WHY I STARTED MATCHBACK
I was a target, and I felt the sharp sting of biting words. I was taunted, and I felt the terrible unease of knowing it would come, but never knowing when. I was called names, and I felt a gaping hurt, wholly invisible to others. Twenty-five years ago. And that acrid stain of teenage callousness remains a permanent blotch forever tattooed onto the fabric of my past.
Before we proceed further, let’s get something straight. I’m not a victim. I’ve never considered myself one. There’s no violin playing those melancholy strings of woe is me in the background. It is what it is, and it was what it was. And, well, it sucked. I had popular friends. Good friends. Friends who had my back. An affluent upbringing. Was a black belt in Kung Fu. I always had the right clothes, the right hair, and the right backpack. But I also had a speech impediment. Which was enough of a difference to get me teased. On and off. One group, one week. The next, a new group, with a new set of witticisms. Over and over. Round and round it went. You can have confidence. Friends who stand up for you. A family who supports you. Nearly all the cards stacked in your favor. Yet, I was bullied as a teenager.
Fast forward. Understand that before MatchBack, there was SquarePrint. A business with the infrastructure and know-how that nearly twenty years of success brings. So, it’s no coincidence. You might call it fate. The stars aligning. Or maybe God fulfilling His plan. When, nearly a year ago, the idea came to me.
I started MatchBack because if a stick and a stone can break your bones, well then, I’d classify words as capable of causing internal bleeding. And that’s worse. There’s no redness and swelling to indicate the pain. No blue cast for your friends to sign their names. No promise of healing in a few weeks’ time.
Now, I understand that many of the kids MatchBack serves have a much more difficult lot in life than my own experience, and I realize that these shirts and hats can’t make neighborhoods safer or fix broken families. But, I know, firsthand, the power that a cool hat and a cool shirt can have. I know how the right clothes can be that extra card stacked in your favor—and sometimes it’s that Ace you need to get you through the day.
We all have our own story. I’ve written the next chapter in mine. It’s ambitious and a bit adventurous. Full of good deeds and grand dreams. My favorite part? A large cast of everyday heroes joining together to help MatchBack reach a million teens-in-need. Without a doubt, it’s the best chapter yet.
Aaron Podell MatchBack Founder