T-Shirt design contests are all the craze. It was Threadlesss that really got t-shirt contests going on the internet starting in 2000. Skinny Corp founded Threadless.com with less than $1000 and zero loans. The founders Jake Nickell (26) and Jacob DeHart (25) met online at a design competition forum called Dreamless (doesn’t exist anymore). Nickell won a t-shirt design contest and then decided to start Threadless, an ongoing design contest in 1999-2000. When Threadless started they paid winning designers in T-shirts and quickly increased the prizes to cash. Threadless has done zero advertising and has been purely word-of-mouth (see Skinny Corp FAQ). It was not easy though, during the first two years of Threadless, the founders did not take salary and continued to work full time jobs. All of the proceeds in the first two ears were reinvested back into the business.
Each week designers submit designs and the 500,000 registered users can vote on their favorite t-shirts. Each winner gets $1,500 in cash and $500 in Threadless merchandise. Every Monday, seven winning t-shirt designs are printed and available for sale on Threadless. About 1,500 t-shirts are printed for each design. The growth of the site has made it very competitive to get your t-shirt design selected and even harder to win over the Threadless community. The site receives 100-150 t-shirt designs submitted each day and about 90 of those submissions are chosen for the weekly contest. (See Chicago Business & The Star articles on Threadless) Also, you might want to check out this Threadless video that provides insight into the Threadless company and mission.
In 2005, Threadless sales were at $6.2 million and were estimated to reach $25 million in 2006 (with 27 employees). These numbers are impressive and it has sparked the interest of many other entrepreneurs, creative minds, as well as copycats to start their own on-going t-shirt competitions.
T-Shirt Competition Web Sites
LaFraise.com (owned by Spreadshirt.com)