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Interview with Spreadshirt

Introduction:
Spreadshirt.net is one of the fastest growing Internet companies in Europe. It provides individualized textile merchandise products as well as online business opportunities. Today we are talking to Larry Ryan, the UK and Ireland Marketing Manager of Spreadshirt.co.uk

Torsten:
Larry, you are based in Dublin, the Spreadshirt headquarters are in Germany and you now are promoting the business in the UK. How did you obtain this position?

Larry:
Hi Torsten. Well, I run a number of websites myself and was keen to sell branded merchandise so I had been looking around for years for a service like Spreadshirt that is tailored to UK and Irish users. Obviously there's a few US companies around, but I wanted a service where I could price goods in Euro or Sterling and where postage to UK users would be fast and cheap. I was also interesting in selling colour t-shirts, whereas most services only offered white or grey.

I was looking into setting up my own service when I found Spreadshirt, who, at that stage, had been operating in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland for a few years. The guys told me they were about to launch a UK version of the site, so I applied for the marketing position. I then visited headquarters in Leipzig, Germany where I was extremely impressed with the product they were offering — all goods are manufactured on site and the quality standards were really high. Luckily I was offered the position and firmly believe the new Spreadshirt.co.uk site has enormous potential.

Torsten:
I take it you have a lot of experience in e-commerce under your belt. When did you start your online marketing career?

Larry:
My background is actually in e-learning — online training products — and I worked for many years with Skillsoft, one of the main players in the market. I began work on my own sites around 2000, when I launched an Irish football website that has grown into one of the most popular Internet addresses in my country.

Torsten:
Please, give us some more background information on the business idea behind Spreadshirt.

Larry:
The business model is very simple. There are so many websites around with a loyal visitor base that are in a great position to sell branded merchandise — for example shirts or mugs with logos or slogans on. However, a lot of webmasters are slow to get involved because they don't want to handle large quantities of stock, can't afford the startup costs, or are reluctant to manage distribution etc.

Spreadshirt allows these sites to enter the merchandising market without any startup costs or risk whatsoever. A site owner simply signs up for free with Spreadshirt, uploads a new design to the Internet, chooses some high-quality products on which to place those designs, and sets a markup price above our base price. A shop is automatically created which the webmaster can integrate into the rest of their site by pasting a few lines of code. Spreadshirt handles payment, delivery, customer service etc. And the webmaster simply collects the revenue generated from sales.
For example, a number of rock bands have used the service to sell their own range of t-shirts to fans. Sites can make very good profits by simply investing the hour or so it takes to set up a shop.

Torsten:
What about the company's name. When I first heard about it I thought of the phrase «spread the word, spread the shirt». Was that pun intended?

Larry:
It's partly a pun on the term «Spreadsheet&rlaquo; but you're right, the «spread the word» angle is an important part of the message. Of course many companies use our products simply as a marketing tool to get their URL known. Even setting up a shop to hand out free shirts to customers can have huge benefits for the PR of a site.

Torsten:
What are your responsibilities as the UK and Ireland Marketing Manager of Spreadshirt?

Larry:
Obviously my key responsibility is to attract as many shop partners to use our service as possible. Spreadshirt already provides merchandise for over 50,000 sites across Europe and we're keen to reach the same figure in the UK and Ireland as quickly as we can.
Within that role, I'm responsible for online branding, advertising, managing pay-per-click campaigns etc. As well as targeting site partners, we will look to attract corporate partners such as hosting companies with whom we can work together to offer our service.

Torsten:
Spreadshirt is German based company which is expanding its operations worldwide. How do you communicate with headquarters?

Larry:
I'm in regular phone contact with headquarters — Skype is my favourite at the moment. And of course email and instant messaging are key tools. When necessary, I can fly direct into Leipzig from London in ninety minutes so it's not too inconvenient.

Torsten:
You might have heard that Germany is facing dramatic changes of its social and economic systems. One of the major current challenges is to create new jobs especially in the Eastern part of our country. People like you are an exellent example demonstrating that it is indeed possible to offer new services and products that can be marketed worldwide. What would you say is the key to success when it comes to establishing an Internet business?

Larry:
Yes, in many ways, the economic climate in the east of Germany is similar to the situation here in Ireland in the early nineties, where unemployment was very high. In Ireland a blossoming IT sector — largely thanks to US multinational investment — played a big part in improving the economy and in Germany now there are many thriving young IT companies like Spreadshirt.

I think the key to Spreadshirt's success and its phenomenal early growth is the clarity of its business model. The benefit to Spreadshirt's clients (mostly website owners) is very clear — they can provide their customer with quality merchandise without incurring upfront costs. It's the same with any online business whether content or e-commerce based. If you provide a product or service that fulfills a customer need, you are in with a good chance of succeeding.

Torsten:
Spreadshirt is a very dynamic company constantly offering new products and services. One of the latest features at Spreadshirt.com is the «Spreadshirt Crisis Hotliner», a witty movie showing a young man who is in desperate need of a Spreadshirt because he has first date. Who had the idea for this commercial and who are the actors starring that first Spreadshirt film?
Author: Torsten Daerr