UW-Madison Alumni Pivot Startup Launch To Help Healthcare Heroes: Lee Maier & Mike Giancarlo

It wasn’t how they expected to launch their company, but much like the inspiration behind Ted Time Co., life doesn’t always go according to plan. Rather than tout their new D2C accessories brand to the public, the founders of the Chicago-based Ted Time Co. and Wisconsin alumni instead pivoted to raise money to get protective masks for healthcare workers. Using their existing manufacturing relationships, they’ve secured over 5,400 masks to date and continue to deliver them directly to hospital workers in Chicago and Milwaukee fighting on the frontline against COVID-19.

Children’s Wisconsin – Milwaukee Hospital is the latest to receive a donation from the newly-launched company, but this donation has an extra special meaning. “My brother Aaron, a Badger from the class of 2008, was diagnosed with leukemia in October of 1987 just before his second birthday, and before I was even born,” said Ted Time Co. Co-Founder and Milwaukee native Lee Maier. “He treated and eventually beat his cancer at the MACC Fund Center at Children’s Wisconsin. So, we couldn’t be happier to be able to donate to both the general hospital staff and this center that has such personal meaning to us.”

The company offers bold fashion accessories, enabling anyone to express their own unique style, but they say their purpose is personal. They were inspired to launch the company after Lee’s brother Aaron tragically passed away in 2014 at the age of 28 after a second battle with cancer. “Our brand is inspired by my brother’s approach to life, and our products represent a broader community that believes in making every moment count and being your most authentic self while you’re doing it,” Lee said. The ‘Ted’ in their company name refers to the stuffed teddy bear Aaron was gifted as a toddler during his first fight with cancer. Ted Time Co. originally planned to release their first line of watches and straps this March, but then COVID-19 hit and everything was put on hold. Rather than sit by and wait for it to pass, they realized they could do something to help. The company founders, who met while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, kicked things off by donating 1,500 masks with their own money to launch a GoFundMe campaign. Since then, they’ve been raising money and donating a portion of product sales to secure more PPE for healthcare workers, delivering the masks directly to the front lines.

It may seem like a unique way to launch a new company, but the guys behind Ted Time Co., who originally met while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison together, said it’s exactly how they wanted to build their brand. “When we started Ted Time Co., we were excited to partner with organizations that were helping people live better lives,” said Lee. “We are still excited about these partnerships, especially the cancer organizations that were a part of my brother’s battles, but we need to focus on what we can do to make the greatest impact in the moment, and that has been securing these desperately needed masks.”