Chapel Hill, N.C. — Two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill business majors are capitalizing on the furor that flew after Mitt Romney suggested defunding the public television stations that air Big Bird.
The Republican presidential nominee mentioned the 8-foot, talking canary who stars in "Sesame Street" by name when discussing cutting taxpayer money for the Public Broadcasting System.
"I like PBS. I love Big Bird," Romney said. "But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."
UNC freshmen Andrew Bauer and Taylor Robinette were among those who quickly took to social media to express dismay over Big Bird's potential demise.
"I just remember Big Bird and how happy he made me feel and other Americans feel," Bauer said. "When Mitt Romney took a shot a Big Bird, he was taking a shot at all the Americans that cared about their childhood hero."
"I'm an 18-year-old college kid, and I still love Big Bird," Robinette said.
Bauer and Robinette started FireBigBird.com to sell T-shirts in three designs. Two of the T-shirts show Big Bird in a caricature of the 2008 Obama campaign logo, above the words "Hope" and "2012." The third T-shirt shows a despondent Big Bird sitting slumped next to a box, holding a sign saying that Romney fired him.
"I realized that I had to spread the word about Big Bird and saving him, and that's what we've done," Bauer said.
Bauer and Robinette campaign to quickly turned into a lesson in entrepreneurship.
Within a day, hits on their Web site were in the thousands, and they sold out of one T-shirt. "Globally, we're getting Web site views in Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Serbia," said Bauer.
Their motives aren't partisan, the two said.
"This wasn't a political issue for us. We're not big Romney fans. We're not big Obama fans," Bauer said.
Bauer and Robinette are applying the lessons about sharing that Big Bird taught them. They're donating 100 percent of the profit from the T-shirt sales to charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
"Not only did we see a great opportunity to have some social impact and give money to charity, but we also do treasure the Big Bird icon," Robinette said.