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Ohio company, Rokkitwear, offers new approach to selling Online Spirit Wear with a personalized online touch.
Some folks fall into their businesses by accident, or perhaps they start printing in their garages and hope for the best. Chris Berger and Brian Welsh, co-founders of Rokkitwear, on the other hand, knew exactly what they wanted when they started their West Chester, Ohio-based company in 2012.
As he was running production at a nearby high-volume garment decorator, Berger began to notice that one of the markets they served had a lot of promise: high school spiritwear. He thought about the number of people who are willing to spend money to support a single student-athlete; he noticed how fragmented the market was for providing spiritwear nationally; he saw consumer buying behavior beginning to trend toward, above all else, convenience.
“We said, ‘Boy, this is a gold mine,’” Berger explains. “‘Let’s go and build a company around it.’ So that’s what we did.”
Berger and Welsh didn’t settle for quick-and-easy when it came to investing in print technology, either. “Everybody told us, ‘You gotta stick with cotton,’” Berger says. “And we said, ‘No. We know polyester is going to be integral to our offerings.’” The company invested in a Kornit Thunder direct-to-garment printer and an Adelco Jet Force dryer (and recently installed a new Kornit Breeze and an Adelco Digi-Cure), but the work didn’t stop there. Anyone who’s worked in DTG knows that printing on polyester is no easy feat; Rokkitwear developed its own “gee-whiz technology” – as Berger puts it – and dedicated some serious time to product testing before he was satisfied with their polyester prints. “We tested all our products ad nauseum to figure out exactly how we needed to run each one of those garments,” Berger adds. “It’s not just a matter of, ‘OK, I got my image. I’m going to throw it on a shirt and dry it.’”
Choosing the right garment is integral when printing on polyester, too, and Berger had his suppliers in mind from the get-go. Rokkitwear is located in West Chester for a reason: It’s just a few miles from one of Sanmar’s largest distribution facilities, meaning product can be delivered and ready to print in as little as two hours. They’re also a one-day shipment away from Augusta and Holloway.
Berger says the variety of their products is one thing that’s contributed to Rokkitwear’s steady growth over the past six years. They offer 350 products in every store, and their online model allows them to keep up with fashion trends as fast as they occur. Suppliers have been more and more in touch with retail trends, he adds, and as soon as a new product is released, Rokkitwear can have it in their stores within an hour.
And how does the shop manage the seemingly chaotic workflow of countless colors, textures, styles, and graphics coming in the door, through production, and back out? It’s all about the good old-fashioned order form. “Everything is very visual,” Berger says. Everything is matched with the physical order form as soon as the blank product is delivered. Having well-trained staff is critical, too, he adds: “We introduce new products all the time, so they have to be very well-versed.”
Rokkitwear recently changed its tagline to “Your Brand. Your Store. Your Money.” Of course, there are always challenges in getting customers to buy into a new business model, but, as Berger puts it, “It’s not by accident that Amazon continues to grow and grow.” So when it comes to getting schools to adopt a platform that basically does the work for them, it seems like a sell that will only get easier.