Designer Interviews: Glenn Jones, Glennz Teesby Alana Broadhead on 17/08/2012
Glenn Jones is a freelance graphic designer based in Auckland and the creative mind behind Glennz Tees, a design brand born when Glenn began submitting his t-shirt illustrations to Threadless.com.
At the height of Threadless’ popularity, Glenn was the website’s most printed designer and today Glennz is a rather-famous-actually boutique brand in its own right, with Glennz Tees sold around the world to new and long-standing fans of Glenn’s humour-driven design and recognisable aesthetic.
I asked Glenn a few questions around the business of design, and what it takes to make a full-time living from your own creative ideas…
How did you get started in the tee business…
I started submitting designs to Threadless.com in 2004. I had heard about the Threadless competition site through a student doing some work experience at work, so I thought I’d give it a go. I liked the idea of having a creative release in my own time outside of the boundaries of client work, The prize money then was only about US $100 so it wasn’t really about any financial gain, it was just cool to have the chance to get a tee printed that could be worn by people all over the world.
You have a business partner – how did Glennz wind up being more than just a one-man-band?
In the time that I was submitting designs to Threadless they started to go through massive growth. I was lucky to be in a situation where at the time (about 6 years ago) I was the most printed designer on Threadless so this gave me a lot of exposure and with that came a lot of work offers and business invitations. My now Glennz Tees partners originally commissioned me to do some illustrations for their business, and after building a relationship with them, they asked if I would be interested in having my own line of Tshirts. They had all the printing, fulfilment and shipping services set up in Austin, Texas so I went up there to check it all out. As well as being great people, for me it was the perfect scenario of them taking care of all the stuff they do well and me being able to concentrate on the Tshirt Designs. It took a few months of sorting stuff, and then we launched Glennz Tees in 2008. Glennz Tees is a US company and everything is based in Austin.
What proportion of your sales are to customers overseas and how much of your business is wholesale?
Glennz Tees sells about 40% to US based customers and the other 60% world wide, A lot of that is into Europe and we have some stand out countries like Brazil, Germany and Spain. Less than 1% of Glennz Tees are sold to NZ customers. Wholesale is becoming an increasing part of our business and we supply to shops and sites all over the world.
How important is the social media/blogging side of what you do?
Its a huge part of our business, and the reason for most of our growth. We put a lot of time into keeping our communication up to date through Facebook, twitter, flickr, tumblr etc, and also keep my portfolios up to date on sites like Behance and Coroflot which generate a lot of exposure. Our biggest sales spikes have generally been a result of the domino effect created by social media.
Do you do a lot of commission or commercial work, or are you full-time with your own designs?
I take on commission work when I can, but that is often dependent on what Im up to with Glennz Tees, If Im going through a quiet patch of Tshirt ideas, its often good to just work on something totally different that I get from freelance work. Sites like Behance.com has been a great generator of freelance work.
What’s the biggest business lesson you’ve learnt over the past few years?
Sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to do things better, we’ve tried lots of things that in hindsight we would have done differently, but we learnt from that and constantly evolve. We wouldn’t change a thing, well maybe a few things, but its been a great learning curve and we’ve all enjoyed the process.
What do you think is the single most important ‘muscle’ for design entrepreneurs to build?
Im not sure, but from my experience I think you have to understand the target. So maybe it’s awareness, and definitely a bit of enthusiasm, things don’t always move along the way you want them to, so you just have to keep trying and eventually you look back and see the result of the hard work you’ve put in, That’s how I feel about the last 5 years.
What’s been the absolute highlight of your career so far?
We opened a Glennz Tees Pop-Up shop at SXSW in Austin last year. The SXSW crowd is our target market but we never anticipated how big it was going to be for us, we were through 2 weeks of stock by day 2 and I was able to meet a lot of die hard Glennz fans which was a little bit crazy, It all made it feel quite real rather than us just existing on the internet. It was an amazing experience for me and my business partners.
What one piece of advice you’d give to people wanting to follow a similar path?
Exposure! I was lucky to ride the Threadless wave which gave me a great start, but you have to constantly work at it. Using online portfolios, social media, and entering competition sites like Threadless all help to get and keep the ball rolling.
Thanks Glenn! Finally, what’s coming up for Glennz Tees?
We have a lot of exciting things happening in the background, So we are just going to try to continue our growth, work with other businesses and see what the future brings. Hopefully I can keep coming up with ideas!
To keep up with Glenn and Glennz, you can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook. You can also buy tees (and download free iPhone wallpapers) at the Glennz store, or watch awesome process videos like the one below at Glenn’s Vimeo channel.