Launching a tech startup comes with many challenges and let’s face it, many of those root from a shortage of capital. Besides social media, the resources needed to help grow your brand and business, from the ground-up, are increasingly expensive. You might say, well what about the product validation issues, development setbacks, lack of structure or constant change? You wouldn’t be wrong! Those negatives are common but a strong CEO or team will push past those obstacles. Unfortunately, if a company runs out of money and there isn’t any more being generated or invested, that’s often the end. So simply put, the startups who end up thriving, have to be scrappy and act on limited resources, especially in the early years.
Okay, so don’t know if you heard but we launched a shop. With the help of some incredible individuals doing some groundbreaking work in the drop shipping space, we were able to produce a Trufan shop, complete with custom mockups, ecommerce order fulfillment and flat rate shipping costs, for ZERO dollars! Absolutely nothing! Literally all it cost us was time! To make things even sweeter, our merchandising partners have access to a product range of over 100,000 items. Each one waiting for our logo or icon, should we decide that we’d like it up on the website for purchase. Technology leaders like Shopify have revolutionized the ecommerce industry and after benefiting from a resulting service, we want to share what that journey looked like. With any luck, stories like this will continue fostering entrepreneurship and get more new brands in the hands of their fans or consumers.
Why we wanted a shop with branded merchandise
Let’s get the obvious reason out of the way first. Our team, working mostly remote, required some branded gear to display consistency and legitimacy in meetings with potential investors or clients. We’re not the type of company to have mandatory uniforms but we figured some Trufan swag would also add to the internal cohesiveness, as we continue making progress on other organizational objectives. With our CEO, Manu Goswami, slowly spreading the word to his large audiences on Instagram and LinkedIn, we quickly noticed the external demand for branded merchandise. As a startup developing technology that’s integrated with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, we didn’t start forecasting merchandising sales because that revenue stream is merely a bonus. However, the rising interest in Trufan merchandise, from owned media audiences, opened up an opportunity to create some social currency. That’s when it became apparent that without the technology being ready yet, we could still capitalize on the marketing potential with a simple, scalable solution.
The marketing potential behind branded merchandise goes far beyond generating social currency. The basis for having a logo printed or stitched on products is the same as the basis for any marketing activity, having your brand seen. In terms of reach and awareness, you can find plenty of stats based off scenarios like the number of people who see your brand if someone is wearing a logo’d hat while walking through a busy airport. Promotional products not only produce a high volume of impressions but can also contribute to referrals and sales! Here are a couple telling stats documented by PPAI in a facts sheetfrom 2017. ‘Reactions after receiving product; 79% researched the brand and 83% were more likely to do business with the brand. Promotional products were ranked as the #1 form of advertising to prompt action across all generations.’ Safe to say there was also a lot of data out there supporting the idea of a Trufan ecommerce operation, even if we don’t yet have a product.
How the collection was assembled
A lot more went into this process than any of us could have imagined. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do it alone. The partner that helped set up the entire infrastructure and provided us with an incredible range of top quality products is actually another early stage startup, without a name! It all started when they sent our Head of Sales, Scott Berty, a message following the team’s soft brand launch on LinkedIn. It was hard to believe they would take us through the entire process of getting the shop setup at no cost but hey, we weren’t going to say no after seeing the stellar work they’ve done with a couple brands and influencers.
Shortly after we began picking out products for the initial logo mockups, a proactive printing service, by the name of Success Print Shop, was sliding into Manu’s DMs (direct messages). The owner knew exactly what he was doing, immediately collaborating with Swish on a Trufan design using a similar font as Drake’s new album, Scorpion. The finished product soon came to his front door as a favor from the print shop and needless to say, we loved the quality. We incorporated the products in our shop and began a partnership for future design needs.
We gathered all the necessary product specifications for manufacturers, to finalize the website before launch, when another vendor specializing in custom clothing, met Manu at the Youth Can Do It event, hosted by Startup Canada. After returning home, the owner of Stay Golden Apparel sent over a couple products to showcase the material, with some standout gold print. Although it was too early for any custom clothing commitments on our side, we quickly realized that their expertise was the final piece of the puzzle we needed to offer merchandising services to our future customers.
Our final addition to the first ever Trufan collection and one which we were most excited about to date, came along with a new employee, Trevor Eastman, who runs Odyssey Sports Group with his brother Austin. Their agency is certified by the NBPA and works with a group of young professional athletes breaking into the league. We designed a custom NBA Summer Leagueshirt that they gave to players in Vegas the last few weeks. The best part is, you can own the exact same shirt the NBA athletes have been wearing for only $30. Yeah, we’re shocked too. :)
The quality you can expect from Trufan’s promotional products
We had a nearly unlimited product range to choose from and that allowed us to hone in on high quality products that people would want to wear or use. Brands for certain items like t-shirts, long-sleeves or crew-necks aren’t as well-known but they’ve been advised as the softest materials you can find on the market. Brands for those garments include Next Level, Bella & Canvas or Independent Trading Co. Tops are a tri blend like the soft 6010 t-shirt. The same can be said for any of our female designs. Other prints were done on garments from internationally renowned brands like Champion and New Era. Champion is a trendy brand that makes long lasting products, while New Era is the industry standard for caps in sports and entertainment. With this cross in product manufacturers, we’ve been able to deliver brand names and top of the line comfort.
Then comes the promotional products that most buyers would find consistent day to day use from, like a backpack, portable charger or headphones. We understand that many people using technology are constantly on the go since it’s such a mobile world. Each one of our backpacks are made from quality materials that provide durability and plenty of protected pockets. The wireless headphones made by Wrapsody carry a five star rating online and have also been sold by brands like Google, Microsoft and Coca-Cola. Last but not least, the portable chargers by Tenfour and Juicebox, hold enough charge to power your smartphone three times over. Let’s face it, most of society has probably dealt with that moment when your phone dies at the worst possible time because there was no place to charge it. So let’s not let that happen again.
What we’ve learned and how we’ve grown
Over the course of this project, we’ve learned a lot about merchandising and where the future of this billion dollar industry is headed. After meeting multiple vendors and going through the process from start to finish, we now have the ability to offer even more to brands or influencers interested in our proprietary technology. We can advise them on how to create their very own promotional product collection and introduce them to any of our strategic partners that will help bring their vision to life. Whether it’s the Shopify store, bulk prints, designs or custom clothing labels, we have the resources and love being creative!
If you’re still reading this and you’re thinking about buying some of our new Trufan product, we’ve done our best to make merch affordable for our fans and customers. Markups are slim and as we’ve mentioned, quality is absolute. We love seeing who’s rocking Trufan gear so once you receive the shipment, be sure to tag us on social (@trufan.io on Instagram)! You might even get featured in a story on our Instagram page. In the future, we are planning to send out some promo codes for our merchandise so stay plugged in to our social channels if you want some of our merch at a discount. Our goal is not to make insane profits with this — it’s simply to spread the word. Down the road, we’ll be looking to partner with organizations that raise awareness on mental health and social media addiction. However, every purchase now helps power our young startup and we thank any customers for their support.
Have feedback or questions regarding the merchandise or technology? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lifelong learner and traveler who has taken the traditional route to a career as a marketer, consultant, and entrepreneur.