This week we caught up with Raymond Lei who is the 19 year old founder of ooshirts.com. He started ooshirts when he was 16 and has grown it to a $60,000 a month business. He says that recently the company has seen a %50 month over month growth rate which he is aiming to continue for the rest of 2010.
Raymond has learned a lot from the big companies out there like Google and Walmart but he believes the most important stuff has come from his own trial and error. Read on to see how he started and grew ooshirts.com…
Tell us about ooshirts.com. What is it and who is it for?
ooShirts.com sells custom printed t-shirts to groups.
Could you give us the background of the company? How did it start, where did the idea come from, what made you take the leap?
I started ooShirts when I was 16, still a high school sophomore. I was ordering t-shirts for the tennis club at my school, and found that the existing companies were all either overpriced or had unskillfully made websites. I was disappointed by the fact that no companies stood out from the rest, despite the immense size of the custom t-shirt industry. This meant that inefficient businesses could keep making money off customers simply because they lacked a better alternative.
I wasn’t the only one suffering from this. One of my classmates was going to give up the design they wanted and settle for a black-and-white design to save money on their shirts. One day, I offered him a better solution, and had my first customer.
How do you balance being in school full time and running a company?
I pick the easiest classes and spend the rest of my time on my business.
Where did you learn to run a business? Has there been anything in particular that has helped you along the way?
I think you can learn a lot from well-run companies out there. Even though they’re in different industries, I often look at Google and Walmart when making decisions. In terms of learning though, I think the most important part is learning your own situation and deciding where to go from there.
Any mistakes or mis-judgments that stick out that you have learned from?
What do you think has been your key to success with ooShirts so far?
We’ve made our operation extremely efficient in two main ways.
First, we’ve set up a network of 20 printers and suppliers around the United States. This serves multiple purposes. In addition to letting us get shirts to the customers faster and with lower shipping costs, it also lets us have a greater, more readily available line of products in stock.
Second, our ordering process is very streamlined. Our website allows customers to create their own t-shirt designs without manual help from our artists. They can do everything they need to do online, and submit it to us. When we receive the design, the automated order processing system we developed lets us take care of each order quickly and accurately.
These two points let us price our shirts 30 to 50 percent lower than our competitors, and still remain profitable.
What is the best part about running your own company?
When you’re running your own business, you’re in control of what you do. In my opinion, it makes the world much more ideal. In addition, coming up with ideas and acting on them is something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I’ve always been the one to have my own idea and start my own project rather than to join existing groups and follow others.
What are the future plans for ooShirts?
Depends how far we’re looking in the future. The ultimate goal is to perfect our distribution system, perfect our website, and serve everyone in the United States. But for this year, the goal is to earn our first million.