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Teespring is a platform for custom merchandise. The company was founded by Walker Williams and Evan Stites-Clayton in 2011 in Providence, RI as a way to simplify the process of selling custom T-shirts. The company has received $55 million in venture capital from Khosla Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
Teespring allows users to create unique campaigns in order to sell custom apparel. Users choose the color and type of item they would like to sell, and add a design. Designs can be uploaded from outside of the platform, or be created using the variety of fonts and clip art provided by Teespring. After creating the design, users set a price for their item(s) and choose a sales goal. No orders are processed, manufactured, or shipped, until the campaign has "tipped," meaning that the sales goal was reached or surpassed.
Teespring handles the production and distribution of the shirts, as well as the customer service associated with any order placed on their site.
All shirts are screen-printed in different facilities across the United States. Currently, Teespring offers T-shirts, hoodies, long-sleeve shirts, tank tops, youth apparel, as well as kids and babies apparels. The company has alluded to a diversification in offerings, but Teespring's designer page does not yet offer any non-apparel products.
According to founders Williams and Stites-Clayton, the inspiration for Teespring came in the Spring of 2011 when the two wanted to sell T-shirts to commemorate the closing of a local bar. Rather than investing in a bulk order of shirts in various sizes, the Brown University seniors created a website where interested parties could submit pre-orders with their size and payment. The payment information would only be processed if they collected a minimum of 200 orders.
Over 400 shirts were sold, and the two were able to process the buyers’ payment information and successfully fulfill the orders. After receiving numerous requests from other organizations asking for a custom campaign, Walker and Evan decided to pursue the concept of crowd-funded custom apparel full-time.
Rhode Island angel investors Bill Cesare and Mark Weiner invested the first $600,000 in seed funding. The company officially launched in October 2012 in Providence, RI.
In November 2014, the company announced closing its Series B funding round at $35 million from Khosla Ventures to continue to fuel its growth and expansion, which includes the addition of a new facility in Kentucky that's expected to create hundreds of jobs next year. Andreessen also participated in the round.
Individuals create campaigns in order to sell custom products on Teespring. Campaign creators are expected to design and market the product themselves. In exchange, Teespring will fulfill orders on campaigns that have reached their sales goal (called “tipped” campaigns), and will ship item(s) to buyers.
Once a campaign has ended and successfully reached its sales goal, the shirts ordered by buyers are sourced to a screen-printing facility. The designs are then printed on each individual product.
In December 2013, Teespring was accepted into the prestigious start-up accelerator Y-Combinator which is based in Mountain View, California. Within two weeks of finishing the three-month accelerator, Teespring raised another $1.3 million including $500,000 from Sam Altman, now president at Y-Combinator.
In January 2014, Teespring closed a Series A round of $20 million from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Andreessen partner Laars Dalgaard, formerly of SuccessFactors, led the investment, his first with the firm.
Current revenues and growth are unknown and unlisted. Most recent reports list the company's size at roughly 220 employees.
From 2016 to Present, Teespring has been under investigation and has been notified to cease & desist the production and sale of illegal Smokey Bear tshirts. The firm has chosen to ignore repeated letters to cease the sale of "Resist" tshirts and the illegal use of Smokey Bear's image. This matter is unresolved.
In May 2017, Teespring fell under controversy for selling T-shirts that featured the words, “Black Women Are Trash,” resulting in many Twitter users calling for a boycott of the platform. Teespring's director of seller success, Brett Miller, responded, “Once we learned of the error we immediately took steps to remove all content in question and ban the offending seller from our platform. We have since fixed the issue.”
In August 2017, Teespring was blamed for selling products and reclaiming the swastika since it was considered as prompting symbol of hate. KA Design listed rainbow swastika designs on Teespring in an attempt to rebrand the contested symbol used by the Nazis. Jewish groups called for a boycott of Teespring following news of the controversial products.
In November 2017, Walmart removed a shirt bearing the words “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required” from its website, following a complaint from Radio Television Digital News Association, a journalist advocacy group. The shirt was listed on Walmart's website through Teespring (as a third-party seller). Time magazine reported that at the time, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, there had been 35 physical attacks on journalists so far in 2017.
In June 2018, the company's policy of protecting groups and individuals from discrimination and hatred was called into question when a design campaign was pulled for featuring the term "TERFs" (short for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists). The design was anti-TERF, the most notable T-shirt design stating "Fuck TERFs" and was created by an openly transgender woman. There was a good deal of backlash on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook over this decision. Sophie LaBelle, Crystal Frasier, and Jessica R. Durling were among trans rights activists who questioned Teespring's policy. There were arguments made that TERF is neither a slur nor defamatory as TERFs are typically proud of their choice to omit transwomen from feminism. At the same time Teespring was insisting that it was "not in a position to debate [their] policies" about taking down the TERF shirt design, their website featured T-shirts with slogans such as "Build the Wall, Deport them All!", "u r a f*ggot", "silly f*ggot, d*cks are for chicks", and "Mama Luigi's Transvestite Pasta." Adding to the controversy, Teespring themselves tweeted on May 29, asking for LGBTQ designs to celebrate Pride Month.
Teespring didn't say if it had removed any Women's March merchandise. "Teespring does not directly employ any creators or sellers. Bangladeshi users are self-employed, like the rest of Teespring's community. They use the platform and are not employed by the company," Teespring said in a statement provided to CNN. A Women's March spokesperson told CNN that "many of these fake pages are used to sell merchandise, with the proceeds benefiting individuals instead of our movement. The efforts to capitalize on movement work isn't new, but it is frustrating, particularly as we make an effort to only sell ethically sourced and produced merchandise — a rule these imposter pages don't abide by.
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