Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Raw Tees interview

Eric’s site is:

1. What drew you to opening an online store? Were you in a related field?

Actually, I was shopping at a Wal-Mart one day and saw a bumper sticker that I liked on a car in the parking lot: "One by one, the penguins are slowly stealing my sanity." I desperately wanted this on a t-shirt, and after unsuccessfully searching the web for one I decided to just create my own (here: I remembered CafePress after having once used them to print shirts for a theatre company I worked for, and so decided to return there.) While working on creating the shirt for myself, my wife walked in and liked the design, I figured I would offer it up for sale to the public (what could it hurt?). It took awhile before my first sale, but as soon as it came I was hooked, and I decided to create more designs and have a go at the t-shirt business.

2. When did you open your store?

September 4, 2005, at 12:37:12 am.

3. What is harder about doing this then you thought it would be?

Developing new design ideas and keeping my inventory fresh. One of the goals I have with my shop is to offer shirts that simply can't be found elsewhere, so I spend weeks developing and creating designs. As a result, I currently only have about a dozen designs in my store; however, they are a dozen designs that I am really proud of!

4. What do you like best about being an online shopkeeper?

I most enjoy the scheduling flexibility. I don't have to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and try to force ideas. I have the freedom that if an idea comes, I can sit down and work on it for 36 straight hours; whereas if my creative well is dry, I can take a break for a couple of weeks and come back to designing later on.

If I'm allowed two, I also very much enjoy thinking that people as far away as London and Melbourne are walking around wearing my designs. I'm fascinated by the global reach of the internet, and how small a world it really is that we live in.

5. During the very first month, what do you wish you had known then that you do now?

I really wish I had taken the time to educate myself more about marketing and search engine optimization, as I find myself now trying to play catch-up. Both of those things do not yield immediate results -- for instance, it can take 6 weeks or more to start appearing in search engines -- so the earlier new folks can get started on those things, the better!

6. Could you share some of the marketing you've tried so far (on or off-line) and what has worked and what hasn't?

At first, I was searching the internet for message boards related to my designs (for instance, finding a WoW board to advertise my Leeroy Jenkins design), joining the board, and posting links to my products there. I found that while this brought lots of hits to my site, it also yielded very few sales. Due to the amount of time it was taking to search out and post on these boards, and the relatively small amount of resultant sales, I no longer market this way.

Recently a marketing tactic, which has worked well for me, is to find blogs on the internet where people have added my shirts to their "wish lists" and such. From these, I pick a couple per month that I send a free shirt to. While this causes me to lose their potential sale, I've found that these folks subsequently give me great word-of-mouth advertising, including posting links to my site on other blogs, etc. (which also helps my search engine results). Also, these folks are more likely to return to my store and make future purchases. On top of everything, this marketing tactic is fairly inexpensive.

On the horizon, I hope to soon be launching a more organized affiliate program and beginning a banner ad campaign.

Nancy’s comments – Eric was part of the first Café Clash contest and while his 4th of July themed “Land of the Free” didn’t win, it was close, and may I say, I liked it better!

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