Interview With Threadless Founder & CEO

Here’s an interesting interview of Jake Nickell (Founder and CEO) and Jeffrey Kalmikoff (Chief Creative Officer) of Threadless. The interview was done by Tara Hunt is actually part of a set of videos she has been posting on Viddler to lead up to the release of her new book, The Whuffie Factor. The book actually talks about how social networks can be used to build business. So it’s no surprise that Jake and Jeffrey talk about how Threadless has utilized the online community at Threadless to help build the Threadless brand. 

I found this over at Jason Cosper’s blog, Preshrunk. Kudos to him!

Awesome Threadless Quilt

An intrepid member of the Threadless community, ladykat, has spent the past year putting together a quilt made up of Threadless tees donated by members of the Threadless forums. Last June (2007), ladykat proposed the idea of creating a Threadless quilt by asking for donations of used Threadless tees that people didn’t want anymore. 

The response from the Threadless community was astonishing. ladykat received nearly 100 shirts, enough to make 2 full size Threadless quilts comprised of 49 Threadless t-shirts arranged 7 squares by 7 squares. Each square prominently displays a design from one of the many unique Threadless designs. Very cool.

What’s even cooler is that ladykat will be giving away the one-of-a-kind Threadless quilt (this includes her hardwork and the donations of countless Threadless members!). To be eligible to win the quilt you need to 1. Write an original short story, essay, or poem somehow relating to Threadless tees or designs (1000 words max), 2. Enter the Threadless Calendar Contest, 3. Join the Threadless Product Shots Group on Flickr and upload at least one product shot. Click here to read the official rules of the contest. If you don’t win the contest, don’t worry, remember there are two quilts! The second Threadless quilt will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity. Get ready to bust out your checkbook if you go that route!

And without further ado, heres that awesome Threadless quilt made from donations and love!

UPDATE: I just got an email from ladykat (Kate) herself and she wanted to clarify what she’ll be doing with the 2nd quilt that she’ll be making. 

“The auction for charity thing went by the wayside because I really wanted any Threadless fan to have a shot at winning the quilt, which would have meant a raffle rather than an auction, but there’s no easy way to do a legit raffle online. There are all sorts of weird state laws with raffles, it’s totally annoying. I ended deciding that my priority was having someone who cared win the quilt.”

“So yeah, it was actually a tough decision but I really wanted the quilt to go to a good home and just couldn’t figure out the charity thing in a good way. Originally I was just planning on making a quilt for myself, but when I got all those tees I knew I had to make another to pass on to a Threadless fan… and I knew I had to start with the one that I’d give away because otherwise I might never finish it! Someday… somehow… I’ll finally get around to that second quilt. :-)” – ladykat (Kate)

Indie Tee Spotlight: Jimiyo

This is week three of the Indie Tee Spotlight and I have to admit that I have been happy with the success of this particular segment on my blog. I’ve received a bunch of emails from tee brands/designers wanting to be featured here. I appreciate all of the interest and if you sent me an email then you should have gotten a response on how you can be featured here! And if you’re interested please feel free to contact me!

Having said that, I am happy to announce Jimiyo as our featured Indie Designer for this week! Jimiyo is well known within the Indie Tee community and has had much success with his designs. His designs has been featured on Tee Fury, Shirt.Woot, Uneetee, and Design by Humans. More recently, one of Jimiyo’s designs, Fight The Good Fight, was announced as a top 5 finalist in the $10,000 Design by Humans contest.

I was fortunate enough to talk with Jimiyo about his passion, designing tees. 

Coty: It’s no secret that you’re participating in the Design By Humans ongoing T-Shirt contest. You’ve been making strides within the tee community to up your vote count for the DBH contest (submitted 10 designs to DBH, sent out newsletters to family and friends, posted on social networks like MySpace and have spoken to classes to gain DBH votes). You recently announced your biggest move yet by offering 10 people $100 each if you win the $10,000 DBH prize. All they have to do is vote and leave a comment on your DBH design. Why does this contest mean so much to you?

Jimiyo: I suppose my main motivation is what the money will buy. It’s not material possessions that I want, its Freedom. It would buy me approximately 3 months of guilt free time that I could use to to work on projects I have put on the back burner since there is always some anxiety now about finances since I am freelancing. Obviously there are other advantages, like exposure for my freelance career, a nice line to add to the CV, prestige, etc, but all those are secondary.

Coty: One could argue that you are artificially creating votes for yourself or that you are “buying” your votes. What would your response to this be?

Jimiyo: I won’t be offended if people think I have bought votes, because I provided DBH with my best effort art that is obviously indicative of some skill. It would be different if I had submitted a shoddy piece of work and then bought votes.

What is the difference between buying votes with money, and buying the votes with time and effort that I have invested in creating a piece of art that I hope that people like?
In contrast, I have focused at least a decade of my life to refining my craft with great effort and dedication.

$1000 of $10,000 is nothing in comparison, especially when there’s absolutely no risk to me whatsoever. I do not have to expend $1000 if I do not win. I have already expended many hours, many days, daresay many months, creating art, which if you could quantify the experience and skillset I have fostered over the years, is it repulsive to say, I am essentially buying votes with a horrendously large amount of philosophical cash?

1. DBH created this monster prize contest to drive traffic as well as drive a higher quantity and quality of art to their site.

2. By offering money as an incentive, artists promoted themselves and most likely drove a significant amount of users to join the community. Since the artists probably contacted their fan base for votes, fans will be more inclined to purchasing a product to whom they associate.

Essentially, I did just the same. I offered an incentive, for which there is only potential gain, in which the final result is a symbiotic return on each party’s efforts.

As far as “artificial” votes, that wording would imply fraudulent behavior similar to creating fake accounts. That is not the case. With my tactic, Im bringing DBH real people who actually have to sign up to vote and comment. With that, DBH is one major step closer to having a new customer.

Coty: Your shirts have been accepted for print at both shirt.woot and at teefury (have your designs been accepted at Threadless?). Which of these ongoing contest sites do you like the best and why?

Jimiyo: I have not been accepted at Threadless. My best efforts were moderately ignored there. My style doesnt not fit with their market.

I love shirt.woot. They payout $1000+. Joel is fantastic, no, Terrific, to deal with and I truly enjoy the mentality of Wooter consumer base. Their approval is difficult to earn, and thankfully, somehow, I have been able to win a small portion of their acceptance.
TeeFury does not have as big a market as Woot, so although the payout is not as great, there is nothing greater than being able to submit a design I created without catering to a specific market and have it be accepted. With Woot, I do have to take into consideration their market.
Also the advantage of no copyright restrictions at TeeFury has allowed me get the most financially out of my designs.

I can’t say that there’s one I like the best. They are like friends. There are things about each my friends that I hate and love.

Coty: These online tee design contests are very competitive, yet you’ve done pretty well in them. Do you have any suggestions or tips for people considering entering these contests or for those who have entered but have been unsuccessful?

Jimiyo: Beyond making sure you output your best artistic effort, it’s a numbers game. The only reason I am seemingly successful is because I have submitted a significant number of entries to several different contests.
Also, just keep trying to win. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Just do it. Gotta be in it to win it.

I am thoroughly impressed with WanderingBert from Threadless.com. If you look at his profile, I think he was up to about 100 submissions until he won his first Threadless contest. It was through shear tenacity, as well as great art, that he won. Soon after his first printing, they printed several more.

You have to be willing to sacrifice for longterm accomplishments, and be willing to lose, over and over again.

I plan on writing a year end results of my experience in January 09, until then here is a small blog I wrote with tips and information about my experiences with contests so far.

http://jimiyo.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-experience-with-online-design.html

Coty: You’re recent print, The Upgradead, sold 2499 prints and eventually sold out on shirt.woot. Why do you think this print was so successful? What do you think is up with the t-shirt communities obsession with zombies, skulls and guts?

Jimiyo: I studied a bit before creating this design. Shirt.woot.com has a running stock of about 30 designs, which they eliminate 7 of every week with replacements. Some of the longest running designs I noticed were zombie related designs.

Beyond that, as far as the success of the tees, I don’t attribute it to anything more than the sheer traffic that shirt.woot.com is able to harness. You offer a moderately entertaining design on a soft, quality American Apparel tee for $10 to 75,000-150,000 views, a 2% close rate isn’t all that impressive.

As far as t-shirt communities being inclined towards a specific topic, I have no idea. I love LOLCatz, some people don’t.

Coty: OK, there are 5 designs left in the running ofr the big DBH $10,000 grand prize. IF you had to choose a design, other than yours to win, which design would it be and why?

Jimiyo: Collision Theory. He is my internet friend. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to really become friends with the other artists. Besides, AJ is a stand up guy. It seems people are prone to being more truthful in their identities on the internet, and AJ has always exhibited a kind and amicable persona.
Also, this will sound crazy, but if I am correct, the monetary conversion rate for the Phillipines is incredible. I imagine there would be a greater benefit for AJ to receive the prize money than it would benefit me. I am a single man with only myself to take care of. I believe AJ is a family man.

*Thanks to Jimiyo for taking the time out to have a word with me, it’s very much appreciated! Now, be sure to go to Design by Humans and vote for Jimiyo!

5 Ongoing T-Shirt Design Contests

Are you a budding t-shirt designer? If so then you are probably trying to find ways to promote your designs and ultimately have them printed. Traditionalist would probably argue that the best way to get your tee design printed is to, well, print it yourself. This can be a time consuming and expensive process. Lucky for us we are a part of the interactive age of Web 2.0 where things can get done faster and easier.

Here I talk about 5 popular and ongoing t-shirt design contests. This can be a great way for indie designers to get their feet wet in the tee business. And even if you submit a tee design to one of these communities and your design does not get selected for print, you will still probably get valuable community feedback on your design. On the other hand, if your designs do get selected then get ready for a nice pay day!

Each of these sites have different rules and guidelines so be sure to read them before you submit your designs. Some of these sites retain exclusive rights to submitted designs whereas other sites allow the artists to retain exclusive rights.

1. Threadless. How it Works: The competition here is tough and the voting and comments during the selection process is brutal, but, if your design is selected you’ll be part of an elite group of Threadless approved t-shirt designers! Shirts chosen for print will be produced in limited amounts, once the print has sold out, it will not be offered for sale unless is is chosen for reprint (not all designs are reprinted). Selection Process: Submitted designs are posted on Threadless and users vote for their favorite designs. Threadless staff then go through the top designs and select which are to be printed. Rights: If your design is submitted and chosen to be printed as a Threadless then Threadless assumes exclusives rights to the design. Pay Day: $2000 in cash and a $500 Threadless gift certificate for each design chosen to be printed. Plus, you get $500 each time your tee design is reprinted. And finally if you’re tee is chosen for print you have a chance at winning up to $10,000 in the yearly Threadless “Bestee” Awards. Official Rules.

2. TeeFury. How it Works: TeeFury members are able to submit designs directly to TeeFury for consideration. When submitting your design they also suggest that you submit a link to your portfolio or website or anything that provides examples of your work. Shirts that are chosen are showcased on TeeFury for just 24 hours. Selection Process: Designs are selected by the TeeFury staff. Rights: The artists retains all rights to their designs and can do what they want with their designs after the shirt spends its time (max of 24 hours) on TeeFury. Pay Day: Artists are paid $1 for each shirt sold within the 24 hour period. Official Rules. 

3. Shirt.Woot. How it Works: You can submit your designs to Shirt.Woot directly here or you can enter the weekly Shirt.Woot Derby. Every Thursday new Derby themes are announced and the following Friday submissions are accepted. Selection Process: The three most popular designs as voted by Shirt.Woot users get chosen to be printed and sold to the world! Designs submitted directly to Shirt.Woot are selected by the Shirt.Woot staff for print. Rights: Shirt.Woot retains 60 day exclusive (cannot submit to other contests or produce commercially) rights for all art design submissions. Shirt.Woot retains a 180 days exclusive rights for all Best of Derby Nominated shirts. If with thin the 60 or 180 time span the shirt is not chosen for print the then Shirt.Woot waives exclusive rights, meaning the artist can do what he likes with the design. Shirt.Woot has exclusive perpetual rights to your design if it is chosen to be produced. Pay Day: $1000 per winning design and $2 per shirt sold after the first day of sale. Official Rules. 

4. Uneetee. How it Works: Artists submit t-shirt designs and if selected the tees are offered at Uneetee on a limited run basis. Selection Process: Unetee users vote for their favorite designs. Design stays up for voting for a a max of 21 days. Designs with the highest scores have an increased chance of being selected by Uneetee staff as the shirt of the week. Rights: Uneetee get exclusive rights to the design if the shirt is chosen. The designer cannot reproduce the winning design for commercial purposes. Pay Day: $750 ($750 guaranteed cash and $750 guaranteed commissions). If you sell more than the guaranteed run of 375 shirts than you can earn more than $750 commission (royalties are $2 per shirt). Official Rules. 

5. Design by Humans. How it Works: Designers submit art, this can be traditional paintings, illustrations, sketches, vector art, photoshop art, or however you like to design). If submitting traditional art then you must digitize your design (snap a pic of it). Design should be formatted and submitted either as a GIF, JPG, or PNG. Once your design is ready you submit it here. Selection Process: Design by Humans users vote for their favorite designs and designs with the most votes are chosen for print. Five shirt of the day winners are chosen each week ($750). Of the five shirt of the day winners, one shirt is chosen as shirt of the week ($1000). Each month, one of the shirt of the week winners is chosen as short of the month ($1750). Plus, designers get paid based on how many shirts they sell (1000 shirts = $500 up to 10,000 shirts = $5000). Rights: After 60 days of submitting designs artists are then free to o what they like with their designs. If your design is selected for print then DBH retains exclusive rights.  Pay Day: Up to $3500 plus residuals. Rights. Official Rules.

Indie Tee Spotlight: Linty Fresh

I LOVE t-shirts, especially one-of-a-kind indie T-Shirts that are available online. A nice T-Shirt is like eye candy, it’ll make your eyes drool and mouth all wattery (ok, that hardly made any sense). So, in lieu of the Glorious Nonsensities podcast I thought that every week or so I would highlight a couple of indie tee designers whose work I admire and whose tees I wear!

For the inaugaral post I thought I would start off with a brand that I just learned about a month ago, and that brand is Linty Fresh. Linty Fresh was started by Eric Terry, who runs Linty Fresh out of his home in Marietta, Georgia. It all started for him when he began submitting tees into the never ending Threadless design competitions. His design, Once Upon A War, although was not selected to be printed, earned him positive reviews and more importantly, tee cred! And so Eric decided that he would do a limited print of Once Upon A War and offer it up for pre-sale. To his surprise, people were buying the shirt, and thus the Linty Fresh, or the beginnings of Linty Fresh, was born! 

 

Now if you notice Eric’s designs, many of them contain characters that look quite similar, with the mouth being the defining characteristic (in my opinion, Eric might disagree). Nonetheless his branding efforts are obvious and effective. I even think that his characters have the potential to go mainstream, they’ve got delicious-I-want-to-squeeze-you feel like those adorable Sanrio characters. 

The price points at Linty Fresh are in line with other indie tee brands. Tee’s are usually in the 20 buck range and hoodies in the 40 buck range. If those sound expensive don’t fret, I’ve bought Linty Fresh shirts for as little as 5 bucks, you just need to be on the look out for special discounts (In fact, he’s got a 5 bucks shirt on sale right now). The shirts themselves are made from American Apparel tees, so you know they are sweatshop free! And the actual product that you receive in the mail is quite professional. So if you like what you see here, be sure to check Linty Fresh out on the web! And let me know what you think of his designs and what companies you think I should check out for the next Indie Tee Spotlight.