Glenn Tan turned his back on a career as a charted accountant to indulge his passion for t-shirts. Designing them was easy but the entrepreneur had to start his own business to sell them.
After struggling to get his product in stores, Tan launched Tee Me Up in November 2012. The online marketplace brings together 51 different labels, making it a one-stop shop for t-shirt junkies.
“I grew frustrated by how difficult it was to get my designs out to the public,” he admits.
“I didn’t have the money to spend on extensive marketing and retailers were hesitant to stock new brands. After contacting other labels, I found that many of them felt the same way.”
And so Tee Me Up was born.
“I tried to replicate a weekend market on the website by showcasing the best undiscovered t-shirt labels in Australia,” Tan says.
You can even bargain like you would in a real marketplace.
“Tee Me Up has a best offer feature, which gives shoppers the opportunity to negotiate the price of a product directly with sellers.”
The business also takes an innovative approach to sourcing tees.
“Labels hold on to their stock, manage their own content and sell directly to customers,” he explains. “There are no listing fees – only a low commission per sale.”
Unlike many start-ups, Tan’s t-shirt business was completely self-funded.
“I was fortunate enough to have saved some money from my previous job which I put directly into the business.”
He won’t know if it was a wise investment for some time because the former accountant is taking a long term approach with Tee Me Up.
“The business is still in its infancy. My strategy in the first year is to drive traffic to the website through word of mouth, social media, online advertising (Google and Facebook) and discount offers in order to increase awareness about our brand name and business.”
“In three years I would like to have recouped my start-up and advertising costs, be turning a profit and have expanded to include international labels,” he continues.
Tan’s career change might be viewed as risky by some but he’s embracing it.
“Everything is a potential risk as you never know how your business will go. Unlike my old profession where the rules were pretty clear, there is no guidebook or set of standards you can follow which can guarantee success for your business,” he says.
His advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
“You can never get too much help. There are people everywhere who are willing and able to help as long as you are proactive in seeking that guidance.”
“Also be flexible,” he emphasises. “Keep asking for advice from those around you, be open to suggestions and always look for ways to improve your business or business idea.”