Discover how customizable, cost-effective and reliable
BigCommerce is and why we built it that way.
Performance metrics compare March 17, 2022 over March 18, 2021 for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA Gear).
In business there are those who are stringent planners and then there are fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants risk takers. You know the type. The kind Caleb Harris, Sr. Vice President of Business Development at !nk Custom Tees, describes as “people who jump out of airplanes and build a parachute on the way down.”
It stands to reason he should know because it's how he described Holt Condren, CEO and Owner of !nk Custom Tees, and how he started the company in 1988. “He saw an opportunity to create T-shirts for college students and he just started. He said, ‘I'm going to figure this out.’ He got a loan from his grandfather and then Holt and his business partner quit their jobs to go make T-shirts for college students. They went around selling stuff they didn't even know how to make,” said Harris.
In 1993, the decision was made to bring !nk’s go-to creative contractor, Scott Masters, into the business as President and Owner. Scott helped !nk establish its creative prowess. So much so that the likes of the Cotton Bowl and Macy’s Day Parade came calling.
“We led with creativity and got recognized for it. We were the only company that was doing that. Everyone was leading with prints and with price. And we came in and led with creativity, and we still do,” said Harris.
!nk prefers to consider itself a merchandising agency that just so happens to also screenprint T-shirts, embroider headwear, polo shirts and corporate gear, make custom mugs and other promotional products.
Discovering less is more
In the beginning of 2020 !nk was moving full-steam ahead designing T-shirts and growing the business by serving the special event and high-volume retail industries. Then the pandemic hit and things changed very quickly for the merchandising company.
Customers suddenly didn't want !nk to just design their merchandise or make their order in bulk and drop ship it so they could fulfill it themselves. What they wanted was for !nk to manage the entire process through fulfillment. So !nk, in its typical fashion, jumped out of the proverbial airplane and began building a new kind of parachute—one built with the tools and fabric of ecommerce.
“We found ourselves at the beginning of the pandemic having to answer questions for our clients regarding ecommerce that we had never had to answer. What we did was create an ecommerce side of our business that did not exist previously,” Harris stated. “At that point, we started using every platform we could find. “BigCommerce, Shopify, OrderMyGear, WooCommerce, Magento, Squarespace. You name it. We tried them all, but this approach left our small team spread thin as we attempted to manage multiple platforms simultaneously,” Harris said.
Connecting: BigCommerce + Acumatica
While !nk was running its customers’ stores on various platforms, the need for a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system arose and the company selected Acumatica, an open-architecture solution that enables merchants to manage their products, orders, customers, inventory, accounting and more from a single cloud-based system.
“In addition to Acumatica we learned that one of its valued resellers had created a plugin for screenprinting. We were ecstatic. It was the first domino to fall where I was like, ‘Wow! We actually found a solution that can get relevant with our stack,’" Harris exclaimed.
The second domino that needed to fall was selecting a single ecommerce solution that !nk would use to build its customers’ merchandise-driven websites. But, the question was, which one? Of the multiple platforms !nk was using at the time, only BigCommerce, Shopify and Magento connected to Acumatica.
Magento was highly customizable. Shopify had the front-end user interface. Yet, neither seemed to thrive at both. But, BigCommerce did. “Look, we’re not trying to overstretch this side of our business, but you better believe we would be sunk if we did not have BigCommerce. The BigCommerce platform was exactly what we needed,” Harris said.
The two-way integration between BigCommerce and Acumatica allows !nk to simplify and streamline business operations and functionality on its customers’ websites. Zonos is an international checkout app !nk uses to help its merchants sell globally. “We fulfill so many orders internationally with Zonos,” Harris said. Avalara, a sales tax automation tool and ShipStation, an import, ship and tracking app, are two additional go-to apps !nk integrates into its customers’ online stores.
“Look, we’re not trying to overstretch this side of our business, but you better believe we would be sunk if we did not have BigCommerce. The BigCommerce platform was exactly what we needed,”
B2B2C: Merchants and customers respond to !nks’ new endeavor
!nk has been around for more than three decades and with the recent changes over the last couple of years the company feels more like a startup or as Caleb puts it, “a re-startup.” Perhaps the best way to describe it is to say !nk is doing business as usual and differently at the same time.
The “differently” is where building and managing ecommerce stores on BigCommerce for a growing number of organizations and businesses comes in. Take the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) for instance. In a span of 12 months, its FCA Gear store sold over $3.2 million in apparel, books and accessories, that’s a 186% increase in revenue from just one year before. Orders increased by 57% and FCA’s conversion rate increased by an impressive 28%.
Then there is UNDERDOG, the official website and brand for Milwaukee Bucks basketball player, Bobby Portis. “When the Bucks won the 2021 NBA championship things really took off and we were coming up with new apparel to match his vision to acknowledge and encourage people to be overcoming underdogs,” said Harris. “His shirts get a lot of national coverage when he wears them at NBA games and press interviews. And it's fun to see a tweet go out and immediately see 300 orders the next day.”
BigCommerce has been the difference maker in helping !nk win more business and it started with FCA. “If something is helping us win more business, then we're going to put all our eggs in that basket,” Harris said. “Once we won FCA’s business and started to see great results, we just started bringing everyone into the fold. We took customers off WooCommerce, Shopify and other platforms and put them on BigCommerce. We have approximately a dozen merchants on BigCommerce with more to come.”
Another advantage of being on BigCommerce is !nk’s customer service reps no longer have to be knowledgeable about multiple platforms or search through them to answer customer questions. All they have to do now is log into BigCommerce, select the store in question and see all the analytics, insights and reports necessary to answer a customer’s question.
Evolving the business
As a merchandising agency, Caleb sees the company moving away from the moniker of !nk Custom Tees and just going to !nk because custom T-shirts are only scratching the surface of what the company is doing these days. “Our business is evolving, we’re telling an expanded story and BigCommerce is a huge part of it,” Harris said. “If there's any platform that I trust to be able to help us make a great customer experience for our customers and partners, it's BigCommerce.”
“If there's any platform that I trust to be able to help us make a great customer experience for our customers and partners, it's BigCommerce.”
Published: April 2022