Hailing a brief mention in one of Ami's postings a couple weeks back I decided to find out more about the web based T-shirt company Bountee. With less than a year's uptime, the company's fast becoming a top contender in the online t-shirt industry. Offering pre-designed prints in their gallery which are uploaded and voted on by the online community, as well as the option to create and sell your own designs, this two pronged approach seems to solve all the traditional problems associated with silkscreen methods. With no set up charges, a user-friendly interface and the option for single units and short-runs it seems they've mastered the art of on-demand printing. Using a âDirect to garmentâ printing method, in which graphics are literally printed directly onto the tees, Bountee offers unlimited numbers of colors, gradient printing and a turn around time that a traditional screenprinter would scowl at! If you like what you see at their website feel free to use the code "lovecoolhunting" at checkout for 15% off your order. To delve deeper Bountee's Steve Hunt was kind enough to answer a few questions
Who came up with the business model/idea and why?
Bountee was really born out of a couple of other t-shirt sites that I used to run. I actually studied fashion illustration back in the day and really enjoyed the freedom that t-shirt design offered, but having to squeeze design work into my spare time on evenings and weekends really didn't fit with the day job and I was gradually spending less and less time designing and more time fixing code and answering emails—basically doing day-to-day website running tasks and not enough sketching.
What I really wanted was a service that would take the hassle out of website owning and shirt printing for me while still allowing me freedom to pretty much design what and when I wanted.
I'd always been interested in on demand printing (especially as it considerably reduces overhead/outlay as a designer), but was never really impressed with the vinyl and transfer methods that some of the other, big "print on demand" websites offered. Both of my sites used the same techniques and it was a little embarrassing to be honest and I didn't really have an interest in printing mugs or mouse mats either. I had heard vague rumblings about a newer technology based on ink-jet printing, so I hooked up with a couple of friends and we starting talking around the idea of a website that pretty much ran itself and would cost nothing for the designer to get started. This beta version of Bountee is the first step along that path really...
In fact, as a designer I don't need anything to start selling t-shirts now, except for ideas and a graphics program capable of producing vector artwork. It's almost too easy now!
As for the business model, one core aspect of the site that we are proud of is our Terms and Conditions, especially our views on copyright, which have never changed since the day we sat down and started sketching stuff out. We own nothing of the designs that get sold through our website, and everything belongs to the designer.
We see a lot of sites these days paying a few hundred bucks for exclusive use of a design and basically locking the designer out of any future profit, and that kind of rankled with us. Sure we make some money off of each sale, but the key to Bountee is that the greater chance for profit from each individual sale is with the designer; the creator. And if a designer decides that he or she wants to go off and print a hundred of their designs and pimp them to their local shirt store, then who are we to stop 'em?
Our model is pretty simple really. We hope that in time we will have earned the respect and trust of the designer so that they keep using the site and to keep working with us.
Tell us a bit about your printing method (as opposed to silk screening)?
We use a technique called DTG (direct to garment printing). There are a few companies beginning to specialize in this technology now and it's advanced at an amazing pace over the past few years. Without wanting to put too fine a point on it (and I am over-simplifying here so apologies to the makers and inventors of the machines), it's essentially ink-jet printing for fabric. And it has some great advantages over screen printing for us particularly.
DTG allows us to produce garments on a print to order basis, so if a design gets uploaded and only bought once then we only have to print that one shirt (no more forking out for 200 shirts in various sizes on the off-chance that people might like it). And we don't need to limit the number of colors for a design, so a designer has complete freedom over their image—gradients, colors—everything. And it washes really well too, something that vinyl and transfer prints never seem to do.
Any future plans or add-ons for the company/site?
We have a ton of plans for Bountee (and not all involving t-shirts), but it's really early days for us and we only want to concentrate on getting our stuff right here rather than start running off and doing anything crazy.
Plus we're just three design guys bootstrapping our way through a start-up business and the one thing we all made a big point of being when we started this company was focused. I think it's all too easy these days to run off and get excited about the bright lights but we've spent a lot of time and effort in getting the community of happy Bountee designers off of the ground and really this site is for them.
Everything that we do, now or in the future, is for the growth of our community—it's really nothing without them. And I can't see us running off and doing anything different anytime soon.
How long have you been around?
Well, we officially went into Beta during April of this year, so what's that? Five months? In that time we've made change after change with the site: tweaking here, tweaking there. We're really trying to fine-tune the experience and we like to think that we've listened to every little bit of critique and feedback along the way.
It's one of the great things about Bountee actually (and I guess running a "community" site in general) but there does seem to be a real sense of involvement and ownership from the designers that use our site. Everyone has mucked in and made it a great place to be. Well, we like to think so anyway!