Via This Is Money : Ever looked at the T-shirts on offer and though you could do a better job?
You might have an amazing idea but even then there is the risk that it could crash and burn, leaving you out of pocket and with boxes of T-shirts in the garage that you were convinced would sell like hotcakes.
Tapping into that entrepreneurial spirit but desire to avoid things going wrong, website Teespring offers aspiring designers a chance to test the waters and only incur costs if T-shirts sell.
It’s part of the new world of ‘on-demand’ commerce – and has made some of its sellers a fortune.
The site was founded in San Francisco in 2012 and has sent 19 million products to 180 countries to date. It claims to have already made its users more than $300million (£240million) – including 30 millionaires.
Today, the company has three offices in the US, and one in London.
Teespring millionaire: ‘I want to build my own brands and hit $10m’
Sumit Sinha, 26, started his T-shirt business with a fellow student while he was still at university.
He originally wanted to build his own online marketplace, but a lack of start-up capital meant he turned to Teespring.
None of Sumit’s original designs made anything but eventually the sheer volume of ideas being produced meant that he struck gold.
‘After about 20 or so campaigns, and midway through our total testing budget, we hit our first big winner. That more than made up for all the losses we had made thus far and then some,’ he says.
‘We realised the more campaigns we launched, the more our chances of hitting a winner. Without wasting time we started launching as many campaigns as we could. We then hit on another winner and hired our first employee.’
His company, Scaleswift, have a dedicated research team that scout for phrases and trends to inspire new designs.
‘We do research to find what is trending in the market and what people are looking for. Then our creative team comes up with their ideas about how those phrases can be best represented on a shirt. Finally, it goes to the design team.’
He says that the perfect design is a combination of many different factors: The combination of quote or phrase with the design itself, but then also the right audience targeting, and effective advertising.
Today, Sumit, who is from Bihar in Eastern India, has 16 employees and around 10,000 designs. His turnover ranges between $1.2million and $1.5million a year (£1-£1.2million). But his ambitions stretch further still.
‘We want to hit $10million turnover by building long term brands. More importantly, we want to increase our size to 100 people over the next three years and build a long term, profitable company.'”
How does Teespring work?
Users create their idea using the Teespring designer and decide how much they want to sell it for, after the ‘base fee’.
This fee includes the cost of manufacturing, production, handling, Teespring’s cut and customer services after the product has been sold.
Teespring’s initial cut is 25 per cent, but can fall to as low as 15 per cent depending on how many you sell.
The cost is also determined by the level of quality you opt for, taking the base cost from around £7 for basic, up to £11 for ‘top of the line’. T-shirts are the main focus but would-be entrepreneurs can also design other products such as sweatshirts and mugs.
Users can upload designs, or use those already provided by the website, such emoticons shapes and pictures of animals. Most of the designs are intended to be funny or politically engaging – or a mix of the two.
The products are made to order, so if no one commissions one of your T-shirts it won’t have cost you anything – apart from your time.
Teespring also incentivises sellers by awarding them five levels of membership depending on how many units they’ve shifted and offering perks like free translation services when they reach the higher echelons of membership.
What’s the catch?
UK customers who want to buy your products will have to fork out for shipping costs – between £2.75 and £3.99 for the first item and £1 for every additional item (or £3.50 for mugs).
You are also expected to find your own customers. Teespring provides free design and marketing tools but you will need to think carefully about your design, target audience and your marketing campaign to make sure it gains traction.
This means it would be helpful to already have a strong social media following or ready audience of some form.
Some Teespring sellers like Alison (featured below) choose to advertise through Facebook, although obviously this will ramp up initial costs.
If your design infringes on someone else’s intellectual property, for example by featuring an existing trademark, logo or fictional character, the site will remove it.
Likewise, if you are deemed to be copying someone else’s Teespring campaign then you won’t be allowed to sell on the site.
‘I left a 25-year career at DWP to make a living out of T-shirts’
Former civil servant Alison Scott left her 25-year career behind to sell through Teespring, after her witty and politically-charged merchandise proved to be a hit.
Alison was a deputy director at the Department for Work and Pensions when she started designing T-shirts, mugs and bags on the website in 2015.
She has gone on to leave her government job and build a successful online business, Stow shirts, which encompasses T-shirts, mugs and bags.
At first business was trickling in, but then her ‘All I want for Christmas is EU’ T-shirt became a runaway success after the referendum result last year, selling thousands during the festive party season.
She says: ‘I started in a very slow and part-time way, just doing the odd shirt as I felt like it. And then in June I had a running shirt and thought “maybe I could make a go of this”‘.
‘I quickly had two or three more designs that sold, 20 or 30 shirts, and at that point, I ran some numbers and thought it would definitely work. Christmas 2016 was better than I was expecting, though.’
Alison, who is based in Walthamstow in East London, is proactive about marketing her designs, using Facebook advertising to get the word out.
She adds: ‘I think the tipping point was my first profitable Facebook ad that scaled. That was when I saw the power of the platform, that if you can just find your audience your sales are essentially unlimited.
‘And that rang a bell, because I’d been looking to build a new career in an area where I could lever my work, so that I did something once and sold it many times.'”