Like Kickstarter, But For Tee Shirts: New Platforms Allow Designers to Launch Tee Shirt Brands Without Risk

Front and rear portrait of a man wearing a white t-shirt

People love tee shirts, like, really love tee shirts. It’s estimated that about two billion tee shirts are sold every year; that 91% of Americans claim to have a favorite tee shirt; and that 62% of people claim to own more than 10 tee shirts.

So it should come as no surprise that people also really like to make their own tee shirts — for profit, for marketing purposes, for special events, for whatever really. Screen printing, the art of using woven mesh and ink blocks to neatly and easily transmit images on to fabric, allows them to do this. The only trouble is that anyone who wants to design a tee shirt first needs to make sure that there are people out there who want to buy it. Without a demand, they’re going to have to eat the rest of their investment.

This is where ideas like 13th and Mars, or Teespring come in. These two new businesses are like Kickstarter, but for tee shirts, allowing freelance graphic designers, small businesses, or anyone with an idea to design and create a tee shirt without first needing to worry about how many they need to make and sell before breaking even.

Located on the corner of 13th and Marstellar streets and so named for its location, 13th and Mars is an offshoot of Queensboro, its sister company specializing in embroidered apparel.

“We help our users raise money without having to take on any investment — sort of like Kickstarter but for T-shirts,” explained Sarah Newton, Co-Vice President/Mission Commander of 13th and Mars. “It’s great for sports teams, special events, nonprofit groups, artists, bands. You design the shirt and promote the project, and we take care of the rest.”

While 13th and Mars is perfectly suited to consumers looking to make shirts in small batches, Teespring is there for the entrepreneur, the solopreneur, the freelance graphic designer, or really anyone. Raking in about $55 million from two rounds of fund-raising, Teespring allows anyone to outsource the production costs of selling their own brand of custom designed tee shirts.

As of November, 2014, Teespring had sold more than six million shirts through its users, hundreds of whom make upwards of $100,000 from their custom designed tee shirts alone. According to the company, 10 users have even become millionaires.

“This isn’t about tee shirts, it’s not about crowd-funding, it’s about the concept that bringing something to market should be as easy as the idea,” cofounder and CEO Walker Williams told Forbes. “All we need is the visionaries with the ideas.”

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