

Say it with a shirt! This seems to be the positive message of Unitee’s Ericka Graham and Judy Le, two leadership gurus and budding philanthropists, touting a cool new t-shirt company for kids — and, more lately, Harvey relief.


The unlikely duo, who met when Le was teaching a workshop for Emerge at Rice University — an organization supported by Graham’s nonprofit Project 88, whose mission is to encourage all kids to consider getting a college education — became fast friends over many cups of coffee, and a mutual approach to leadership that was honest and authentic. The result of their “geeky conversations” is a creative collaboration, and the launch of Unitee Values, a kids’ t-shirt company built upon the pair’s desire to have youngsters “live their values out loud.”

“On the surface, Ericka and I could not be more different, but our core values are so aligned,” says Le, a 39-year-old Vietnamese-born refugee with dark, frizzy hair who’s only five-foot-one but can “talk trash like I’m 5-10,” she laughs. By contrast, the blonde-haired Graham, 29, with sun-kissed skin and manicured nails, is a native of McFarland, Wis., who moved to Houston in 2010 with her pro football-player husband Garrett Graham, when he was drafted to play for the Texans. After completing a master’s program at Rice and teaching at a low-income high school, she and Garrett started Project 88 as a way to aid underserved students with college advising and leadership training.

“After listening to Judy speak about leadership, I felt refreshed,” says Graham. “She didn’t talk about leadership as a position you hold, but rather an action you do, in big moments and in small.”

Each Unitee t-shirt communicates one of the pair’s five core values: grit and growth, courage, creativity, friendship and kindness, baring slogans like “This is my brave face” and “You see messy, I see magic.” Le says, after seeing so many kids’ shirts with “ironic” and sometimes negative messages that seemed to miss the mark, she and Graham started brainstorming about slogans that they would rather see. “We wanted messages that emphasize the importance of values we want to see more of in the world,” says Le.

Since its launch online (uniteevalues.com) in May, the women have designed 10 original shirts — four of which are now offered in adult sizes, after receiving an overwhelming number of requests from parents and teachers. A portion of proceeds from all sales has been donated to non-profit organizations that empower kids; this past summer’s donation went to Project 88. And since Harvey, a new line of “House Rises” shirts for kids and adults has been added, with all proceeds going to hurricane relief.

With their mission, and their contributions, Le and Graham don’t look at their new venture as just a clothing company, but as a “movement about values-based living,” says Le.

Wellness+Giving Back

AN INTERVIEW WITH Brad & Joanna Marks, owners of IW Marks Jewelers

What were your biggest challenges of 2020? Our biggest challenge was definitely dealing with the economic shutdowns due to the virus.

Keep Reading Show less

GOV. GREG ABBOTT has announced that all Texas businesses will be able to open 100 percent beginning March 10, adding that mask mandates will be lifted, according to multiple press reports. As a preemptive rebuttal to those concerned his actions are premature and could lead to a new wave of Covid cases, he set a new rule that allows county judges to override his policies if Covid hospitalizations rise above 15 percent capacity.

Keep Reading Show less
People + Places

Photo by Julie Soefer

AS SHE PREPARES to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her namesake gallery, Barbara Davis reflects on her trailblazing career. She's pretty much the Grand Dame of the Houston art world at this point, having weathered many a storm — literal and figurative — and launched the careers of several important artists.

Keep Reading Show less
Art + Entertainment