Deliver Happiness: The Zappos Story you can learn from

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness a few weeks ago.  To be honest, I’ve only read half of the book but love it so far.  This is a great story of a kid that got lucky (i think he admits that) in the dotcom craze of the 90’s but learned so much through the experience that he changed everything with Zappos.

Don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t only lucky with Link Exchange.  He is obviously incredibly smart but takes it one step further understanding what drives loyalty and passion.  He exudes it, employees adapt it to passionately help customers and then customers become brand evangelists. Most brands are built over decades with an image and advertising to support that image.  Tony created a brand in a few years that marvels giants like Nike and he did it without heavy advertising or creative strategy.  Granted, he was lucky enough to have the money to play Zappos out (most of us don’t have that luxury) and he almost ran out of cash, but he came away building something incredible.

I think everyone can learn a lot from this book.  Do what you enjoy? This is not always exactly possible: I can’t ski or sit on the beach for a living but I love to build things.  I could grow plants, be a carpenter or something else similar.  But building things is what i like to do.  i transferred that into building a unique mass-customization business where we use technology and systems to offer embroidered and printed apparel cheaper, faster and better than typical means.

Tony is very much the same way (a whole lot smarter and better with people then i am) and likes creating something.  I think we all do in one form or another.  He also takes building a culture to a new level and built zappos around it.  He’s pleasant, straight-forward and honest which is what i admire the most.  I love reading his book and have tried to emulate zappos’s service since I first ordered from them years ago.  We still have a long way to go but I hope someday we can match Zappos’s level of service…..not only for brand building reasons but so we may be happier everyday making our customers happy. I think deep-down we are all happiest making others happy and business is no exception…..Tony proves that

Get Double back from

I love grand statements (actually its my father’s favorite saying).  The guaranteed lowest price offer always makes me chuckle because it can’t be valid.  it’s just a marketing gimmick.  Don’t folks see through it?  Wouldn’t seeing such a too-good-to-be-true offer just raise red flags?

I just reviewed and found their president (full picture too!) on the home page stating 4ipmrint would give customers “double back” the difference in price.  HA; can’t be true, right!  low and behold I found a Harriton M265 (they don’t use manufacturer style numbers so they can’t be compared!) for $15.50 for 12 units:

Fair enough, they include embroidery and charge a $35 set-up charge.  Our price for the same shirt (M265) is $9.23 plus $4 embroidery or $13.23:

We also offer no set-up charge for logos designed online and the same $35 charge for a custom digitized design. But, you get my point: we’re obviously lower priced and they still have a “lowest price guarantee”!  Ask Kevin for some money back since you can’t “believe it”.

p.s. We don’t offer a lowest price guarantee because we don’t have to…

Patagonia video on factories and quality

Patagonia is obviously a leader in social responsibility and has been for decades.  They offer very high quality garments and we are fortunate to offer the patagonia brand to anyone interested in embroidering their logo on them.

Patagonia just emailed out the 3rd video in their “FootPrint Chronicles” series and it makes an incredible point on the definition of quality.  Quality should not be defined by the attributes of a garment, its technical specifications or length a product lasts.  And brands cannot expect quality when focusing on the cheapest way to construct a product.  Getting a better quality garment is attainable by increasing the quality of the working conditions and wages of the people making them.  They begin to take pride in what they produce because they have the time and tools to invest in making a quality product.

simple right?  well, I’d say to some degree.  American consumers are price conscious and buy that way.  that’s fair.  If given a choice to buy a $5 t-shirt at Old Navy or a $50 t-shirt that is made in the USA with organic cotton grown and top working conditions……most would buy the $5 tee from Old Navy right?  But, if there was a happy median where t-shirts were produced in Vietnam (like in this video) with top wages and working conditions for Vietnam….we could still get it for $20 at retail in the US.  Would you make the decision to spend more money on a product because of the working conditions it was produced under?  Maybe?  I bet (and I believe the point of the video) you would pay more for a better quality garment AND one produced in favorable working conditions.  I hope Patagonia’s right!

I hope they’re right for social and business reasons.  I don’t think cheaper and cheaper production is sustainable long term for all the humanitarian and environmental it sacrifices.  It also changes our values in what is quality.  Our business has become so price driven that production has moved overseas or to depressed communities in the US to take advantage of low wages.  We embroider and print all garments in Concord, MA!  This is not a place to be a low cost provider.  Salaries are high, real estate is expensive and the standard of living is higher than average.  Its difficult to compete with shops in East Los Angeles or Alabama who have significantly lower costs.  I think it also lowers quality.  We have competed by developing technology and processes that improve our efficiency to pay for the difference in cost and improve our quality…..without the need to be located in a place where wages and quality of life are lower than average.

I believe quality is (as patagonia states) not just a tangible attribute but the entire value of a product, its environmental impact and who produces it.

Boston Marathon sues Zazzle and Cafepress

WOW.  Huge story for a related industry about Intellectual Property Rights in our back yard.  Interesting that Spreadshirt wasn’t cited as well.  It’s going to be a scary few months to see how this turns out.  We always have problems with registered trademarks.

Mark actually came to me yesterday after he saw someone order a bunch of shirts with “Save the TaTas” in text and the breast cancer ribbon (not protected).  We had to let the customer know that we would be unable to fulfill the order.  It wasn’t the same logo; it was just text but we knew it was protected.

Cafepress, Zazzle and Spreadshirt have so many custom t-shirt designs being uploaded and sold through their marketplace that it would be very hard to regulate.  I’m all for the Boston Marathon (wife ran in a couple) and they make a ton of money on their merchandise.  But zazzle and cafepress probably sold 3 t-shirts with anything related to the boston marathon.  Is a $1mm lawsuit really necessary or just a scare tactic?

Concord’s 375th!

On September 11th this year folks in Concord, MA will likely forget 2001 as it celebrates its 375th Birthday.  We are honored to be a part of it helping the town sell custom t-shirts locally and abroad.

They have a lot planned: a parade, dance, music festival and fireworks.  Should be a lot of fun. Check out their site:

Its really wild to think our town was founded in 1635.  A 140 years BEFORE the revolutionary war!   Just imagine: 140 years ago last month the 15th Amendment was signed into law (allowing blacks to vote).  And of course, women had to wait another 50 years or so.

GroupOn’s weird connection with Embroidered Apparel

GroupOn is one of the hottest new fads to hit the internet.  Local businesses can advertise a huge discount to customers as long as they buy in bulk.  Figuring that getting a huge group to try their product will make them return customers.

Anyway, back in the Ya-Ya 90’s two embroidery and screen-print guys named Bradley Keywell and Eric Lefkowsky started Brandon Apparel.  They then did what we all did, created an internet spin on the business.  Theirs was called Starbelly. was funded by Fred Wilson (probabaly why he wouldn’t reply to my email) and they raised the next round from Chase Capital Partners.  At the very top of the bubble, a company called Halo (large promotional products company) bought them for $600mm!  yes, 600.  Without revenues and the internet bubble bursting Halo filed for bannkruptcy primarily because of this outrageous purchase.

Fast forward 10 years and after a stint as lawyers and professors, they used the proceeds from that illustrious deal to provide seed financing for GroupOn.  They are considered founders and GroupOn’s most recent valuation was reportedly $1.2Billion.