CUSP Magazine is a Chicago based publication focused on helping up and coming creatives gain exposure for their brand and products. Our company is a collective of highly motivated individuals who work together to bring a new voice to the creative community.
BUSINESS FEATURE//THREADLESS A: So in your own words, what is the main idea behind Threadless and its model? K: The main purpose of Threadless is to be the best place for independent artists from across the world to make money from their artwork and we do that through the website and our platform. The way it works is artists from all over the world can submit their work to Threadless and then their artwork goes up for scoring in the scoring section. We have just about 3.4 million users on the website that are scoring designs and picking the stuff that they like. We take the highest scoring stuff and we print it on t-shirts, iPhone cases, wall art, and other canvases like that but true to form, the t-shirts sell the most. We have always been known for our t-shirts since we started in 2000 and we have expanded the product line through the years with t-shirts always being the foundation of that. A: Why choose t-shirts in the beginning? K: The way this all came to be was that Jake was participating on a website called dreamless.org. It was a place for people that were interested in coding and websites as well as people that were interested in art to hold discussions, so kind of like a forum. What happened was, Jake decided that through that, he wanted to host a design challenge on dreamless as a fun way for everybody to participate and come up with a cool t-shirt for dreamless. He hosted what would technically be the first Threadless design challenge right there on dreamless. A few people submitted t-shirt designs and everybody voted on the ones they liked the best. He then printed them on t-shirts and everybody that participated got one. From there, that was kind of the spark that went on to be Threadless.com. So essentially Threadless is a blown out, more intricate version of this idea. At the time, Jake was in art school, but he ended up leaving once Threadless took off and ended up taking his time. He ran threadless out of his apartment for the longest time too. 48 <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE
A: Did you always want to own your own company? How does one even begin to get into the entrepreneur business, especially in the fashion/art industry? J: I always wanted to do my own thing but I wasn’t interested in entrepreneurship or becoming a “businessman” ... I went to art school, not business school. I’ve always had a multitude of side projects going on through high school and college. Threadless started as a hobby, another side project. Then when people slowly started to participate, uploading designs, buying shirts, etc, it turned into a business! My background was more in web design and development and I was doing a bunch of freelance work for companies building them websites and such. Threadless served as proof that I knew how to build an E-commerce website. I think the best way to get in on this sort of thing is to just have personal projects that you spend time on outside of work or school. A: Between 2004-2006, the company revenue went from 1.5 to 6.5 million. What do you think played a major role in that? K: A lot of what drove Threadless’ success in the beginning was word of mouth and the way that this was happening was that artists were speaking to other artists or promoting their own work. We have really incredible artists on the website that make t-shirt designs that sell really well. We get artists that submit from Asia, Australia, and domestically here in the U.S., all from varying backgrounds. We have artists that don’t have any art background professionally, but they like graphic design and they do it as a hobby on the side and Threadless is kind of their outlet to get that out into the world. Then we also have artists that submit to Threadless and get printed that work other jobs as creative types in ad firms. There is a huge spectrum of backgrounds for artists. <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE 49