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Show HN: My 4-hour project, already profitable (snowday2011.com)
323 points by guynamedloren on Feb 3, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 141 comments

I know this is not the norm for projects here on Hacker News and I realize that it may be seen as rather exploitive, so here's a very very brief background and my thought process:

- 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.

i wouldn't call it exploitive, rather i would say it's very savvy. even if it's a one-time shot, it's real money and you're not doing anything shady to earn it. that's how people build wealth -- seizing opportunity. congrats on the success.

Total agreement. There is no rule, law, or moral stricture against earning money efficiently. (Some people seem to accept that a lawyer can bill $4,000 in a day of work but an engineer who does the same thing must be cheating somehow. I've never understood this.)

A great many people also think that what the lawyer does is exploitative. It has just become an accepted social fiction that law is an exploitative profession and its to be expected of them.

"Well sure lawyers do it, but engineers?! Come on, they're supposed to be the good guys!"

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad the Hacker News community is so understanding and supportive, even with silly little projects like this!

Its a very nice site. Nicely designed and you know exactly what you're getting and what it's about when you look at it.

I wish my site was so intuitive =(.

I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with what you did.

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



That's an complicated ethical decision. On one hand some local clothing manufacteurers are out of buisiness. On the other hand a whole pile of people have cheap, high quality clothing.

Off-topic now for sure, but IMO the investment / charity is always better spent on local businesses to produce goods rather than donating goods. Donating goods just makes us feel better about our excesses (the fact that we by new clothing based on style instead of wear / utility).

It's a complicated issue. I think the reason people donate is based on this logic:

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.

Travels reminds me of the Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy book as well as this "true cost" t-shirt


How did you get your first order in 4min? I mean, how were you promoting it?

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.

Right now I can tell you I didn't do much to market except designed a good product, a good presentation, and took advantage of the ridiculous amounts of traffic going through the Facebook events mentioned in OP. No magic or silver bullet here. Will go into more detail with a blog post soon. Madebyloren.com

I really love the landing page and envy you your skills in that regard. Also, some of your remarks suggest that you have substantial background with some aspects of this, like shipping t-shirts. So it sounds like you capitalized on an area that came fairly easily to you due to experience, positioning, and other factors.

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.

You should link madebyloren.com from the footer of your t-shirt page - the benefit to your blog because of a link from a viral page will outlast the t-shirt sales. :)

Thought about it, but decided against it. First, there is absolutely no content on my blog as of right now, so no reason to return ever. Second, I don't think general demographic that visits snowday2011.com would necessarily benefit or appreciate the content that will eventually be on my blog (startups, programming, design, hacking). Third, I've planned on posting a detailed account of the project (including hits, rough financials, etc) since inception, and I don't know if I want this information to be readily available to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who happens to stroll through the site.

You're thinking users, I'm thinking search engines.

The people who are visiting & buying the tee probably wouldn't even notice the link.

Great landing page. I instantly get what's being sold and for how much, and the sale is a click away.

Thanks, that was the goal.

Quick, write a book before Tim Ferris steals your idea:

The Four Hour Startup

I like that - maybe a good title for the upcoming detailed blog post!

This IS awesome.

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!

No zazzle or cafepress. I'm building up orders for a bulk wholesale order of good quality screenprinted tees. Haven't started printing or shipping just yet, as is explained on the site. I don't have a "contact" per se, but I have dabbled in the indie t-shirt world quite a bit so I have printers that I've worked with and I've gotten packaging/shipping down to a science. I can ship shirts in really nice, secure packaging for $2/ea. I already have the packaging supplies from previous endeavors.

I'm a former professional T-Shirt designer. Here's a few pieces of advice for people thinking about doing something similar:

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.

Have you looked at the $2.95 shirt guys? http://www.295guys.com/ I have talked to them at some trade shows and they have very aggressive pricing if you are in the 500 unit range.

I have a printer in mind that I've worked with before, but ill definitely give those guys a look. Not in 500 range yet, but I think I just hit viral a few minute ago so it could be a possibility. Thanks for the tip.

What was your plan had this flopped and you only had a few sales by the time you had to start shipping items? could you have brought down to a per-unit basis? did you have an exit strategy if it didn't seem worth your time?

Paypal has a wonderful thing called a refund button. Had things not worked out, all I would have to do is hit that a few times and I'm right back where I started, with no loss except $8 and some time.

Talk about minimizing risk, huh?

Others thoughts on this as an acceptable practice? I don't think "personal branding" comes into this play / project, but it could in the future.

Can you talk more or share some tips about packaging? I've had an idea for a shirt I've kicked around for a few weeks now but I don't know anything about the process.

I'll touch on this when I do my writeup for this whole ordeal, but the packing portion will likely be a reiteration of this:


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).

agreed, I am curious about the logistics.

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.

Margins are much higher than you'd expect. I've worked in the indie t-shirt game before and scrupulously figured out how to squeeze out ea much profit as possible while maintaining good quality. Profits are at least $7/shirt, will increase with decrease in unit cost from larger wholesale quantity.

That's pretty impressive. I understand keep your tips to yourself, but is there anything you can share about how you managed to get $7 profit / shirt? That's unheard of.

@endlessvoid - see my other responses here. There's no magic going on, just streamlining and being very efficient.

"Profits are at least $7/shirt"

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?

I realize that it may be seen as rather exploitive

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.

> Dude, this is HACKER News. It's all about exploiting opportunities in the system.\

Ha, you do have a point here my friend.

Re: sleeping - I haven't slept in like 2 days =]

I don't think the idea is exploitive...just opportunistic, which is an awesome mindset to have in business if you stay on the right side of things. So, kudos on the idea.

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?]

You're right, I really didn't think that far into it, and probably should have A/B tested it... but I have never even setup an A/B test before and that certainly would've slowed things a bit. With things like this, time is of the essence, so I don't regret not running an A/B test.

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.

It didn't offend me personally at all, but I like to try to put myself in the shoes of potential customers when I view sites like this and my wife is one of the 'personas" I use. [Honestly, she probably wouldn't have been offended either, unless she saw it right after after she saw the news. It's a context/frame-of-mind thing, I think.] Many people are emulating that type of ThinkGeek/Groupon writing these days, and I think sometimes they fall a bit flat. I was just curious about your results with it...and I thank you for updating me. I wish you would do some A/B testing - not just with this, but everything - because lost customers don't usually speak up.

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.)

Anything you'd do will offend at least one person on earth. This time is you, next time will be somebody else. Get over it.

It didn't offend me, dickhead. I was just offering my opinion about something that might lower sales conversions. Why piss off a potential customer just for a weak joke...?

Thanks for the D, no need to be aggressive, my point is just that if you offend a very few and get attention of the mass, somewhere, you win. Piss off a potential client isn't a big deal when you got hundred other to laugh! I also think that making fun of dramatical situation might help to get over the trauma. But I guess you are to sensitive to follow this.

I think most people on HN like case studies because they help them learn things that they can apply to their own businesses. If you have no interest in improving your business, or learning new techniques, or getting "fresh eyes" - then I'm sorry you are here. Part of hacking culture is testing and trying out things, not just making assumptions and saying fuck it. Little things on landing pages can make a big difference in sales. Why not test some of them? The OP himself said that this promotion was an "experiment." My point was that I think the OP could get "hundred other to laugh" without using the lines that may creep out a few. I'm not saying I'm offended by what he wrote...I'm saying "try to make more money." Testing some stuff like that would offer spice to his case study when he posts it on his blog. Controversy is a great sales tool. Humor is a great sales tool. I didn't think the sentences in question were enough of either to outweigh the potential downsides, and they seemed like throwaway lines anyway and not something he was attached to emotionally.

------ 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.

I keep thinking that auto-censoring to gain some sale isn't a good thing. That line amused a lot of people (me included) and as you'll always offend somebody at some point, specially when you play with humor, I think that playing as far as you feel like is the way to do. It keep the thing spontaneous and that the strength of that project, natural joke quickly implemented and that amused and talk to the target. ------ Re: my 'aggressiveness.' Abt the "Dickhead" word, I have no idea if it's a casual or a tough word, as a non-native speaker I can't really say, and I don't really care, was more the tone that bugged me, but as my first reaction wasn't really well formatted either, let's say it was certainly well deserved, the "get over it" wasn't a good thing to write, I agree. .

And I am sorry I called you a name that added nothing to the discussion. It is not a 'casual' word, but I have a very developed vocabulary of obscenities ;-) - so it was just the first thing that came to mind that I thought would make a point about offensiveness and your tone bugging me. In any case, it was flippant and I regret it.

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.

I do like your contribution to the discussion. The the endearments did not add anything, though.

Hey Loren, this really got the gears turning in my head. It covers two things I've been thinking about a lot lately:

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.

Where are you getting the shirts printed from? Whats the total cost for printing and shipping?

Wholesale screenprinter. No on demand or drop shipping. Printing + shipping is approx $8 or less per shirt.

It was a great way to seize an opportunity and I think you should reiterate it.

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 ;)

Can't believe it. When I was getting bored of discussions like "trying to hire an igloo", "move to California" over the snow-storm, this HN came along and made my day/night. Hacker of the year award! Maybe YC should start such an award if it doesn't already exist.

Maybe they could just accept me into Y-Combinator instead of sending that nasty rejection e-mail again* =]

* 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

I'm very curious to know how much you made off of this (ballpark).

This is a fantastic example of identifying a bubbling market and supplying it with a desirable product. Great work!

I tried a similar thing about a fad in Germany during the soccer WC but it didn't go anywhere as I sucked at marketing it. Can you tell how you did marketing and especially how did you became the official T-Shirt for that facebook event?

Which fad?

A non-relevant question, which one? St. Louis, Tulsa, Chicago, New York, etc... Since the shirt doesn't say, it won't make a difference from the sales point of view, just wondering which one was your inspiration?

Chicago and central il (home and college home). Of course the shirt applies to pretty much the whole Midwest right now, so that helps from a market segment perspective.

Pretty cool. Really liked the emphasis on the inclusion of shipping costs in the price. The design is perfect in my opinion and no wonder the sales are going viral. Congratulations and keep up the good work.

As an aside, selling t-shirts is how Peter Shankman (creator of Help-A-Report-Out) got started with his own advertising agency. He saw an opportunity (Titanic) and capitalized on it by selling t-shirts that said "It sank. Get Over It."

Brief story here: http://www.collective-e.com/how-tos-and-advice/how-did-you/a...

Thanks for inspiring me to put money into a "pot" for small, act-fast business ideas like this.

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?

There's no silver bullet - my four hours of hacking were backed by a lifetime of work, learning, and experience. I'll be running a series of blog posts detailing the entire project, from start to finish. Be on the lookout http://madebyloren.com

Have you had any trouble with PayPal flagging your account yet?

Not yet - fingers crossed!

These costs are already factored into the price of the shirts, so you don't have to pay any additional costs for shipping

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 :)

You might want to keep an eye on that Pay Pal account - the "pay me now and I'll send you $stuff in a few weeks" pattern is exactly the sort of thing that trips their "might be fraud, lock the account and keep all the money for 6 months" response.

That's a great point, bigian. FWIW that's not a PayPal-specific policy - Visa and MasterCard's TOS explicitly state that you cannot bill the credit card until the merchandise has shipped.

True, but I don't hear nearly so many horror stories about Visa/MasterCard choosing to keep all the money people think they have given you for 180 days (exactly as you agreed they could when you signed up) while they "investigate".

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.

Is there any way to specifically contact or call paypal and premptively warn them that your account is about to get a huge influx of orders, so they can help you prepare all of the paperwork they're going to ask you for in advance? Many people talk about paypal screwing them, but I rarely hear of anyone taking any preemptive action. If its not possible, then its something they should make more evident.

For what it's worth, I just remembered two somewhat interesting points:

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.

I think you would be very surprised as to what does and doesn't sell on CafePress. Are they doing as well as you are, I doubt they are, but are they doing anywhere near the work you are, no way in hell. They are likely targeting an entirely different market than you are. You're going with viral marketing centered around Facebook. CafePress is largely populated by middle aged women. I would guess the cross over for those two groups isn't that large.

I think he'll mostly earn his conversions from the Facebook event, but it never hurts to spend twenty seconds to do a TinEye search and see what shows up.

Wow on the idea, wow on the execution, and wow on the design! Out of curiosity:

Domain Name: SNOWDAY2012.COM Created Date: 03-Feb-2011 Expiry Date: 03-Feb-2012 Registrant Name: Paul Jefferiesr

Thank you for the kind words. I guess that means the years of hardwork are paying off, even if the direct time investment was a few hours.

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!

The site design alone really is a superb lesson in simple effective good-looking usability. As someone else pointed out: one click ordering, brilliantly-worded concise text, good design, immediately understandable purpose and call to action. These things all instill confidence, and are no accident. Anyone who's ever tried should know how difficult it is to make something "simple"... so yes I'd say your years of hard work have paid off.

What would be cool, and a nice courtesy gesture since HN gave you so much traffic, is if you shared actual numbers with us. Data we can use. I'd like to see:

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.

gave you so much traffic

Traffic to his website is not as important as sales. I suspect a poor percentage of visitors from HN converted to sales.

I totally agree with you, it's the least I could do. For now, some of these rough figures are in my other responses scattered around here. In the next day or so I plan to do a detailed writeup on my (currently blank) blog http://madebyloren.com - and I'll post on HN when the writeup is available.

if I understand this model, he has to get a certain number of orders (say 100) before he can actually print. the price of each shirt depends on a bulk amount and if he doesn't hit that, he can't ship the shirts. for these shirts I'd suspect it costs about $10 each (silkscreen printing), plus whatever shipping and handling. maybe $3-$4 profit each shirt x 100 = $300-$400

I've mentioned this several times, but I'll bring it up again because I'm legitimately surprised at how expensive many seem to think these shirts are. Screen printing should absolutely not cost $10/ea for a 2-color print, especially for anything over 36 shirts. If you're paying this, then you're being robbed. End of story. I have had many shirts printed before so I know where to look, but it's really not that difficult to find a decent printer with fair prices. Right now my costs are below $6/ea, and that's for medium-grade, fashion fitted tees. If I went with cheapy Gildan tees, I would be at less than $5/ea, but I'd rather not sacrifice the quality to squeeze out a tiny more profit. I want people to be pleased with what they're buying. I'm thinking of myself in their shoes.

Which printer are you using?

i just realized you do other shirts on your main site, so maybe you have a special deal arranged to do shirts. if so, that's really cool. plus i didn't realize you went to the same school as me ;)

    > 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.
I can't emphasize how brilliant this is. It really is a privilege to only worry about people on in three countries.

You've really done a great job of refining a website - one that was made in four hours to boot!

I would love a blog post describing the steps you used to get to a MVP; how you got the shirts en masse to be printed and shipped, platforms you used to quickly iterate, etc. Really inspiring.

Where are the shirts being made? Are they made to order and drop-shipped like Cafe Press/Zazzle? Or are you building up inventory?

Building up orders to place a bulk wholesale order. Cafe press and zazzle are overpriced for the customers and too low profits for sellers. Why would I charge somebody $24 + shipping for a shirt if I would never pay that myself?

He answered that in another thread:


Yeah I saw that. I also asked this question before endlessvoid94 did.

I suppose I'll be in the minority on a site run by a VC, but I'm pretty disappointed that a get-"rich"-quick story like this can outpace technical articles here - no doubt the word "profitable" in the title helped. I certainly don't think there's anything "wrong" with what you did, it's just not what I come here to read. I'd always kind of held the belief that this was a site for lots of really smart folks talking about current technical issues, but maybe I've been fooling myself a bit.

Credit where it's due though, the site appears to have been coded up pretty well

Nice work, your good site design is a big part of why it works. Maybe you can turn this into a brand that makes more ironic t-shirts about overblown current events?

My first reaction to this comment was: Why would you want to have a business model that relies so much on overblown current events? And then I thought of all the news channels, and suddenly it doesn't sound like a bad model.

Congrats. I suggest a "Snowmageddon" t-shirt as well.

I wish!

What if your orders go viral. How can you possibly fulfill them?

Looking at the way he states there will be a 2 week delay I assume he'll wait for the peak and then go ahead and contact his printer (I assume he's got contacts to make it easier) and get the amount he needs printed, that way he keeps costs down (ordering in bulk). If he got to the point where he couldn't handle the orders himself I'm pretty sure he'd be in the revenue areas that allowed him to contract multiple printers to do the work, printing t-shirts in bulk is cheap.

That sounds like a great problem to have.

What's the saying - desperation drives innovation? Maybe I'm thinking of "necessity is the mother of invention".. either way, i'll figure it out.

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.

Could you post a follow up statistics in a week or so? As this is a one shot sort of deal I wouldn't imagine you feel the need to keep the numbers under wraps.

Yep, planning on it. Keep an eye out on http://madebyloren.com - my future blog for my startups/projects. I'll certainly make a post here on HN as well.

I would suggest publishing an RSS feed for your posts, because I probably won’t remember to check your website again. Either way, please keep submitting updates to HN.

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 wrote the blog engine from scratch with Ruby on Rails. I wanted something really lightweight and suited for my needs, plus I figured it would be a good exercise. It's not finished yet, however. Sidetracked with instantly gratifying opportunities :)

Created an account just to upvote this. Brilliant. There's nothing stopping you (or one of us) from doing it for every significant event in every country...

What did you use to build the page, if you don't mind me asking?

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.

No templates or tools, unless you count Illustrator. This, along with all of my other projects, came straight from my crazy little mind, everything from design to code. I am a big fan of the "full width" style, and it definitely works well here.

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 =]

Nice! This reminds me of a similar sieze-the-moment kind of situation: When pluto was no more recognised as a planet, someone printed a shirt that said, "Pluto is still a planet!" (and several variations)...


Did we already forget about the blizzard last year?


Snowpocalypse 2011

I love online shirt designs / prints / creativity. I'm a regular fan of shirt woot, threadless, design by humans, etc. etc. Great job capitalizing on a fast trend, you can use the income to reinvest into other ideas and fast trend products.

It might be a sensitive question for you. If you use PayPal as a payment platform, do they charge you income tax or will you have to claim income tax by yourself?

When you're setting up the "buy now" links/buttons, you can choose to add sales tax.

As for income tax, every man for himself I believe. That's not Paypal's business.

This success story reminds me of the just-in-time fashion design companies. They track the big runway shows and can quickly turn-out copy-cat fashions.

it's only a matter of time until someone will try to capitalize on what's happening right now in Egypt...something like "I survived Mubarak"

Are you taking care of the shipping (after printing the T-shirts locally) or is the wholesaler taking care of everything? Congrats!

I'm doing everything aside from printing. Good experience and more profit that way - cant go wrong there, right?

You found the opportunity and owned it. I can't see how that deserves any criticism. How much did you make so far?

how are you dealing with shipping to Mexico without paying for importation costs?

This looks very polished for a 4 hour effort. Congrats on being profitable. :)

what stack did you build it on?

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?

Nope, this one was just straight up css and html. Nothing fancy here - no reason to, its only a single page :) oh and its hosted on whatever my cheap web hosting is. Is it sad that I don't even know the tech specs? Maybe that's s reason for the success - only focusing on what matters.. now there's a good takeaway point

So when someone orders a shirt, where does that data go? via email?

Paypal takes care of everything. They send an email when an order goes through and also have all order details available in the Paypal account dashboard. Doesn't get much simpler than that. I've always used paypal, but for once in my life I actually feel that the paypal fees are worth it. Good value and good service for a fair price. No complaints (yet).

any word on revenue figures for this? kudos.

keep us appraised of your sales, dude!

how much are you making?

I would suggest a shirt that says "SNOW MY GOD!!!"


So are we expected to wear these T-Shirts in summer in Chicago? Nice idea at the right time but I am not sure why people would buy such things. But then again, you'd know better.

"So are we expected to wear these T-Shirts in summer in Chicago?"

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.

When you earn enough to eat, let us know.

In 8 hours I earned enough to pay for 3 months rent. How's that?

You should write a book and call it

    4 Hour Work-Month

Alternate title: The 4 Hour Blizzard of Cash.


That's pretty cool. I assume you have prior experience with the industry? Clothing and prints, I mean.

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.

He runs http://beetnikaesthetics.com/ so this is an off shoot of what he does already.

Nice site for sure..

FWIW that site/project/business is pretty much defunct. Not that it failed or anything, but it was really just too slow paced for me and I got bored with it. High effort for low return. I actually ordered hundreds of shirts that I never even posted for sale on the site. They have been sitting on shelves in my bedroom for 2 years. Hm.

Perhaps you can convert some customers from the snow-shirts?

I'd love to see a write-up on your final takeaway on this. I know it's a bit personal, but it'd be inspiring to see.

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