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How a 51-year-old who was forced out of his job by cancer used a T-shirt startup to make million in 10 months
Nathan McAlone, Business Insider
Nov. 5, 2015, 1:00 AM 5,854
teespring pile (1)Teespring
Glyn Williams was working as a morning-show host and sales director at a radio station in Derbyshire, England, when he found out he had vocal-cord cancer.
The 51-year-old had spent 25 years selling everything you could think of, including radio advertising and industrial chemicals, but the cancer forced him out of the face-to-face sales game altogether. It derailed his career, and it was hard for him to find a foothold in another business.
He left his job in early 2013 and started writing e-books. He churned out 22 titles that still bring him about ,000 a month.
But it was tough. Williams was still struggling after a year of this, and he was beginning to get despondent.
Then a bit of luck snuck into his life. A fellow author told him about Teespring, a new site where you could create custom T-shirts and sell them without having to keep any inventory. It requires no money down.
This seems like a salesperson’s dream, but Williams was skeptical. His friend, however, showed him a shirt he had made aimed at “country girls” that had made 0 in one week.
“Then I sat up and took notice,” Williams tells Business Insider.
Williams has since become one of Teespring’s most successful sellers, recording over million in apparel sales in 2015 alone. Since he started selling on Teespring, Williams has amassed a gross profit of around .5 million, and a net profit of 0,000 after all expenses.
And he’s not the only one. Teespring CTO Evan Stites-Clayton says more than 20 sellers have made more than million on his platform.
To understand how Williams did it, you first have to understand Teespring.
How Teespring works
Here’s the basic idea.
First, you log on to the site and create a T-shirt design. You can either upload an image file or use Teespring’s built-in tools. Then you decide how much you want to sell each shirt for and, by extension, how much profit you will get per shirt. Teespring handles the manufacturing and shipping and takes a cut of the sales.
Each T-shirt campaign works a bit like Kickstarter. People preorder your shirt, and when the campaign ends, Teespring ships them out — if you have reached a specified minimum number. When the campaign closes, Teespring transfers you the money you made. Simple.
glyn williams screenshotOne of Williams’ early tries.Teespring
Williams’ first few attempts at a Teespring campaign flopped. One of his early designs featured the words “Stop smoking and vape instead,” a nod to the then-emerging trend of e-cigarettes. The sales? Zero.
But Williams hit his stride quickly, partly because on Teespring there’s no real downside to experimenting until you get it right. Since there is no money down, who cares whether your first campaigns don’t take flight? All you are wasting is time.
Just a month after whiffing on campaign after campaign, Williams cleared ,000 in net profit.
“I started at just the right time and hit on a trend that went ballistic,” he says.
The big secret: Facebook
There’s a secret to making boatloads of money on Teespring that all the big sellers know: Facebook marketing.
Marc Boulos, another major seller, who has made over 5,000 in profit in the past year, says you need to pay at least in targeted Facebook advertising for every T-shirt campaign you launch. That, he says, is the magic number at which you can start to see whether your campaign has the potential to go viral.
The top Teespring sellers are as attuned to the concept of virality as YouTube stars or digital media giants like BuzzFeed (which reportedly spends millions on social-media advertising). Sellers like Williams and Boulos invest in Facebook’s ability to get a T-shirt to a place at which it can spread across the network if it hits a cultural vein.
By the end of February last year, Williams was launching 20 shirts per day and working 16-hour days. He was a content machine, eventually having six computer screens running at once.
st patricks day shirtAn example of last-name targeting.Teespring
He pumped out 489 separate designs for St. Patrick’s Day. One of his tactics was targeting different Irish last names with personalized campaigns, such as one for “Gallagher.”
Targeting last names was a common method used by early Teespring pioneers, though the effectiveness of it has diminished over time, as copycat sellers have crashed into the market.