It was in 2013 when Adrielle Porte-at that time was a college student- decided that she wanted to venture out to selling shirts. “I just love side hustles,” she said about her reason in doing business while still being at school full time.

Partnered up with her classmate, she then created an online t-shirt business in crowdfunding system. People were able to vote for their favorite t-shirt designs created by multiple graphic artists, which then would be printed on the t-shirt to sell.

In total, she bet on a thousand t-shirts but subsequently failed. “We were naive back then, our ambition resulted in a hundred t-shirts rotting away at home,” Porte shared.

Championing Shirtpreneurs

“The first try ended up wiping out our personal savings,” Porte reminisced on her business’ early days.

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Not only that, Porte admitted that there were also logistical issues with their chosen vendors. Fast forward to delivery delays, lost packages, and simply chaotic shipment tracking data, the service the online t-shirt provided made their customers unsatisfied.

Despite the bad experience, Porte didn’t quit and still fought for her t-shirt dream.

“We then launched shirt.ly with the motivation to enable aspiring shirt entrepreneurs – a.k.a. Shirtpreneurs – to launch an online t-shirt business with minimal risk and zero hassle,” said Porte. She drew the experience from herself in putting a t-shirt brand business as a side hustle, and her platform is championing the side hustlers.

shirt.ly takes care the “dirty work”

Anybody who comes checking Shir.ly can immediately create an online t-shirt store without any capital. The user can then upload a logo, a store name, and can start designing using shirt.ly platform followed by selling their creation the next day.

In allowing so, shirt.ly will only charge the users whenever they manage to sell a piece of print on demand.

Upon describing the current platform, Porte used the word “dirty”. “Our product resonates well with the customers because in having a side business selling t-shirt, we make sure you don’t have to get down to the often-messy and arduous production process. That’s the dirty works we take care for you,” said Porte.

shirt.ly does takes care production from start to finish, even down to order management and returns management aside from production, packaging, and product delivery.

“There’s not a lot of companies in the Philippines that do this. I think that what sets us apart from the rest. We have our own partner delivery riders, we do things in-house, and we invest in things that aim at making a long-term loyal customers,” explained Porte.

For her personally, seeing repeat purchases from one shirt.ly store to another in a span of a few months is a success.

One big family

shirt.ly would probably be a startup that wears the label of “community grown” with the most pride.

“Our most successful Shirtpreneurs help new users get started – a few of them even provide direct mentorship in exchange for a percentage of sales,” said Porte about the unexpected community that grows in the platform.

In shirt.ly, the community of Shirtpreneurs has become tight enough to form 7-digit club Shirtpreneurs, which now consists of ten clubs with advanced-level shirtpreneurs who have successfully launched brands online and have sold thousands of shirts as the members. The name suggests the achievement these Shirtpreneurs have unlocked in selling 7 digits worth of t-shirts.

“Among these people is one of our most successful shirtpreneurs named Neil Palteng. He currently has 7 shirt.ly stores, 5 of which are profitable. He is able to manage his shirt.ly stores while handling his day job as a Finance Manager, managing an online magazine, and travelling. it’s really awesome to see people like him in our community,” said Porte.

Building a marketplace

With a strong community at hand, it makes sense for the company’s next move to be the marketplace establishment. Porte explained that shirt.ly imagined the marketplace to be some kind of “mother store” where shirt.ly selects items and designs curated from the existing mini shirt stores under the platform.

With the said planning in mind, the company is aware that it needs to have the logistics matter sorted out, especially if they wish to reach wider areas. “Our partner delivery riders currently reach Metro Manila and selected cities in nearby provinces. Since our transactions are 90% cash on delivery, we are planning to expand our coverage of delivery areas,” Porte added.

Another planning to support the marketplace the company attempts to build is by adding merchandise selection outside t-shirts. Currently, the company only print on t-shirts, jersey shirts, hoodies, mugs, and caps.

Surviving the unique offer

There are about 100 million Filipino, and 90 per cent of them are on Facebook actively. This influences the way people in the country spend their money.

Many businesses have turned to digital platform due to the huge opportunity. “It’s about time the Philippines rises up and improves its ranking in the easiness in doing business chart worldwide. I believe, if it’s made easy, many people will turn to entrepreneurship,” said Porte, who started off as a marketing logistic in Coca Cola FEMSA before focusing on shirt.ly full time.

She specifically highlighted the logistics process in the country that can sometimes still become a hindrance in doing online business. Other than that, it’s also about the internet speed that needs to be improved for businesses like shirt.ly to survive.

Speaking of survival, shirt.ly focusing on the design and printing of merchandises and making a marketplace out of it is sort of something you can find easily on Google’s first page given the right keywords. So how to best stay ahead and offer something unique?

“Everyone wears shirts in the Philippines. But the type of shirts and designs differ from one niche to another. It is important to determine the niche of your business because the e-commerce industry is very competitive. By determining your niche, you would be able to lower down your customer acquisition cost and offer valuable products and services specific to your market. You can also tailor-fit the customer experience based on your niche market. That’s what we do with shirt.ly,” Porte concluded.

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The shirt sellers on their platform are made to have the convenience of starting t-shirt selling business, and that’s an offer hard to resist when you want to start a business without knowing what to sell with the support of the company and those who have succeeded trying the method. With this approach, shirt.ly has positioned itself as a humble, community-moved business and therein lies its strength.

Image Credit: shirt.ly