June 15, 2015
About three years ago we launched a new website with a new logo. At The/Studio we are never satisfied and always striving to become better, so we decided to improve our logo more than a year ago.
Although our websites is definitely one of the better sites for custom products, we don’t judge ourselves based on other companies within the industry, but rather we judge ourselves against amazing brands that we aspire to one day be compared to such as Nike, or Starbucks. In early January we decided to redo our website and we decided to work with a designer that we had worked with in the past.
However, the project was a complete disaster. The designer just couldn’t get a design together that would make it worth the effort of redoing the entire website again. We have been through website redesigns before, and it is an extremely involved process that requires an enormous amount of resources.
We decided to start looking for another design firm. My assistant and me literally emailed and spoke to over one hundred different design firms. What we realized was that not only did we need to redo our website, but we really needed to redo our entire branding. If we wanted our customers, other companies and the media to truly respect who we were and the ambitions of our company, we felt that it was important to refresh our entire branding.
We went through the same process of pouring over hundreds of branding and design firms, and we had another epiphany. It was also necessary that we actually work with all of the managers in the company and decide who we were, who we have become and what we want to be. We felt that without this document it would be very difficult for us to effectively work with a design company. This is what we came up with.
Our brand is our promise to our customers and also defines the expectations that we have for our staff and vendors. Our brand will not be strong unless the entire organization understands and embraces these principles.
In addition we see this initial document as an opportunity to remake ourselves and insist on perfection throughout the organization.
We are focused on creating a complete platform that allows customers to produce fashion quality custom apparel and accessories. We put all of our resources into building a community of people with ideas, designers to design, factories to bring to life those ideas, our staff to ensure a frictionless process and the support of consumers that believe the world is made more interesting when ideas are turned into products.
The/Studio is revolutionizing how people design, manufacture, and sell custom apparel and accessories. Fashion will no longer be dictated by large corporations in distant board rooms. We believe that fashion should represent the pure expression of the communities that you belong to. The/Studio will continuously build tools to empower communities to make custom apparel and accessories that inspire them.
We won‘t rest until individuals can create an entire line of apparel, fire departments can reinvent their uniforms, sports teams can create custom gifts for their fans, companies and organizations can communicate their image. All achievable through The/Studio’s ever-growing infrastructure of world-class designers, cutting edge production machines, and game-changing community sales platforms.
Currently if someone wants to make a truly custom product there are numerous barriers to doing this.
One option is to go to a site such as CafePress or Zazzle. But they don’t offer true customization, and the quality is inferior. They only offer printing on already manufactured products.
Another option is to use Alibaba, but Alibaba is notorious for having a very poor user interface, and even if you can get an answer from the factory its almost impossible to produce small quantities, and good communication is lacking at best.
Also when dealing with factories from abroad there are true risks of poor quality and sometimes outright fraud.
The other option is to find smaller US companies that produce particular products such as custom caps. They also tend to have higher minimum order requirements, their user experience is not good, and they only offer one or a few products instead of an entire platform to produce apparel and accessories.
If the customer is not a designer or doesn’t have access to a designer, then they can’t even participate in the ability to make a product.
Our solution is to gain a loyal and expanding group of customers that want to make custom products and provide them with a user friendly platform to create these products. The manufacturers we work with generally won’t agree to do small orders, but because our platform is efficient and we can provide them with consistent business, they are able to profitably build out production lines to produce highly customized orders.
Because of technology the trends in both China and the US point towards factories becoming smaller and more nimble which benefits our model.
There is a trend towards consumers moving away from mass manufactured products made by large brands. We will create a community that helps individuals and businesses easily make products, while at the same time creating an online space for consumers interested in these products.
Our dream is for anyone in the world to be able to produce and design fashion quality custom apparel and accessories and eventually other products using their computer, or phone. If someone has an idea and the desire to be successful we will have the resources in place to make their project successful. Currently we are only able to manufacture products that are simple, but we will expand our offerings to be able to support complex products. We want to also build out online and offline communities that will give our customers the ability to sell their products as soon as they are produced, and to also open channels to larger retailers and boutiques where our customers can also sell their products.
-We have a dedicated technical team updating our T/S system on a weekly basis. Our ultimate goal is to make a seamless process for custom manufacturing.
-The goal is to make custom manufacturing as easy as an Amazon transaction. However, when we fall short of that expectation we have a knowledgeable and helpful sales and customer service team which our customers can rely on when there are issues. We realize that no matter how optimized our systems are, sometimes there are problems with manufacturing and we are always there to help.
-We are constantly bringing new factories and products into our network. By adding factories to our network our customers can trust the transaction they make, and trust that the product will be high quality and arrive on time
-One of the pillars of our community is creating a market for our customer’s products whether it be through crowd sourcing tools to help them better distribute their products, or through online shopping portals, pop up stores and permanent stores that we will use to help them promote their products.
-We stand behind our products. We will do unlimited design and sample revisions free of charge until the customer is satisfied. Furthermore, if the product does not match the quality of the original sample that was approved we will redo the order free of charge or offer a full refund.
-We truly care about small businesses, entrepreneurs and small organizations. We go out of our way to think of ways to benefit our customers, even if we don’t make money on the project or even lose money on the project. At our heart we are also a small business, and come form very humble roots and we will never forget that.
Partner: To all people with great ideas, we are here to help you create your own identity. We solve every barrier to making a successful custom product, from helping our customer with the design, manufacturing and distribution of the product. If there are ever any issues we have a dedicated team to solve any issue during the process. In fact every customer will receive an email from the CEO, President, Senior Project Manager and Operations Director ensuring that their order is going smoothly.
Fashion: Fashion is rooted in our very DNA. The design of our site and the experience we create is inspired by fashion and all of our products must be “Fashion Quality”
Efficient: The/Studio system can make your purchasing experience easy and efficient.
Trustworthy: We promise that all our products meet the “fashion quality” standards. If customers are not 100% satisfied, we redo it for free and offer a full refund if needed.
Revolutionary: We want to change the world of custom manufacturing. We want to take the power away from large corporations and completely change how individuals and organizations design, produce and sell apparel and accessories.
Fashionable: Everything that we do whether it be the design of our website, our email signature or the quality of our product, we try to maintain an awareness of design and fashion. We are that weird person sitting at a restaurant, that captivates everyone through their expressions and dress.
Entrepreneurial: we encourage individuals to establish their own brand by offering them necessary resources in custom manufacturing.
Make the impossible possible: This is the spirit that we admire and we hope everyone in our organization develop this trait.
American: Most people associate manufacturing with Asia. Although we do a lot of our manufacturing in Asia, we also do some in the United States. Furthermore, we infuse our systems, processes and partners with American values of transparency, reliability, honesty, good quality, at an affordable price.
We want the conversation with our customer to create the feeling that we are having a conversation with a long term partner. Always extremely helpful and supportive, professional but not too formal.
The/Studio was founded in 2006 by Joseph Heller in his loft apartment, in Shenzhen, China. He would work at night to interface with customers in the United States, and sleep upstairs during the day, while his secretary would work downstairs during the day to deal with factories. Joseph graduated from UC Berkeley and came to China in 2005 to teach English. He stumbled across the opportunity to sell embroidered patches and started The/Studio.
The/Studio’s competitors treated the embroidered patch market as a commodity and their bland websites reflected this approach. Joseph saw each embroidered patch as an expression, and a tapestry of modern day history. The/Studio became a rebel in this sleepy industry by taking an approach of making demands on the factory based on customer requirements rather than accepting the rigid industry standards that were put in place for decades.
Previously minimum orders were as high as 1,000 pieces, and there were a lot of other rules in place for how a patch had to be produced and the materials used to produce a patch. Joseph only had 20 orders per month in the beginning, and he demanded that any factory that wanted to work with The/Studio had to accept orders as low as 1 piece, and had to produce the patch exactly the way the customer wanted it, with the material the customer wanted. Joseph was even kicked out of one factory for his audacious demands. Dozens of factories told Joseph that they wouldn’t produce one patch, but Joseph was convinced that if the customer wanted it the factories should produce it.
The factories said they could only offer a few different options for patches. The/Studio launched dozens of new special options to decorate our patches, and promised our customers, that if they imagined something, The/Studio would figure out a way to create it.Everyone was managing orders through emails, spreadsheets and other rudimentary and outdated technology. The/Studio was the first company in our industry to create a CRM/ERP system that would manage the entire process. When we entered the industry the standard turnaround time for a patch was 6 to 8 weeks. We have now reduced that turnaround time to 4 to 21 days.
The/Studio eventually became the largest supplier of custom embroidered patches, and finally we decided that we wanted to take our methodology of low minimums, quick turnaround time, unlimited special options and an optimized ordering process to other custom products.We first built a new and improved CRM/ERP system that we affectionately call The/Studio Factory Cloud.
This would allow us to scale the business and maintain the same level of consistency and speed across all of our product categories. Even after we launched The/Studio Factory Cloud, which is superior to what any of our competitors have, we continued to get customer and employee feedback on how to improve the system, and we make weekly updates.
In 2014 we launched our second product which was custom woven labels, and we later launched custom challenge coins. Starting in 2015 The/Studio will launch a total of 18 new products, and we will launch a total of 72 different custom products in 2016.
The first and only product that we produced for the first 8 years of our existence was custom embroidered patches. It is significant that The/Studio’s first product was not printed promotional products or custom printed t-shirts, because these products are not truly manufactured products. Embroidered patches are products that are manufactured from scratch.
Our roots are in manufacturing, which means that instead of looking at limitations, we only see an opportunity to create something truly unique and beautiful.