- Idea was conceived around 2am this morning. Saw a few events on facebook picking up speed (hundreds of thousands of attendees) so decided to leverage that instant-market
- Wasn't sure whether or not it would work, but I didn't have too much to lose ($8 url and a few hours) so I went for it and started hacking away
- Around 10am the project was launched, complete with a website, domain name, and orignal t-shirt design, all done by me
- 4 minutes later the first orders came in, thus paying for the domain name and becoming profitable (minus my time value)
- Since then the site has gone slightly viral, with several thousand hits, hundreds of "likes" and a bunch of tweets (not to mention t-shirt sales)
- Became the "official t-shirt" and event photo for the Snowpocalypse 2011 facebook event with 300,000 attendees. That's a nice little market to advertise to, no?
This is really just a social + eCommerce experiment with a taste of vitality. While I have designed t-shirts and sold them online before, I have never done anything quite like this, ie "hopping on the bandwagon" and riding out a live-fast-die-fast trend. I have also never experimented with any sort of viral platforms. I hope to implement some potentially viral features in my current startup/project, so I figured it would be worth it to test the waters with this mini-project. It was indeed. I learned a lot, and hope to do a case study with detailed steps and statistics in the near future.
"Well sure lawyers do it, but engineers?! Come on, they're supposed to be the good guys!"
I wish my site was so intuitive =(.
On the other hand however, I also think that some people have way too much money on their hands or a lack of intelligent spending habits if they are buying stuff like this. We are a very strange country indeed.
Have you ever seen the packets of clothing that are sold to vendors in third-world countries by the likes of Goodwill and such? They are full of t-shirts like this from 10, even 20 years ago and kids running around wearing them, barefoot and starving, while they put the hope for any local clothing industry out of business. Very strange stuff.
aha, found the link: T-SHIRT TRAVELS
An old t-shirt here is essentially worthless. We see somewhere that a demand exists for a worthless item (to us), so we give it to them because they are much poorer than us (rather than sell it to them). We think we save them the work for the t-shirt assuming they will be able to concentrate on something else productive rather than acquiring clothing. Everyone wins (although not necessarily the case).
In addition to making us feel better about our excesses, it makes logical sense, although the logic is based upon possibly inaccurate assumptions.
I have decided I would like to leave my current job and town (as in "post haste" instead of "someday") and I need funds to do so. A quick influx of money would do wonders for moving that goal forward. Would love to learn anything you can share.
Looking forward to your blog post. I very much want to work a few miracles and leave my current situation.
Thank you for sharing. For me, as a non-programmer, this is really much more inspiring (as in something I could aspire to) than the posts about some program someone wrote in x amount of time.
The people who are visiting & buying the tee probably wouldn't even notice the link.
The Four Hour Startup
Could you please provide details about the logistics behind the tshirts? Are you using Zazzle/CafePress? Do you have a contact in the industry that allowed you to very quickly start printing and shipping them?
I think that's the part most hackers will be interested in. Congrats on your success!
1. Reduce the size of the design - while it looks great on a flat t-shirt (and perfect for the promo picture) you need to add room for a human body at the sides (surprisingly more than you think). My rule of thumb is to measure from your left nipple to your right nipple. Try sticking printouts to your chest and you'll see what I mean. A logo could probably fit on a large post-it note (roughly the size of the of an iPhone).
2. You need to position the design so it floats in a woman's cleavage. The most popular t-shirt I did had a small duck that looked like it was sitting on a woman's chest.
3. Screen printed t-shirts are printed light-colour to dark colour (like an oil painting). If you put a full print of white under the other colours they will look more vibrant - even black. But remember that t-shirts have bleeds measured in mm! getting accurate registration on cloth is tricky.
4. Large designs with many layers of solid ink can get very sweaty to wear. Try to keep things small and have gaps in the design. The recent trend for grungy, worn & badly printed designs were naturally less sweaty.
Talk about minimizing risk, huh?
That's a tutorial I wrote a couple years ago. It has made it's rounds in the indie t-shirt world (with hundreds of steady hits long after I stopped blogging).
I'd guess that he has a wholesale contact, but the margins after shipping would still be very small. assume $8 for a t-shirt, $5 average for shipping, leaves $3 profit per sale.
Did you factor in the cost of your time?
It sounds like you're going to be doing your own packing and shipping. How long does that take?
Dude, this is HACKER News. It's all about exploiting opportunities in the system.
My only complaint is that 2am I was sleeping rather than hacking.
Ha, you do have a point here my friend.
Re: sleeping - I haven't slept in like 2 days =]
That said, I do have a problem with the execution:
The section "Please don't buy this shirt if you died. That's just lying, and nobody likes a liar..." is obviously intended just for laughs, but it's not really that funny and you run the risk of offending someone that, say, knows someone who actually died in the "Snowpacalypse." My wife, for example, knew one of the seven people that are known to have died in Chicago as a result of the blizzard. I'm one of the least sensitive or "PC" people on earth, but I think you might rethink what you gain vs. what you lose with that particular sentence. Offending people can be fine (and inevitable), but there should usually be a reason for it. [BTW, "I survived X" is a common T-shirt meme and Snowpacalypse is a recent meme, so I didn't think anything of it until the one sentence made a more concrete connection between 'death' and the blizzard...which made me think of the news reports etc. - which might tip the creepy scale for some potential buyers. Maybe A/B test it?]
Based on non-statistical analysis: the only comments I've heard about that particular line are that it was really funny, so mission accomplished I guess. I understand where you're coming from and how it could be offensive, but your comment is the first (from any network) to even mention it in that respect.
I know there are several HN members that have easy A/B testing services (http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/ is one that springs to mind, but I know there are others.)
Re: my 'aggressiveness.'
I called you a dickhead about half in jest (we were talking about being offended), and half because you replied to me with a cliche that I had already addressed and an instruction to "get over it." Dickhead is one of the least offensive-offensive words I could think of - it's my grandmother's term of endearment for my grandfather ;-) HN guidelines say, "Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face to face conversation." I wasn't exactly civil, but I would totally say that to you in a face to face conversation.
Re: auto-censoring. I may be completely wrong about the lines...I thought they were mildy funny, just not worth losing sales over. It was just a suggestion. If it were the OP's actual stance/belief on something, then that's different. I just thought he could put in something funnier that wouldn't necessarily be creepy to anyone. I have a different perspective than most, maybe. My companies have (aggregate) revenues in the low billions, so a small tweak can be a big thing for me. I don't want to offend a customer unless I think there is a good reason. I started out with exactly this kind of small, opportunistic approach as the OP's t-shirt, so I thought I might have something to contribute. I was apparently wrong.
1. Low downside, high upside: You got in for $8 and a few hours, and it had a shot to do some great things... I think taking these low-investment shots at doing things can add up really fast.
2. Getting in front of trends/timely marketing - I think there's a ton of potential in this, and I've been thinking on it a lot lately.
Thanks for sharing this - very cool stuff here.
Next time you see a huge trend like this, design another t-shirt and create another website. You have already all you need: code for the website/order infrastructure and contacts with some t-shirt maker. It will require even less than 4 hours ;)
* As an aside, I did apply to Y-Combinator in the previous application batch, with Pocket (http://letspocket.com) when it was barely more than an idea. As crazy as it sounds, I really didn't even know how to program at that point, which is a bit of an issue for a one-man tech startup. I didn't except to be accepted and I'm not bitter about being rejected. That rejection e-mail came and went, and I kept hacking away. Two weeks ago I shared Pocket with HN and it was received ridiculously well. And yesterday this. I honestly don't even know what I'll be doing in another few weeks, but I can tell you that my head is down and I'm still hacking away (Pocket Premium!). So anyway, YC: please be aware that I am not stopping. - From Loren
Brief story here: http://www.collective-e.com/how-tos-and-advice/how-did-you/a...
Could I ask some details:
* Where did you get the T-Shirt made?
* How exactly did you go from nobody knowing about it to 1000s of hits?
Nice touch -- both for including the shipping price in the advertised price and for not calling it "free".
I also thought it's a good idea that you de-emphasized the "2011" in the design, so the shirt remains mostly relevant if there's another "snowpocalypse" sometime :)
I also hear regular reports of businesses which perhaps should have chosen their payment processor more carefully given the nature of their business, who clearly have a product which doesn't get "shipped" in any way that could comply with that policy - I think a European Ruby conference was the most recent one I've seen discussed here, how should a conference organizer manage their bookings to comply with this sort of policy? He'll, even Burningman got burnt by their ticket seller a year or two back "we're just gonna hang on to a few million dollars worth of ticket sales money, because your annual event that's been running successfully for ~20 years now with ~50,000 people a year recently - it might all be a big fraud!"... Unfortunately, choosing to sign up with PayPal means explicitly agreeing to allow them to do exactly that with very little recourse - and it's not necessarily _wrong_ - PayPals business is basically built on betting they can do a better job of fraud prevention than e banks/credit card companies are doing, and offer payment services to more people than the banks will and earn money from people the banks consider "too high risk". This allows then to provide a service that let's people like the OP go from idea to fully functional ecommerce website in 4 hours, but it also means you're giving them rights to retain "your" money to cover any fraud risk they might consider you to expose them too.
Its not a wrong/bad policy of PayPals, but it's a policy that I've seen many people not realize they were signing up for.
1) There were several copycat shirts that came out on Cafepress/Zazzle shortly after mine started gaining traction. The shirt concept itself is not completely unique as we've all seen "I SURVIVED ..." shirts before, but the copycat shirts used the same font, word placement, and everything. Am I upset? Absolutely not. Those just validate my idea. And I wasn't too worried about losing sales as the copycats were way overpriced ($24+s/h vs $16) with lower quality and far inferior presentation. I would be surprised if they sold any at all, really.
2) The copycat shirts went as far as using very similar descriptions for the shirts. Not only does this show a complete lack of creativity, it shows that I may have been onto something with the humorous/witty/questionable description that has been mentioned here a few times. Is it offensive? Possibly. But I think it did more good than harm (in terms of measurable things like sales and hits).
Just thought I'd throw those thoughts out there for pondering.
Domain Name: SNOWDAY2012.COM
Created Date: 03-Feb-2011
Expiry Date: 03-Feb-2012
Registrant Name: Paul Jefferiesr
HA! I can't believe somebody registered that domain name. Too funny, it didn't even cross my mind. Snowday2011.com was my backup - I really wanted snowpocalypse.com!
Cost price of your tshirts, how many you sold over X time, conversion rate on the site, main sources of traffic, highest conversion source, lowest conversion source, fraud levels if known yet. Thanks.
Traffic to his website is not as important as sales. I suspect a poor percentage of visitors from HN converted to sales.
> Shipping & Handling
> These costs are already factored into the price of the shirts, so you don't have to pay any additional costs for shipping. All shirts will be shipped via USPS First-Class Mail. Shirts will only be shipped within US/Canada/Mexico.
You've really done a great job of refining a website - one that was made in four hours to boot!
Credit where it's due though, the site appears to have been coded up pretty well
Absolute worst case scenario is that I refund everybody's money and end up exactly where I am now. But I don't see that happening.
Looking at your site, you seem to be using a custom blog engine. Any details on your setup and how it came to be?
I've been wondering for ages if pages like that share some common tool/template, or it it's just that the 'full width' idea makes them look cut from the same cloth.
Re templates: I'm sure they exist (especially on wordpress theme sites), but I really just prefer to create things on my own. Even coded my blog from scratch =]
Did we already forget about the blizzard last year?
As for income tax, every man for himself I believe. That's not Paypal's business.
Really impressive from conceptual to live site in 8 hours. Your profile says you're currently learning RoR. Is that the stack you built on?
You're thinking way too far ahead compared to the people who are ordering these shirts.
This product is clearly meant to be an impulse buy, in the same category as a mountain of junk sold on street corners, at festivals, and in souvenir shops.
If the prospective buyer thought about it for a couple of seconds, they'd probably realize that they really didn't need this, and might never even use it. But at the time it looks funny, or cute, or otherwise "brilliant". And they really feel like buying something, almost anything.
And that's how someone winds up walking out having bought a baseball cap with antlers on it, a singing fish, dancing Santa, or Snowpocalypse t-shirt.
The OP was just lucky enough to latch on to a trend before it died out.
4 Hour Work-Month
Definitely a great way to capitalize on the moment. I wonder if anybody have a business that visits with a truck to melt all the snow. So much snow I don't know where to put it anymore.
Nice site for sure..