an interview with Jakob Lodwick of Busted Tees

BUSTED TEES IS A NEW T-SHIRT COMPANY STARTED BY JAKOB LODWICK (R.I.T. 2003), RICK VAN VEEN (WFU 2003), ZACHARY KLEIN (WFU 2004), AND JOSHUA ABRAMSON (PHI ALPHA 2003).  JAKOB WAS DEEP INTO TRANSACTIONAL DATA PROGRAMMING AND XML STRUCTURE WHEN I SENT HIM THESE QUESTIONS ON FEBRUARY 22nd, 2004.... posted May 4th, 2004


Nick Gray WFU: looks like your shirt site is getting started, can I ask you some questions about it?


CV JAKOB
: yes, let's do it now

Nick Gray WFU: ok great. what are your initial impressions as you are about to start a t-shirt company?


CV JAKOB
: I'm nervous. I always get a sad feeling when I walk into a store with one employee and no other customers; an "alternative" toy store, for example. I picture the owner at a desk in the back room, staring at some financial papers and just feeling hopeless and defeated. Time to spend $275 on a big "going out of business" ad in the county paper!

If we sell 20 shirts in the first three months, I'm not going to start crying, but I'll probably feel a little embarrassed. CollegeHumor will still be just as popular, but I'll probably question myself a little more and go into my next venture a little more cautiously. Right now we've all got a lot of confidence because we've been so fortunate with previous ventures, but there's no guarantee that our luck will continue.

Nick Gray WFU: (reading) has it been harder than you thought?

CV JAKOB
: Yes. The biggest challenge is the e-commerce bullshit. I couldn't find a manual for how to handle everything, so piecing it all together in my head has taken a while. There are so many companies to deal with - the people who are printing the shirts, the fulfillment people (the guys who actually mail the shirts out to the customers), the credit card authorization service, the company that handles our merchant account, plus our web host... I never went to business school, so my concept of how it all comes together is fresh-faced (albeit on the verge of losing its innocence).

As far as software, we're doing everything ourselves using osCommerce as a foundation, and it's several times harder than I anticipated. On top of that, there's still ~12 more hours of last-minute work to be done. For the past two months last-minute work is all I've been doing, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

It's been a much different experience than putting together sites like CollegeHumor and Campus Hook. Those sites were built up gradually with hundreds of revisions over the months and years, and there had been plenty of important features that weren't added until long after the site launched. But with the T-shirt site, it's not like we can postpone the part where an XML document gets posted to the fulfillment company's server with each order's details. We can't really fuck around and half-ass any features - it has to be 100% ready and done.

I guess that's what makes it so much harder: this website can't launch until it's done. Which is kind of antithesis to, say, every other website I've ever built, ever. Remember when every site on the web was "UNDER CONSTRUCTION"? I think those just disappeared because people realized the message was redundant.

Nick Gray WFU: what type of artistic constraints have you as an artist suffered for the company's future?

CV JAKOB: The hardest part was rejecting lots and lots of great shirts. Ricky had been keeping an Excel document with about 140 slogans and ideas, and we kept needing to narrow them down until we only had ten left. I guess there's a point where you have to suck up and just accept that some good stuff is going to get left behind.

Nick Gray WFU: using osCommerce seems a little overkill, doesn't it?


CV JAKOB: Not necessarily - we tried using a couple other freeware packages and they were just completely inadequate. osCommerce does have a lot of features we didn't need, but we just left those out of our build of it. But if you look at sample sites that use osCommerce, there are plenty of small, simple sites that seem to be just fine with it.


Nick Gray WFU: it sounds like a largely outsourced solution - was this a limiting factor when you had to limit the number of shirt designs to open with?


CV JAKOB: yes, it is
CV JAKOB: oh, can I give you some links?
 

Nick Gray WFU: please
 

CV JAKOB: I'll give them in order
CV JAKOB: the people who are printing the shirts = G&G Outfitters
CV JAKOB: the fulfillment people = SureShipOnline
CV JAKOB: the credit card authorization service = Authorize.Net
CV JAKOB: merchant account = Paymentech
CV JAKOB: Justin did most of the trickier designs
CV JAKOB: and, obviously, CH and Hook and osCommerce...
CV JAKOB: ok buddy, ttyl!

NICK's NOTE- I'VE STOLEN TWO SHIRTS FROM THE BOXES THAT THEY SHIP ZACH TO PHOTOGRAPH. I'M GIVING THEM BACK IN JPEG.

 

 

READ WHAT I'M READING
 NICK GRAY DOT NET HOME