Detour Designables is one of the most active DTG shops on my radar- creator Juna Duncan adds new designs each week, and keeps fans updated with active Facebook and Twitter accounts. Juna was kind enough to chat with us a bit about what it takes to succeed in the on-demand apparel industry.
What inspired you to start Detour Designables?
In 2003, a business partner and I started a web design company called Detour Design. We came across an article on how businesses were making extra money selling t-shirts online. Before Detour Design, I submitted my own designs to t-shirt companies as a freelance artist. Selling t-shirts online was a no-brainer for me. The name Detour Designables is a combination of our company name Detour Design and the word “wearables”. Today, Detour Design no longer operates as a web design company, we exclusively sell t-shirts online.
The article on selling t-shirts online mentioned several DTG sites to try. After giving each site a “test drive”, we chose Cafepress. In our opinion, Cafepress’ marketplace is the strongest DTG site on the internet. Their site is easy to use. We can change the look of our store whenever we want. Cafepress handles all of the customer service and inventory. We never deal with customers. Cafepress does a great job selling our designs. We opened our first store, Detour Designables, with CafePress on May 5, 2005. We also have a Geeky Teez store and Words on Teez store with Cafepress. Within the last year or two, we opened Detour Designables stores with other DTG sites. We have a Detour Designables store with Zazzle, Spreadshirt and Printfection. Our sales with Zazzle is picking up, but does not come close to the sales we are making with Cafepress.
Honestly, I’m not sure how important Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts are for attracting and maintaining sales. The one thing I do know is that it’s FREE advertising. I can send a message to over 1000 followers and fans whenever I have a new design or sale and it doesn’t cost me anything. I am always looking for other FREE marketing methods. I’ve tried MySpace, Squidoo, Stumble Upon, Flickr, You Tube, Tumblr, Digg, and more. There are so many online tools out there you just have to look.
As we started Detour Designables we did a lot of research. One thing we found is that some people had more than one shop. That got us thinking. Could we make more with multiple shops on CafePress? We gave it a try. $6 more a month was something we could handle. I feel that it has helped a little. One of the pluses to having more than one shop is that we can show case a lot more shirts on our front pages. Instead of trying to get 300 designs on one page we can spread it out over our different websites. One of the minuses of course is finding the time to update the other sites.
Adding new designs every week is really tough. Time is my biggest hurdle. I have a book full of ideas just waiting to be created. I just have to find the time to sit down and get them done. One of the things that keeps me motivated is sales. I often think, if I made 400 sales last month with 300 designs how many more sales will I have if I had 600 designs? Honestly though I really like creating new t-shirt designs. I always have. It’s a creative outlet for me. Some people like hiking or playing video games. I like creating new t-shirt designs. The best thing I love about having my own store is that I make my own deadlines. Yes, sometimes I do feel uninspired, but that’s okay. When that happens I take a few days off and come back to it later. No biggie.
Some of my most popular designs have been inspired by pop culture. Currently, our designs centered around the TV show LOST are our most popular. Cafepress has been doing really well with giving shopkeepers the opportunity to create officially licensed products. There are a bunch of designs that I really like that have failed to find an audience. The one that sticks out in my mind is one I called the usual suspects. It is a drawing of the weapons found in the board game CLUE. I don’t think anybody got it. I don’t know how it is for everyone but I would guess that only about 30% or less of our designs are big sellers. Most designs only bring in a few sales here and there. Some designs never sell at all.
I imagine Detour Designables will always be on the internet. It’s a no brainer. The return on investment is amazing. I actually have considered making the leap from DTG to screenprinting. We have planned on doing it sometime this year to see how it goes. I love the look of screenprinted t-shirts. I also think that there could be a lot of money made by going on our own and cutting out the middle man so to speak. I’ll have to let you know if I ever make the leap.