An accidental company

Get our Storytelling Newsletter

Most great things are achieved by setting an intention and pouring a lot of effort into the pot.

And occasionally, a great thing happens purely by accident.

The latter is the case with Threadless, a company founded by two guys and a $1,000. An innocent entry into a t-shirt design contest ultimately evolved into a wildly successful community-centered online apparel store…with two new bricks-and-mortar locations in Chicago.

Here’s how it works: members of the Threadless community submit t-shirt designs online; the designs are then put to a public vote. A small percentage of submitted designs are selected for printing and sold through an online store. Creators of the winning designs receive a prize of cash and store credit.

These guys are revenue-savvy too – special contests regularly run in association with various sponsors. These contests set a theme for designs, with a selection of additional prizes being awarded to the chosen winner, often relating to the sponsor. So Threadless gets some additional income and profile, and the sponsor gets to rub up against a hip, online brand.

This month, they’ve released a book – a 10-year retrospective of the company’s history, set against the gorgeous backdrop of the best Threadless t-shirt designs.

If you’re trying to attract more online attention in your business, is there anything your customers can submit for integration into your product/service offering? I can’t think of a better way to create brand warriors, fighting it out to claim the top spot as the customer who knows you best.