Thomas Bell: Custom Merchandise for Your Brand with Viralstyle

December 7, 2019

Are you looking for a fresh way to promote your company?

Thomas Bell is the founder of Viralstyle.

Viralstyle is a custom apparel company that helps companies make merchandise for their brand.

Their site’s design suite makes creating custom apparel quick and simple with the best possible results.

With this site, you are able to add custom designs and photos to the apparel with high-quality results.

You choose the materials, create the design, and choose the base cost for the item.

Learn more about how Viralstyle's custom apparel can help your company gain popularity by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on  Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.

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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, founder and CEO of We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go. Right and Tom Bell, you are the founder of viral and congratulations for making the Inc 5000 list. And you did that on your fifth anniversary. So that, you know generally that's indicating you're doing some pretty good activity.

Yeah, it was a pretty cool story actually. We said that good things come in threes. In this time they came in fives. Yeah,

yeah. So okay, so so you're a custom apparel company? And can you? I guess beyond that, can you kind of explain the services that you provide the products that you offer.

So we are a full service print on demand platform. So instead of having to build your own website and find suppliers and find production and things like that, basically all you have to do is you have to have a design. And you can come to our site, you can upload it to as many products as you want for free. Every size, color and style you want to offer. It's more than just apparel we actually have other categories like drinkware. And, you know, wall decor, we have posters, and really cool artwork, like stuff behind me that you can create. And it's all on demand. So when you sell these products, we actually use the money from the sale to produce the items. So there is no upfront cost to there's essentially no risk involved. And we handle all the backend, printing fulfillment or even handle customer Service after the sale. So again, it's just a, it's that the service is free. So we don't make money unless you guys do.

So I would imagine then that a good chunk of your business then would be partnering with influencers, say podcasters YouTubers, people that you know, other companies, or that they don't want to mass produce all this merchandise and added to their store. They could just partner with you on demand. And and, and I think that there, I mean, there are other companies that do what you do now. But what is your competitive advantage compared to say someone else that might be out there?

Right. So like I was saying before, we are a full service platform, so majority of our competitors are fulfillment providers or apps that are attached to let's say, a Shopify or something like that, where you have to pay for a monthly subscription and you know, you have limited product offerings, and then if you want You actually sell these products. There's other things you have to do to make your store, you know, conversion optimized things like that. Again, when you come to our site, everything is done for you. We've had built in marketing tools like upsells, and cross sells coupon codes, all that stuff. And it's again, it's all free.

And when you launched now, about five years ago, how did you get your first sales?

So when we got our first sales, we actually were it was when the Facebook ad platform had just been released. So is the first time ever that you could target people based on their interests, which was a very interesting way of, of doing advertising. So we figured out t shirts would be like perfect for this right? So everybody wants to represent who they are. Right? If you wear a T shirt, it means this is you're saying something about yourself. We realize people want to be a part of something they want to you know Wear something that makes them laugh makes them you know, feel proud where conversation pieces. So what we did is we we designed products or created designs that were compelling to that audience. So if you love dogs or you're super passionate about dogs, we would find a design or something like that, that would make them laugh or so on so forth. Some of the bigger designs that we did were based on a their age, right? So, born in 1964. Age, and we can target 30 different years with the sonic kind of a self deprecating humor. So things like that is what sells, you

know, it's kind of funny with it, you know, you probably could just go through all of the targeting options that Facebook gave you and like, oh, here's an idea for a T shirt right there. And that back in the

beginning, that was basically how it was is it was the first time that he Nobody's ever seen these before you go to Facebook, you're not their shop. Right? So you're just there looking at dog pictures. So the beauty of what we did is, for the first time ever, you could push someone to a sale, right? So they're, they're on Facebook, they're scrolling through doing their thing, look at their family, then all of a sudden, they have this T shirt that is designed specifically for them pop up. And if they're passionate enough about it, they'll click through to see how much it is. And then that's how you get the sales.

I'm pretty sure I've seen your ads before. And I remember the first time I saw him, it was pretty surprising. Like, my gosh, that's so specific.

Yeah, so the beauty also, the beauty of this is, you know, all this stuff on my site is user generated. So there are thousands of people all over the world using our site to create and sell custom apparel. And they're very clever. You know, every once in a while I'll see. design that just goes viral and how what itself, and it's always something kind of stupid. I feel like I get just the stupid stuff sells really well. It's just because it resonates with the audience. And yeah, it's either funny it has, basically what they're doing is they're selling emotions, right? They're not, it's nothing to do the design doesn't have to be even special, you're just be text, but whatever it says, has to evoke some type of emotion.

Yeah. Now, when you started to think back to again, kind of like that first year or two, what were some of the challenges that you had in terms of scaling?

So scaling internally,

well, yeah, you know, so all of a sudden, like, whew, you know, it, you know, and again, you know, you've got cash flow issues, you've got no issues, supply issues, you know, some of the biggest ones that that maybe were a stumbling block along the way.

Yeah. So because of the way we started the company, because we were about marketers ourselves, we new people in the industry. So we had kind of a very rare moment where when we launched the company, we kind of had built a business, we had people that were ready to use our service before it was launched. And they're all very good at it. And we launched in August or September of 2014. And right before q4, which, as you know, and e commerce is like heaven, because it's where majority of your business is made. And as a brand new business that had never gone through its first q4 before, let alone its first couple months. We were went from, you know, zero to a few thousand orders a day overnight, and really didn't have our production lined up correctly, you know. So we had a lot of issues in the beginning with some fulfillment times and different providers that were dropping the ball and things like that, which we just kind of had to work through. There's point in time where I was back there. printing and packing stuff myself. You would have, we would have a warehouse rented. We just have an assembly line of people just packing as many things as they could we make that Christmas deadline. So there's a lot of stuff like that. And then as you scale up, you know, there's other things you need in terms of customer service. And, you know, my, my service, mainly development base. So there's a lot of issues with trying to find good developers and things like that. So I mean, you name it, we went through it.

Yeah, you're Go ahead.

What's up? Our server still going through it?

Yeah, I bet. I would imagine you've had some warehouse time yourself and maybe even some late nights in the warehouse. Absolutely. Now you're based in Tampa, Florida, and so you're printed in the USA. How did you decide in terms of like, you know what, what some of your business has done overseas. Aren't imagine original manufacturer, the garments, that sort of thing. And then it comes stateside and then that's where you do everything on demand domestically done.

Right. So I'm not sure exactly where the blanks are originally made. But we add, we carry all the major brands. So guild in everywhere in between to Canvas, Bella canvas and next level T's which is kind of a higher end brands. So we actually use one of the largest suppliers in the US. And that's just specifically so that we know that they have stock, right? So we're not actually directed any of the suppliers at the moment. We use one service that has everything we need. And as the orders come in, we can order those blanks they get shipped directly to our printer printers, you know, has all the information shipped directly to the customer. So there is everything is done in the US.

So Tom, help me out. By the way, I'm sorry Tom or Thomas. I shouldn't be asking this in the middle of an interview. This should have all already been handled in the pre interview.

Yeah, just call me Tom. Tom is his name. Okay, good. So,

so, you know, we've got over 120,000 fans on social media, you know, we kind of got this movement of, of helping our clients become media celebrities, we talked about, you know, the growing your influence and that sort of thing. So we've got a pretty good fan base. But one thing I you know, I've had some t shirts made for myself when I'm going to conferences, you know, I've handed some out, helped me understand how I could use print on demand products to, to, you know, how can I use those to grow my business and or connect with my audience a bit better, and why is that so important?

Absolutely. Just like you said, is connecting with your audience. The affinity of T shirts is worldwide, right? So everyone loves a T shirt. They have one on right now. Those t shirts get old they have to replace them. So it's kind of like always going to be around and especially like I said before, they want to feel a part of something. So one of our major focuses this year is the creator space, the influencer space, YouTube, Instagram, tick tock, all those guys. Because they have, they're very good at marketing themselves, right? They understand how to get engaged or they understand, you know, how to, you know, connect with their fans. And merchandising is a perfect way to extend that arm even further. So, it when it comes to T shirts, what I like to tell them is, you know, you know your audience better than anyone else, right? What is it that you do that, you know, gets the most engagement? Is there a phrase that you use a lot is there is there an inside joke that you have? Is there a meme that goes viral, that kind of stuff is what you need to kind of base it off of, you know, again, what I talking about evoking some type of emotion. You know, that is the stuff that sells the best. And if it feels genuine and, you know, personal and they again, they just feel like they want to be a part of something that is the easiest way to get started. You know, it doesn't have to be a T shirt, you know if your audience is is coffee drinkers, we got coffee mugs. If there's something motivational I put it, you can put it on a poster, you know, that kind of stuff. You just got to figure out what it is that your audience

is asking for.

What's a good way to figure that out? Like I, you know, I'm thinking like, I'm not sure, you know, aside from my logo, like, I guess I haven't really given it much thought, you know, what else could I put on a T shirt? Or, you know, maybe it's different apparel or an item like how do I go through that process of figuring out what I should do? I guess I so I suppose I could ask my audience and see what they want.

Well, I mean, I would assume that majority of your audiences, an entrepreneur, or people that want to own their own business, so in that, in that respect, I would say just off the top of my head There's probably a lot of motivational stuff that that would that would connect with them. Something that reminds them every day, you know, this is what it says on my wall or here, success is never owned, it's rented, and the rent is due every day. So it's just one of those things that just reminds you. I'm here to work, this is working for something. And you know, I think it would resonate well with your audience. You know, we can talk about that more if you like, but you know, we can just looking at your audience as a whole. See who's engaging with you every day. And then, you know, getting them involved. You know, there's something that you think would do well, and then you can come up with a couple ideas. You can post it up and say, Hey, vote on this. Which one do you guys like the most?

Yeah, this could be fun. All right. Tell me excited. This is great. Now. The website. Go ahead,

the way to start getting sales and I'll be more exciting.

Now. Yeah, right now. So when you're working with a brand like Honestly, like, I don't need to make money on the apparel, like we're good, like me, like, I just want it in the hands of my audience who's like, cares about this? Yeah, and I'm like, automatically thinking like, dude, I don't even need to really like talk about like, promoting our brand, you know, that sort of thing. It's like, I love that idea of, like, you know, for me, like one of the biggest ones, I'll have to play around with some quotes. But, you know, for us, it's all about, like, you know, why, you know, Bill being an authority building authority. And you know, why, you know, you know, it's like advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable, you know, sort of vibe, I'm sure we can come up with, you know, three to four quotes around that, and kind of design that into a T shirt. And do you, is there like, designers that you recommend or like, or should I just go find my own designer to get that done or?

Well, I mean, we could talk about that when we do like private clients that have audiences like you. We typically do most of that. For them we'll do a kind of a strategy session and help you you know, brainstorm on ideas and stuff like that and if it's a simple design we can do that very quickly for you. That's no problem.

That is very cool. Okay, so viral and that's where you know again, there's a shop you've got lots lots of so beyond t shirts go through some of the other most popular items that you that you offer that can get stuff printed on.

Well, a lot of its seasonal but you know, we obviously we have all different types of apparel and there's either over 20 different types of apparel ranging from hoodies to tank tops, the women's tees and all that. We have a drinkware category which is like coffee mugs. We even have like an invisible or a color changing mug that has like a hidden design when it warms up. We have you know, a wall decor section which is like I said the posters or the high end Canvas prints were even had Like flags, you can do custom printed flags. We have these, what's called sublimation prints. So it's an all over print t shirt. So that from the sleeve all the way across, you can get designs then like that. We have we we carry custom socks. I mean, we've got a bunch of different products, there's about 30 to 35 different products right now we're about to release a new category for dogs. So dog band that you can do custom dog bandanas and T shirts that you can play your dog. So those should do really well. We're going to continue to expand that product line.

Yeah, yeah. And, and I do want to make sure that when I get a T shirt, I get a soft t shirt because I just I just did all of my non stop t shirts. I think life is too short for non soft t shirts. Yeah. All right. He's easy to easy to choose. All right, good deal. Well, so Tom Bell, you're the founder of viral And again, you know business owners So if someone else is listening, they've got a decent sized audience. What's the best way? I mean, is there a way that they can like if they can get in contact and maybe set up a quick call with someone on your team to kind of talk about setting things up?

Yeah, I would say email me first if there's something that they want to talk without her delay, my is just my initials, Eb at viral style calm. I use Instagram more than any other platform at the moment. So my handle it's EC o m, dot Tom. And I think if they want to shoot me a DM there, we can connect on Instagram. We can do kind of face to face stuff there. If they work for email. That's the best way to contact me as well.

Yeah. Wonderful. All right, Tom. Thank you so much, Tom Bell, you are the founder of viral style. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate it, Josh. Thanks for listening to the thoughtful entrepreneur show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to Beyond this daily program, please visit up my slash guest that we've got something out of this interview. Would you share this episode on social media just to a quick screenshot with your phone and texted to a friend or posted on the socials? A few do that tag us with the hashtag up my influence. Each month we scour Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. We pick one winner from each platform, and you get crowned king or queen of that social media. Now what do you win? We're going to promote you and your business to over 120,000 social media fans totally free. Now. Can you also hook us up now in your podcast player right now? Please give us a thumbs up or a rating and review. We promised to read it all and take action. We believe that every person has a message That can positively impact the world. Your feedback helps us fulfill that mission. While you're at it, hit that subscribe button. You know why? Tomorrow? That's right, seven days a week, you are going to be inspired and motivated to succeed 15 minutes a day. And my name is Josh Elledge. Let's connect on the socials, you'll find all the stuff we're doing at up my Thanks for listening and thank you for being a part of the thoughtful entrepreneur movement.

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