Unemployed Webdesigner starts Tshirt Site – Gets Rich

August 12, 2006 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

Rather than join the ranks of the unemployable, however, Cassard created his own company. Today he finds himself unemployed again, but this time it is due to his success in business. Starting with the observation that “geeks like me love T-shirts,” Cassard spent two years building La Fraise (www.lafraise.com), an online T-shirt company that in June alone sold 9,400 shirts for a revenue of €206,000, or $265,330. In July, Cassard sold La Fraise to a German company, Spreadshirt, for an amount that he would not disclose. The success at La Fraise was based on customer creativity: T-shirts sold on the Web site are designed by the people who buy them. Submitted by anyone, the designs are ranked by popularity vote. Winners earn €1,000 and see their design printed on a high-quality limited-edition shirt. This kind of Internet business may be relatively new, but it is part of a broader retail phenomenon, said John Davison, the London-based director of research on retailing at the Gartner Group. “La Fraise is a small company, but it clearly shows the trend in retailing toward directly involving the customer in creating products,” Davison said. “We see it as inevitable that larger retailers will interact with customers like this.” For Cassard, the idea of a T-shirt company became obvious when moving to Saint-Étienne. Working out of an apartment paid for by his unemployment benefits and his girlfriend’s salary, Cassard thought back to his former colleagues at Ubisoft, the software company that had employed him as a Web designer. “Geeks love T-shirts, and I knew I had a market just by selling their favorite geek sayings,” Cassard said. “I picked some off the Internet and invented some.” Initially, the T-shirts were black with simple slogans or images from old video games on them. One of the best-selling shirts in the initial months simply said “Geek.” As he created the firm, Cassard set up a discussion area on the site for customers to provide input. His intention was to describe his experience as a first-time entrepreneur and build a community around the T-shirt company, a skill that he honed in his former job. At Ubisoft, Cassard had focused on encouraging customer feedback on the company Web site. His role as discussion forum organizer at Ubisoft started in 2000, long before the term “blog” became widely used. Ubisoft customers discussed both the company’s products and those of its competitors. In the first month, Cassard’s newly created Web site attracted 500 visitors a day and he sold 400 T- shirts for a total value of €8,000. Inspired by the response, Cassard scoured the Internet for similar businesses and found Threadless, a U.S.-based company operating on a similar model. “It became clear that I needed to get the community even more involved in the business,” Cassard said. Indeed, Cassard sees authenticity as the crucial competitive advantage for small Web-based companies. “Amazon or a giant store only offers the inhumanity of an anonymous transaction,” Cassard said. “By relating to me – even if that means knowing my problems – customers get something unique.” As for quality of the final product, Cassard decided to go unapologetically upmarket. The designs are screen-printed by hand in limited editions of 500 and the T-shirts themselves are made in the United States by American Apparel, the Los Angeles-based company that markets around the ethical treatment of employees. It was the process of getting the designs from customers, however, into which Cassard put the most effort. He shut down the Web site for two months last year to create a framework for accepting submissions, tallying votes and selling T-shirts. Within the first 30 days of going live with the revamped Web site, customers submitted 500 designs. After working for a transitional period of three months with the new company, Cassard said that he planned to search for a new business to start. “The only regret I have,” he said, “is not launching my business sooner.”

PARIS ALL WORK/ALL PLAY Patrice Cassard figured that he would never find a new job. Having left his position as a Web designer in Paris two years ago to follow his girlfriend to the economically depressed former coal-mining town of Saint-Étienne in central France, Cassard, now 35, figured that there was no point in looking for work, since he lacked both a high school diploma and the professional certificates so cherished by French employers. Rather than join the ranks of the unemployable, however, Cassard created his own company. Today he finds himself unemployed again, but this time it is due to his success in business. Starting with the observation that “geeks like me love T-shirts,” Cassard spent two years building La Fraise (www.lafraise.com), an online T-shirt company that in June alone sold 9,400 shirts for a revenue of €206,000, or $265,330. In July, Cassard sold La Fraise to a German company, Spreadshirt, for an amount that he would not disclose. The success at La Fraise was based on customer creativity: T-shirts sold on the Web site are designed by the people who buy them. Submitted by anyone, the designs are ranked by popularity vote. Winners earn €1,000 and see their design printed on a high-quality limited-edition shirt. This kind of Internet business may be relatively new, but it

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/11/yourmoney/mplay12.php

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Entry filed under: Internet Startup.

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About Biz News

My Name is Bisi and this is my blog This blog features stories that I have read that I think are interesting . I usually bookmark the stories that I find interesting but they are getting too many . I have decided to catalog and share them on this site . I am not really promoting the site so you might have accidentally stumbled on it . Thanks for visiting .
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