Words by Herb Griffith and Jackie Van Alstin
Photos by Andrea Westerlund
Jackie Van Alstin:
Believe it or not, the Best Best Co. name started as a simple typo in a text. I was thanking Herb and meant to say, “You’re the best”. Somehow, a second “best” got added and he replied, “Hmm, best best. I kinda like that”. It quickly became our shorthand for encouraging each other to be the “best best” versions of ourselves while reminding one another to always stay positive no matter what life throws at us.
We had been co-workers for a little while and collaborated on several design projects during that time, so we knew we shared a common vision and aesthetic in our work. But I think what really brought us together was the experience of significant loss in both our lives at exactly the same time. It was at that point we realized how important we were to each other as a mutual support system which, in turn, created a safe space for deeper conversations.
Yeah, we were discussing ideas for a startup we could launch together and both felt strongly it had to be something that could help make a positive impact on the lives of other as well as our own. We knew we had both been that source of positivity for each other during some pretty rough times, so we thought why not find a way to share that feeling with others who may be struggling?
I think your exact words were, “I want to help people.” I had a 4-color screen press set up in my basement that I had been playing around with for years, so it made sense to focus on branded apparel and products – t-shirts, posters, tote bags, pins – that we could produce in-house. With Jack’s expertise in graphic design and product development and my background in marketing and sales, it seemed like a natural fit.
Having been sexually abused as a child resulted in my own struggles with mental health, but it has also driven me to find ways to help others get through what I had to get through, and what I’m still getting through in many ways. Even if it’s just sharing my story to let people know they are more and they’re not alone. If we can find a way to help generate a positive conversation around mental health issues that resonate so deeply with so many of us, then we believe we’re helping.
We also knew we wanted to directly support those organizations within the mental health community who work so hard to inspire change and make a difference for those in need. We’re extremely proud to have been able to work with the local branch of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) right from the start as our primary donation recipient. Ten percent of the profit from every product we sell goes directly to NAMI Rochester to help support their vision of a world where the stigma surrounding mental health is no longer a barrier to treatment.
We’re fortunate to have a very active and engaged mental health community in Rochester, so we knew our message would be well received. Rochester also has a long tradition of supporting the artist community and people here really understand and appreciate the aesthetic value handmade products bring.
For us, it’s all about spreading the power of positivity throughout the Rochester community while supporting access to life saving resources that can help someone live a mentally heathy lifestyle. If our message gets through to just one person, we’ll have been successful.