Indie retail platform tees up new fashion opportunities


An online T-shirt store seems like an exhausted concept, but 27-year-old Glenn Tan insists his Sydney-based business Tee Me Up can stand out from its competitors.


Launched in November last year, Tee Me Up came about as a result of Tan’s frustration at the inability to get his own T-shirt label and products out to the public.


“I did not have the money to spend on extensive marketing and advertising, and it was difficult to get my products into retail stores given the current economic environment,” he says.


“After speaking with other Australian labels, I knew many of them felt the same way.”


Tan talks to StartupSmart about how he’s raising the profile of lesser-known Australian labels, and why Tee Me Up is just teeing off.


There are so many niche T-shirt stores now. Why launch another?


Tee Me Up does not operate like a traditional retailer, and prides itself on offering something different for both labels and customers.


The business has tried to replicate a marketplace approach, providing boutique, non-mainstream Australian labels with the opportunity to get their brand name and products to the public through a unique retail business model.


I believe that the days of consumers wanting to be seen wearing the standard offering from mainstream labels is long gone.


With the labels featured, Tee Me Up provides shoppers with a one-stop-shop to purchase unique T-shirts – not your standard offering, but tees from indie labels like you would find in a weekend market.


Like at a market, labels are provided with their own storefront, and shoppers are given direct access to the people behind the label and every artwork, every expression and every tee.


I feel that with our unique model, Tee Me Up can attract the best local T-shirt labels, and customers can choose from the largest range of tees, all under one roof.


Since Tee Me Up went live, the website has attracted over 40 labels and featured over 450 tees for sale. It’s my aim for Tee Me Up to be the one-stop-shop for T-shirts in Australia.


How did you fund the business?


Currently, Tee Me Up is completely self-funded. I was fortunate enough to have saved some money from my previous job at KPMG, which I have put into the business.


I will look to get external funding in the future, once Tee Me Up has been established, to expand and grow the business.


How many staff do you have?


I am the only one working full-time on Tee Me Up.


I have had great support from my family and a lot of help from my website developer at Black Studio who has done a great job in setting up the website.


How do you promote the business?


I use a variety of avenues to promote and market the business. Tee Me Up is very active in social media, including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.


In addition, the business is promoted through paid Google advertising, both search and online banner advertising.


I also write a T-shirt blog, which is linked to the Tee Me Up website, and get involved with advertising in T-shirt-related events such as TEES: Exposing Melbourne’s T-Shirt culture, a free exhibition running in Federation Square until February 17.


Like any business, I hope existing customers, labels, friends and family can also help promote Tee Me Up by word of mouth.


What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?


As the business is still in its infancy, I have not set any revenue or profit projections for the upcoming year.


My goals for Tee Me Up in the first year are to drive website traffic, build its brand name and increase awareness about the business.


This will hopefully translate to greater sales and exposure for our labels.


What’s the biggest risk you face?


Because of its unique retail model, Tee Me Up is very reliant on its labels to stay engaged with the business and to do the right thing for its customers.


As Tee Me Up is a retail platform which provides labels with another avenue to sell their products, it is important that the labels support the business and how it operates by uploading new tees or and new lines for sale on Tee Me Up, keeping their available stock up-to-date, sending orders out promptly, providing good service, etc.


So far, the support and response I have received from all our labels has been fantastic.


What are the pros and cons of being a sole founder?


The biggest advantage of being a sole founder is having full control of the business and being able to make decisions autonomously.


However, on the flipside, the biggest challenge is not having a business partner who is easily accessible, who understands the business completely and who you can bounce ideas off.


What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?


The greatest challenge thus far has been getting the website live.


There was plenty of hard work and many late nights doing detailed testing and fixing bugs to make sure everything was perfect prior to launching the website to the public.


Is there anything you would have done differently?


There isn’t anything significant I would have done differently. There were a few delays in getting the website live and up and running.


In hindsight, I should have commenced work on the website a few weeks earlier so the website could have launched sooner, giving me more time in the lead-up to Christmas.