Congrats to CustomInk

What a great validation of Marc and Sean’s (only people i know there) hard work yesterday in the Washington Post:  They certainly deserve it and i wish them the best.  They are somewhat of a competitor but have always been fair with me (except my brief interlude with Andy Louis charles). They were online early advertising and clearly serving the larger side of the business with screenprinted t-shirts.  I never thought a customer would design their logo online and CustomInk changed my view of that.  They were the first (and i copied) to put up online reviews which not only help prove and improve their service but it gave their site ‘liveness” which at the time was non-existent.  They leveraged great service and outsourced the printing for as long as they could to meet demand without the cash demands and ramping up staff for a highly cyclical business.  But outsourcing is very difficult to manage and I would never want to do it.  We diverged into B2B while they went for consumers. I thought managed online stores for companies was a sure way to get all internal company purchases (it wasn’t), while they developed design-online.  I concentrated on embroidery thinking it was an equal portion of the market then it clearly is, while they focused on screenprinted tees.  As stated in the article, they got funding and started from scratch.  We got a lot less funding but had a legacy business problem that diverted our attention but also kept us afloat with diversity.  They invested heavily in customer service and artists, we thought complete online transactions were the best especially for on-demand stores like the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and Audubon.

Regardless of the similarities, differences and paths we’ve taken, CustomInk picked the right strategy, hired the best people and executed it to perfection.  They are the envy of our industry and honestly have helped improve service for everyone.  There were (and still are) a lot of shady “used car” type dealers that would steal and undercut from others.  That manifested itself in a bad experience for the end customer.  The exceptional service CustomInk provides has forced everyone else to do the same.  That improves the entire industry.

I am and have always been very competitive in sports, work, scrabble, etc. which should mean i hate to lose more than anything.  That’s not true.  Once you are competitive long enough and in some small way successful, I feel you gain a new perspective.  You want to win of course and you should be irate if you didn’t perform well but never spiteful of your competitor especially when they played on the same level playing field you did. I have the utmost respect for the folks at CustomInk and think they have done an amazing job.  Keep it up!

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