Ohio company offers new approach to selling school spiritwear with a personalized online touch.
Some folks fall into their businesses by accident, or perhaps they start printing in their garages and hope for the best. Chris Berger and Brian Welsh, co-founders of Rokkitwear, on the other hand, knew exactly what they wanted when they started their West Chester, Ohio-based company in 2012.
As he was running production at a nearby high-volume garment decorator, Berger began to notice that one of the markets they served had a lot of promise: high school spiritwear. He thought about the number of people who are willing to spend money to support a single student-athlete; he noticed how fragmented the market was for providing spiritwear nationally; he saw consumer buying behavior beginning to trend toward, above all else, convenience.
“We said, ‘Boy, this is a gold mine,’” Berger explains. “‘Let’s go and build a company around it.’ So that’s what we did.”
They knew exactly how they wanted it done, too. They set up a business model based around on-demand fulfillment that would allow schools to simply send over their brand assets and start raising money.
Here’s how it works: The school (or coach, athletic director, booster parent, etc.) shares their brand marks, mascots, and colors with the company. Rokkitwear designs a custom online shop with roughly 350 products available using the school’s brand, and gives the school a link. The school promotes the link and receives 15 percent of the sales. And that’s that: no peddling paper order forms or handling envelopes of cash or dealing with an inventory surplus at the end of the season.
From day one, the key was to put the technology in place to back up the business model with a high standard of quality – both online and off. That meant a number of big investments, including an entirely custom-built platform.
“It was an expensive undertaking,” says Berger, but it wasn’t for nothing. Rokkitwear’s entire e-commerce operation was built “from the ground up,” without plug-ins or third-party applications. The customer interface is powered by an impressive design engine that converts high-resolution photography of blank apparel into the image of a thoughtfully branded product on the fly. “If you have a red shirt,” Berger continues, “and the school colors are black, red, and gray, our designs will change so that they’re suited for the color of the garment that they’re going on.”
Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to the magazine.