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Marshall Atkinson  

On today's Success Stories podcast, we're going back to school. Shirt School that is with the one and only Kerry Egeler. Kerry runs a highly successful online program that helps teach people how to succeed in the apparel industry. Whether it is with a Shopify store or another online platform, he has helped folks grow and manage their business with his educational workshops and videos. So get your pencils and paper ready to start taking some notes. This is an incredible episode that I'm sure you're gonna be able to learn from. So welcome to the Success Stories podcast, Kerry.

Kerry Egeler  

Hey, Marshall. Thanks so much for having me on, man. I'm excited to be here.

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah, it's great. And we first met when you helped out last year, at our Shirt Lab Fort Worth event and you put on a dynamite presentation. That was so awesome. So this is kind of our round to a little bit.

Kerry Egeler  

Yeah, that was a lot of fun. That was a lot of fun, yeah.

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, cool. So, let's start the show by getting into the nuts and bolts of your origin story. How did you get into this business? And from that, what made you start Shirt School?

Kerry Egeler  

Yeah, you know, I've put the pieces together a little bit more over the last few years just and thought about man, where did this love for t-shirts come from? And, you know, I thought recently, I kind of came back to me that I got into screen printing probably like 11 or 12 years ago, I just kind of working for a local screen printing shop here in Oklahoma, and just got to kind of got a little bit of a taste to kind of learn a little bit about screen printing that kind of stuff. And after that, I went into work in retail and got away from t-shirts got away from all that stuff, built a really successful career in retail became a store manager for a cellphone company, had a good-sized team, and did really well and kind of just moved up through the ranks. And back in 2017, I was just kind of abruptly let go from my position, I was very shocked because I'd done really well with the company. And turns out, you know, we had corporate security come to our store, there were a few employees of mine that were kind of doing some things that were frowned upon. And I was in leadership. So I was held accountable for those things because I was you know, in charge of these employees. And so I was let go from the company, I was really looking for the next opportunity. And at the time, I think something that was intriguing to me was getting into the internet world in the online business world. I had no idea what I was doing. But luckily, I had a friend of mine that was already pretty successful in the online world. And I went to him and as basically like, what do I do, I can start something online or I can go get another job, those are kind of my options is like I can do my own business thing, or I can go get another job. And he kind of helped me and helped me get started with an online business. And at that point, it wasn't necessarily going to be a t-shirt thing. But that was just one idea on my list was just like maybe I should start an online t-shirt business. And he kind of encouraged me to run with that idea. And that's how I got into this. I started up a store and I started running some Facebook ads around five years ago. And the rest is kind of history. Obviously, there are a ton of ups and downs throughout the last five years that I'm sure we'll dig into a little bit more. But that's kind of how I got into this whole thing. And a couple of years ago, I started helping others do the same thing that I had done and had a lot of success. And so I started teaching other people what I'd done and really put it into a system that you can kind of follow, you know, step by step to achieve some results.

Marshall Atkinson  

You know, it's funny that I think the one really cool thing is a lot of people get into this industry, because it's their kitchen table, basement, garage, little side hustle thing, and then it just kind of morphs into a full-fledged business that conscious really consumes your life. So and by the way, if you're listening and new to the industry, we're like the mafia once you get sucked in, there is no getting out. So I think that's great. So you started the business just kind of really is just something to do your next adventure, right? We're just looking back. What do you think like, your biggest mistake was from back then like if you were like, start over now, you know, you wouldn't do this. What is that?

Kerry Egeler  

And that's a great question. You know, what's interesting about that time in my life is I was let go from a job. We had a one-year-old son at that point. Now we have a daughter as well. We had a one-year-old son we found out about a week after I was let go from my job that we were pregnant with our daughter. And it wasn't a point where I had like a ton of savings and all this stuff, you know, I mean, it was like, I'd made a good salary. But I needed to bring in the dough. My wife looked at me and was --

Marshall Atkinson  

-- like no pressure, Kerry.

Kerry Egeler  

I told my wife, well, I think I'm gonna start this t-shirt business. And she was like, what? Like, are you kidding? You got to pay the bills. So your little t-shirt business better pays the bills. So there's a lot of pressure on it, it was definitely a difficult time. What's interesting about it is I think that when people are starting out really, in any kind of business, you kind of hope that there's a quick success, you hope that you know, you can get it going quickly, especially if your backs up against the wall a little bit, you know, there's a little more urgency and you're, you're hoping that the money starts coming in quickly. And for me, that happened, I don't know how I don't know what I did. But the first month that I was that I started my t-shirt store, my first t-shirt store, I did about $4,000 in sales, not huge numbers. But it was the first month in the business, I was feeling really good about that. That second month, I went to $9000. And then the third month, I went up to like $30,000 in that third month in sales. And I brought in a nice profit. And I thought like we're going to the moon like backup, the Brinks truck pulled the Lambo into the driveway, my wife and I actually like planning a trip to Disney World, like we thought we made it, you know, that's kind of when everything really kind of crashed on me. And I realized I had no idea, I had no idea what I was doing, I kind of just got lucky got hot with this, you know, a couple of t-shirts that kind of took off. And I didn't know how to run ads, I didn't know how to run a business, I didn't know, you know, the full all fulfillment that comes along with it and how to take care of my customers. And I didn't know any of that I didn't know long term, how to continue building it and making more revenue and, you know, increase my profits and all those kind of things. And so it fell off this cliff. And I really had to spend the next probably a year or longer really rebuilding it and getting it back to that successful level and learning from the ground up. And so I think to answer your question directly, I wish that it would have been a more steady and you know, slow climb, as opposed to just hitting the ceiling and then kind of losing it all. And just a very, very rough time in my life after thinking I've made it and then didn't make it and just really didn't know anything and then had to kind of go through the struggles all over again. Like how do I pay the bills? How do I do these things, because it was like my t-shirt business wasn't cutting it? And so I wish that, you know, it was a more gradual build, I wish that I would have learned early on, I wish that I would have maybe taken some more courses, maybe read some more books, maybe learned a little bit more about business and marketing, to be able to build a long term sustainable business rather than just get lucky or hot on a few really awesome t-shirt designs. And then you'll see it all kind of crash down.

Marshall Atkinson  

So did you start with a business plan, like focusing on a particular topic or target market or anything? Are you just like, spray and pray kind of a thing where you just you do all kinds of stuff to see what sticks.

Kerry Egeler  

I think it was a little bit of both, I think unknowingly I did do some things right. And I obviously reflected on that a lot and look back at that kind of the first store and realize I did some things right? To answer your first question. I did not have a business plan. This was very much imperfect action. That's kind of one of my mottos. I tell all my students to take imperfect action. And this was very much that imperfect action of I had no idea what I was doing. But I was just going to start taking steps. And what I've realized is that I did do some things, right, I picked a niche, I came up with a few t-shirt designs that were kind of related to that niche and spoke to that community. And the only way that I knew to promote that was you know, my friend that was kind of become my mentor was through Facebook ads. He was like he did Facebook ads, he was like, this is the way that you need to do it, you know, run some Facebook ads, I had no idea what I was doing. So I just popped up, you know, a couple of image ads and put $5 a day in. And it just kind of started to take off. So I did some things, right? Definitely from that perspective, but as far as you know, a business plan or really any kind of plan as far as what to do. Like, I had no idea I had no idea. Once I made a sale, I had no idea where the teacher was even gonna come from it was like, let's just put one step in front of the other and hope for the best.

Marshall Atkinson  

Okay, good. So let's fast forward to now. I mean, you're successful, you got a, you know, you're teaching people with your school and everything. So what does it take to grow your apparel decorating business online these days? Right. So what best practices do you think people should be doing now for, you know, our current market situation that we're in, you know, kind of emerging from COVID and everything's going online and all that... what should folks be doing?

Kerry Egeler  

Well, first of all, I talked about a little bit, first of all, I really do think that you know, what I teach my students is, you know, I think it's important to have a niche and when I say a niche You know, it's really a subject that a group of people is very passionate about and a hobby, a passion that people have. And I think that's kind of the first thing that you do we do a five-day challenge, where I go live every single day for five days, and I kind of walk through each step, if you're starting your new apparel business, what do you need to do first? And second, third? And how do you kind of build a profitable apparel business? And that's like, the first thing before you get a business name before you build a store before you do anything, you got to have clarity on what you want to sell, and who you want to sell to. And so number one, you know, picking a niche, something that will be profitable, that people are passionate about. And then number two, identifying who that customer is, like, are they you know, young? Are they old? Where do they live? What is their occupation, you know, what are they interested in? Do they have kids, they have a family, those kinds of things are important to really research and get clarity on before you start, you know, building this full-on kind of online business. And so that would be the first thing is kind of picking a niche, once you've done that, get a few designs, you don't need 50 designs, but get a few solid designs to create those, you don't have to spend a lot of money on those, or we live in this world today, which is I still find so interesting that we have so many inexpensive and free tools, we have so many resources to be able to do this at a really high level for next to nothing. And so you can get, you know, four or five designs done your first initial designs for free if you like or very inexpensively. And, and you know, build out a store. And then when it comes to marketing, got your niche, you've got some basic designs, you've got your store, when it comes to marketing and kind of bringing in those first sales, you know, I really encourage my students to start organically. And what I mean by that is really starting to build relationships starting to build a community before you go into paid advertising with maybe Facebook or Instagram ads, or Tik Tok ads are all the rage right now, I recommend doing it organically first and organically building relationships with your potential customers. And that's not only going to give you some profits to then funnel those profits into some paid ads and start to scale your business up. But you're gonna build a really, really strong community. And you're gonna have, you know, if you're focused on things like building your email list, and building up your social media following, that gives you that community to always go back to that well to always go back to when you need to bring in some additional income, or maybe your ads are not as profitable, you always have that community to fall back on. And so that's kind of at a high level, the path that I kind of send people down. Obviously, there's a lot of tactical stuff in there and strategic stuff. But --

Marshall Atkinson  

Alright, so just to connect some dots. So when you say niche, right, I know what you're talking about, but maybe a listener listening doesn't quite get it. So what you're talking about is a group like radio-controlled airplane owners, or golden retriever fans, or people who like to canoe, or people who like to hike the Appalachian Trail, or BMX motorcycle riders, right, whatever your passion is, there's a group, there's a tribe of people that are passionate about that. And what you do is you find something with that. And that's what you narrow down on. Right, that's what you're talking about. Correct?

Kerry Egeler  

Correct? Yeah, you're absolutely right. I think it's so important, and you have a lot of really good examples there. I also think people, think we have a natural inclination to want to be everything to everyone, we just want to go where we feel like there's opportunity. And to a lot of people, I think that means like, I'm just gonna put out whatever t-shirt design, I think some people would maybe buy, no matter, you know, I'm just gonna put this out and this out, throw this thing out, and just kind of list it online. And you know, the saying that I kind of love and tell my students is, you know, when you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one, you just end up not having any success, you will be shocked at some of the very, very successful niches that you can go into, you know, you'd be shocked at what people think of that. It's just like, how would you make money in that with those people. And sometimes these are some of the most successful, you know, niches that you can find. And so, yeah, whatever you're passionate about, even if you believe it's obscure, my another kind of rule that I just kind of love is, if you're really intuitive, you're extremely passionate about there's a very, very good chance in this vast world of the internet, that there are more people like you out there, you know, even if it is something that you might feel like a little obscure, chances are you can probably find other people on the internet that are also interested in that thing and are passionate about it as well. And usually, it's hundreds of 1000s and a lot of times if millions of people and you can make a very successful business with even some of those small niches.

Marshall Atkinson  

Yep, totally agree with that.

<<COMMERCIAL>>

So let's just pretend that somebody's got something and let's pick something kind of, I don't know, randomly off the wall. Let's say that bass fishing. Right, so we're going to create an online store for bass fishing anglers. Okay, that's our niche, right? We're going to create a Shopify store for that, right. So why don't we describe the best practices for building out and amplifying that Shopify store to hit the market of people who love to bass fish? Walk us through what we should be doing, Kerry?

Kerry Egeler  

Yeah, from a Shopify store perspective, I love Shopify, I've been using Shopify since the beginning. And so I highly recommend it. I love it. It's, it's the go-to platform for sure for building out an online store, very simple to use, but also very powerful. The first thing I would say is, you know, keep it simple. I mean, I can't stress that enough. You don't need, you know, a fancy logo, you don't need really fancy designs, you know, we again, we often think that the designs have to be intricate and six colors. And we have to hire a pro designer and all this stuff. And it's like, text-based, simple, even one-color designs, you know, often sell the best if they have that emotional connection, that emotional tie in with that community. And so keep it simple when it comes to building out your Shopify store. You know, a lot of people think they need a premium theme like they need to pay hundreds of dollars to make their website look like this, like this expensive website. And what is true is that the three themes inside Shopify are incredibly good. Start with a free theme, don't spend a bunch of money on a logo, don't spend a ton of money on your designs, like keep it very simple. I want my students to get to a point where they've proved the concept before they start investing a lot of money into it, let's not invest a ton of money, and you know, to have to get mail, some people get loans and all this different kind of stuff. Let's not do all of that until we have some of our initial sales, and we really prove the concept. And so keep it simple at the beginning, your online store, you know, a few designs, a few products, pick two colors for your brand. You know you don't have to make this complex thing, keep it simple, keep it clean. And I would say the biggest thing to spend time on when you're building out a Shopify store is just to make it look professional. Number one is social proof and reviews. You know, it's very important at the beginning that you have product reviews, you know, actual reviews from people on your designs, and that you showcase those on your store because that's going to build credibility with your potential customers when you're trying to build up your business. And then I would say focus on the product pages. And the product pages are where your customer is going to click that Add to Cart button, we've all been on a product page and clicked the Add to Cart and moved over to the checkout that product page is where all of the selling happens. So it's important to spend some time there, making sure you have nice mockups, making sure you have a good product description that really ties into that kind of emotional connection there that you list out some bullet points where you know, how soft is your shirt and where is it printed? How long is the shipping gonna be those things are important to have on your product page there. And then I think we mentioned some product reviews, good mockups, you know, product description, that product page is really where your sale is going to happen or not happen, depending on you know how good that product pages so that's where I encourage my students to spend the majority of the time you know on that product page really making it look nice and professional and trustworthy. Incredible.

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah. And so just going on with our back Bass Fishing theme and I'm really not a bass. That's what I do. I just thought of it off the top of my head. But, you know, you could have, you know, just the simple words like tight lines, you know. So if you're a fisherman, you know, that means you got a fish on the hook, right? Or some other type of words. And it could just be that's the whole thing, right? Or any other phrase where that tribe really resonates? You know, there's some sort of slang or term or inside joke kind of thing, those make the really best t-shirts. Of course, if you're in that tribe, if you like to bass fish, I bet you got a picture. Right? I bet you've got a kind of a thing and include that in the artwork if you want, you know, and then also for the product description, instead of saying, hey, it's a 5.5-ounce bottle. Oh, yeah, you know, you can say, hey, it's the sun's going down at the lake, you're in your boat cruising back to the, you know, with your cooler for a little beer empty, but your shirt still looks great. And you know, make a picture, right? And don't be boring. This is what really connects with people is the emotion and everything. Like funneling to why people buy things, people buy things, not for the scientific, obvious reason, they buy them because it strikes a chord with them, somehow on an emotional level. And the go, I gotta have that. And that's what you're really trying to shoot for?

Kerry Egeler  

Did you nail it on the head? You said it definitely better than I could say that's exactly --

Marshall Atkinson  

But I don't know about that. But I think it's really important that you do that and have fun with it. Right? Have fun with it. And it also I want to just say if you've got a Shopify store, and you know, you've got some sales, and let's just say for the sake of discussion, you have 10 designs, and five of them sell and five of them, don't take the five down that don't sell and replace them with something new, you know, they're not selling anyway, it's not like you're losing. Right? For sure. Yeah. And I think a lot of people try to cram too much stuff online. And they get what I call the Cheesecake Factory stare, where it's like, everything in the Cheesecake Factory. And it's just like 16 pages of stuff, and nobody can ever decide what to have. That's the reason we don't go there. It's because it's like, we can't make a choice. It's the same thing online with your online store, keep it really simple and only have the things that people buy.

Kerry Egeler  

Yeah, one of the things I find is that you know, people naturally, you just want to offer every color of the t-shirt. So you just load up all the colors. And it's like, I go in there and I'm like, Look, decision fatigue is a real thing. You know, it's it will decrease the number of sales that you're getting by just having all those different options. And the reality is, you know, the majority of t-shirts that are sold are black, white, heather gray, navy, is like, you don't need to paint all the additional colors, you know, pick the best two or three colors roll with those. And you'll see that you know, people will purchase at a much higher rate.

Marshall Atkinson  

Yeah, well, people don't buy that. Because you know, I don't look good and blue. Yeah, right. Doesn't matter what the design is. I just don't look good and blue. And what's funny, I say that I'm wearing a blue shirt right now.

Kerry Egeler

You look good and blue Marshall.

Marshall Atkinson  

Alright, last question here, Kerry. So what are some best practice tips to hook people in on social media to drive more eyeballs to the store? Because you can have the best-looking designs on the planet, on your online store? But if you can't get anybody to look at them, nobody's buying, right? How do we get people to actually get to the store? So what do you recommend doing?

Kerry Egeler  

Well, number one, you know, the old saying, you know, people love to buy, but they don't like to be sold to couldn't be more true than online, you know, I find that I need just nailed it on the head. If you just post on social media, a bunch of products for sale, just over and over and over. And you wonder why you know, your Instagram account or Facebook page or whatever, it is not growing? Well. Nobody cares about your designs, they don't even they don't even know what your business is, or who you are, or anything, they're not gonna care until you've given them something of value. And so the social media kind of organic game is all about building value with people. And I like to say, you know, it's showing them something that they liked to see, you know, you just talked about, you know, bass fishing, it's like, if you post a meme with a dude that's got a big old bass fish on the line, and you know, and some kind of funny saying, or something that's going to attract in a lot more of the right people than if you post the t-shirt that you're just trying to sell and you say it's on sale, but you know, nobody cares about that. And so it's important to think from a content perspective. What do people like to see in your niche? What kind of things would they like to know about? Are there tips and tricks that you could provide as somebody that maybe has a little bit of expertise or knowledge in that niche, could you provide some tips? Is there something funny that you could show or that you could talk about those kinds of things, resonate with people and get the kind of hooked into your social media? And then when you once you've done that, you've built some trust, you've built some credibility, then it's time to sell, then you can add in those sales, right. And so it's all about value, value, value, giving value, and then hitting them with the sale. And so that's super important. And one more quick tactical thing that I would give everybody for 2022 is if you are posting on social media, and you are not yet using short-form video, you have to stop everything you're doing right now and all of the content, I mean, I would venture to say, you know, 85-90% of the content you make needs to be short-form video, moving forward, Tik Tok is here, it's not going away. Instagram reels, Facebook shorts, YouTube shorts, you know, these short forms of video are what's driving 99% of the growth on social media. And so just from a tactical perspective, if you're not doing that, if you're just posting images, you're just posting you know, the videos or whatever, you gotta get on short-form engaging content.

Marshall Atkinson  

And everybody I don't know if you know this Kerry, but just about everybody has a movie studio in their pocket.

Kerry Egeler  

4k right there on the iPhone.

Marshall Atkinson  

It's amazing, How come more people don't utilize that what's up with people?

Kerry Egeler  

I think it's just the fear, you know, the fear of, you know, putting your face on camera, putting yourself out there, but it's just man, it's we're living in this age where you have to be willing to create videos, and you don't always have to put your face on there, you know, but I think we've got to be willing to put ourselves out there. And when you do that consistently on social media, that's another huge key is consistency on social media, we're living in a day and age where you have to post consistently, especially from your business, if you want to get traction if you want to see growth. And we have to do it consistently. You can't just do it once a week or once a month, gotta get on there consistently. And you got to be unafraid really, to put content out there.

Marshall Atkinson  

I think the thing that if you take one tip for me today, is that you have to be willing to fail, we're going to do something, we're gonna launch it and oh, it didn't work. Okay, what did we learn, and that's it. And then so that could be with the design on your webstore. That could be with your video that you just made, it could be with, you know, whatever. And what I'll tell you, especially with marketing, you could have the perfect piece, the perfect content piece, but you posted on the wrong day, or the wrong time, or had the wrong headline, or some little thing was wrong. And if you just tweak it, and then the next time you do it, it takes off.

Kerry Egeler  

I love what you said about failing because I think, you know, even from my perspective, for sure, you know, I have an online course. And it's like, you know, people see me as this guru as an expert. And I'm very much not that I don't like those terms, but people only see the success, you know, people only see, whatever how many t-shirts I've sold, and how many people I've helped or whatever. And the reality is I've had way more failures than I had successes. It's like those few successes, you know, overshadow the failures. But I've had so many failed stores, so many failed designs. And that's you have to be willing to have those failures to find the one or two that are going to be successful. And so just such a good thing you said there that I wanted to point out, I'm sure you have to Marshall, I'm sure you've had, oh, your failures and your successes.

Marshall Atkinson  

Well, you know, it doesn't matter when you start. I mean, Morgan Freeman wasn't an actor till his mid-50s. Wow. Right. So you just gotta like, do it. Just like, go right? And it's okay. And here's the thing I'll tell you is that when you start, nobody knows who you are, you know, absolutely knows what's going on. And this is the time for you to really screw things up. Because you're not doing it in front of a million people you're doing it in front of your mom and your brother and your cousin Eddie. Just do it. Right? And that's okay. And you'll learn from it. And then and then do another one, and then another one. Right. And that's how you get better. So I love that. All right, cool. So Well, thanks for sharing your story of success today with us, Kerry. So if somebody wanted to learn more about what you do, or t-shirt school or anything, I What's the best way to get a hold?

Kerry Egeler  

Yeah, there are a couple of things. Our YouTube channel is great. We'll put out content over there every single week, youtube.com/c/KerryEgeler can also follow us on Instagram @kerryengeler. And the website is just kerryengeler.com. And that's a little bit hard to spell but I'm sure we'll put that down in the description. But kerryengeler.com is the website. All of our programs are on there. All the things that you need, you can find there.

Marshall Atkinson  

Awesome. Awesome. Well, hey, thanks so much for being with us today. You really rocked it.

Kerry Egeler  

Hey, thank you so much, Marshall. My pleasure.

Posted 
Wed
Apr 27, 2022