In this month’s installment of Spreadshirt Select, we have the pleasure of interviewing a Shop Owners with one of the longest tenures and best sales. Jeremy Kalgreem – the mastermind behind Amorphia Apparel – has written a true success story during an 11-year long Spreadshirt journey. Learn from one of the best, and get a peek behind the curtain in this insider’s interview.
So, Jeremy, where did it all begin?
Back when I was in school, I would learn a new skill every summer. One year I tried my hand at silk screening t-shirts. It turned out I was pretty bad at it, but I liked designing my own shirts and wanted to make more. So I started looking into online printers and stumbled upon Spreadshirt.
What was your journey like from humble beginnings to one of our top-selling American Shop Owners?
At first I just made a batch of shirts for myself, but I clicked the little button to make my designs public. To my surprise, sales started trickling in. I figured that I might be on to something, so I went to the library and picked up some books on CSS & HTML. I taught myself enough over a long weekend to get a bare-bones site up and running.
It was basically a little hobby for the first two years, making a few hundred dollars a month. I kept adding new designs and new themed line-ups. Then in 2008, one of my lineups – Teach the Controversy – unexpectedly went viral. Suddenly and overnight, Amorphia Apparel went from being a hobby to becoming a real business. Quitting my day job shortly thereafter to do this full time was a great feeling!
What inspires your art?
Most of my new designs satisfy a costumer request. I set up a form on my site that lets people request new designs, and I receive new requests about three times faster than I fulfil them. There are lots of great suggestions in there, so I’m happy to try my best to make as many wishes happen as possible. Otherwise, I’m mostly inspired by whatever makes me chuckle.
What is your target market and, when you close your eyes, how would you envision your customers?
I guess my tees are a reflection of my tastes, so I imagine my customers to be a lot like me: nerdy slackers.
Some of my line-ups – like Hirsute History – have some fairly obscure stuff on them. I get a sense that a lot of customers like having a shirt that they know the average person won’t understand. If they meet someone who does get the reference, it acts like a shibboleth between like-minded strangers.
— Amorphia Apparel (@amorphiaapparel) April 8, 2017
What 3 tips do you have for getting a successful Shop started?
1) Try to do something different, either in style or substance. A lot of t-shirt sites offer a big blend of stuff, and you’d be well advised to find a way to stand out. I found that having a strong theme helps – more so than just throwing random stuff together.
2) Using a platform like Spreadshirt means you can really experiment. Since there are virtually no overhead costs related to creating new designs, you are free to throw stuff out there. Try new things, put it all out there and see what sticks. When you stumble onto something that works, do more of it.
3) Success takes luck and patience. It can take a long time for things to really take off. If you want to be successful be prepared to stick with it and keep working, even if things don’t kick off with a bang.
I like Spreadshirt’s printing options more than most alternatives. I’ve had some sample t-shirts made from other print-on-demand companies, but I wasn’t happy with the quality. I especially love Spreadshirt’s flex printing option, something most companies don’t even offer. The profit margins are better with Spreadshirt, which is naturally pretty important if you want to make a living doing this. Finally, the tools Spreadshirt gives us to customize and embed a SpreadShop into an existing site seem to outpace any competitor.
How do you get people in your Shop and buying?
Social media does most of the work here. I post my new designs to Twitter, Facebook, my subreddit, and so forth. I also send out a weekly new design newsletter to subscribers and add the design to my Google product feed to make sure it shows up in my Google shopping ads. If it was a request, I make sure to email the person who requested it. And frequently they are excited enough to spread the word on my behalf, which is another advantage of fulfilling requests.
How do you decide which design categories to promote?
The two big qualities are how well they sell, and how much attention they draw. Sometimes a theme might not sell super well, but it gets people talking. This means it draws more people to my site, and those visitors poke around and mostly decide to buy something from another theme. It’s a good idea to keep front and center, even if it’s not a great seller directly. Others designs have comparatively great conversion rates, but don’t necessarily lead to as many shares and re-tweets. Trying to find a good balance of the two can make a big difference.
— Amorphia Apparel (@amorphiaapparel) February 17, 2017
How much time do you spend on the business end of Amorphia?
It’s the closest thing I have to a full-time job. But I don’t put a full 40 hours into it a week, that’s for sure. Designing new t-shirts is the most fun part, but unfortunately the marketing and maintenance side of things uses more of my time.
What does the immediate future hold in store for you?
Right now, I’m in the early stages of brainstorming for a newly-themed Shop, which I add annually each fall. I currently have no idea what I’ll end up deciding on, but I’ve got plenty of time before I begin to panic about it. Unrelated to t-shirts it’s Dicebot Megafun – my first board game. It will be published this June by WizKids games, which is super exciting!
As for my shop within the next three years? I’ve got two goals, which is a) become bigger than Amazon and Facebook combined, and then b) get on Instagram ?
We thank Jeremy for passing on this very insightful info! Do you have any comments, or do you feel like getting a Spreadshirt Select feature yourself? Let us know in the comments!