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America's Coolest College Start-ups 2011
ONLINE BUSINESS

Simple Ordering for Custom T-shirts

Berkeley sophomore Raymond Lei couldn’t find inexpensive custom-shirts, so he built an easy-to-use website and found great suppliers.

Courtesy company

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OoShirts was born out of a simple desire for a better, cheaper product. When founder Raymond Lei was in high school he decided it would be a cool idea, as tennis club president, to get shirts made for his team. The design for the shirts was simple: three colors with a tennis ball-fireball logo.

"When I tried to look around for prices, I looked on and offline, all the prices were pretty high," he says. "It forced us to settle with a lower-quality black-and-white shirt."

But Lei's interest was piqued. After doing research he found that many printing companies were charging markups of more than 50 percent. "It shouldn't be this way," Lei says he thought. And he thought he could do better.

He believed he could offer quality custom T-shirts for a fair price. Lei contacted a supplier in China that quoted him a better price than he could find in the United States. When he began selling custom shirts to other clubs at his high school, the reaction was outstanding. "They all really appreciated the prices and the quality was pretty good," he says.

As more T-shirt orders from clubs at his high school filed in, Lei created a basic website that could help him better organize his company. As his company grew, he added more options to the site, including allowed customers to upload images onto a shirt and get an instant quote for cost.

Soon a U.S. supplier noticed his website and reached out to Lei. Its offer matched what Lei's supplier in China quoted but there was a significant difference: "The shirts would [get] to the customer in less than two weeks, rather than three weeks or more," he says.

Since then, ooShirts has been increasing its customer base by 1,000 per month, uses 20 suppliers, and has grown to three full-time employees, with the help of few interns) and has a website with a full-featured design lab. Lei, a sophomore business major at the University of California-Berkeley, says his revenue is continuing to grow. "We grew from having about $30,000 in revenue per year all the way up about $2.2 million at the end of 2010," he says.

Lei's future goals for his company are continued overall growth in suppliers, customers, employees and revenue. He's confident that soon ooShirts will surpass that of his competitors.

Last updated: Mar 1, 2011




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