You can get t-shirts almost anywhere, it’s true. But a custom shirt…in five minutes? There’s only one shop in Toronto (with 2 locations) that can hook you up in a flash.
Toronto Tees has been pumping out unique tees since 2000 and they’re still at the forefront, making them fast, to order and in high quality.
As part of our series of interviews with businesses using cloud-based accounting software, we spoke to Toronto Tees owner Joe Taylor about how he got the business started, what he does to keep it successful, and what the future might hold.
So, what is Toronto Tees?
Toronto Tees is home of the 5 minute custom t-shirt. You can walk into our shop with your custom graphic or idea and we bring it to life on a t-shirt in 5 minutes. We also specialize in bulk orders for your company, team, or group. Our prices are great, and our turnaround time is lightning fast. Our customers are often creative, fun loving people, who get a real kick out of our process. Walk into one of our shops any hour of the day and you will see some really awesome creative collaborations going on between our staff and customers.
How did you get started doing this?
Toronto Tees actually started off just selling preprinted tees. We would come up with creative and clever designs and sell those designs in the shop. Within weeks we quickly realized that the customer is not looking for your idea of funny or clever, they really want their own ideas on a shirt. We made some large investments in the fastest and best quality printing machines we could get and the rest is history. It be said a million times, and we are just another bit of proof that the customer really is always right.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
No two custom shirts are ever the same, so it really is impossible to get bored at this job. We also feel like we are disrupting our industry and taking the jargon and effort out of t-shirt printing for the customer. We make it extremely easy to come in and print a shirt. You don’t need any special files or knowledge. You literally just need an idea, and we take it from there. Seeing the relief and surprise and joy this brings to customer’s faces makes the job quite rewarding.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
There has been adversity but it has always felt like smooth sailing. The biggest challenge has been getting out the message about the speed in which we can print a t-shirt. People are still under the impression the process takes a day or two, and we have had to put a lot of effort into getting the message out that it takes 5 minutes. There is also a massive learning curve to do what we do, and the training of our staff can take upwards of a year. Because of this the first couple years of t-shirt printing involved a lot of late nights mastering everything.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
It’s happened more than once where I have been called late into the night by a customer who has an emergency order they need the next morning. We had a major credit card company call us at 11pm because the printer they were dealing with told them the night before they wouldn’t be able to complete their order on time for an event they were having the next morning (this happens a surprising amount in our industry unfortunately). Myself and three of my staff came into the shop and midnight and printed 800 totes bags for them by 8am for them the next morning, just in time for their 9am event. That major credit card company has given us years of business since then. It was a well worthwhile sleepless night.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I’m a father of 3, so that takes up most of my off work time. I’ll also spend a lot of my social time at my golf club.
How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Our business is a very visual one, so Instagram has been a great tool for us. We also have found we do a lot of communicating with our customers through Facebook now a days. Social media has undoubtedly been a great boost to our business.
How are you involved in your community? What does supporting local mean to you?
Almost half of our business comes from school, and non-profit organizations. We do our best to work within the budgets of these groups, and have partaken in hundreds of sponsorship programs in the local community. We have benefited hugely from the shop local mentality that has thankfully taken hold over the last decade, so we are all about paying that back when we can.
We’re interviewing businesses that use cloud-based accounting software. Why do you?
Cloud-based accounting it a no-brainer. It makes me a laugh a bit when I think about how we used to do things before FreshBooks. Mailing out invoices, and calling customers every few days for payment used to be a part time job for me on top of my full time job of printing t-shirts. I was pretty happy to quit that part time job. The decision was easy.
Which platform did you choose and why that particular brand?
We use FreshBooks because our customers know and trust the name. When they see the invoice in their inbox they are never afraid to open it up. We constantly get customers who tell us they use FreshBooks too, or that they are thinking about getting FreshBooks and want our opinion on it. We also find it incredibly easy to use.
What does this enable you to do as a small business owner?
We are excited about growing our business in the upcoming years and FreshBooks allows for unlimited scale. It is a clean, simple yet robust platform to view all our sales and expenses, and manage our customer base. I am also a serial question asker, and the folks at FreshBooks are extremely knowledgeable about their product whenever I have called them up.
Alright, so what does the future look like for you and Toronto Tees?
The future looks great. We have a large and growing loyal customer base that we continue to impress with each order we print. Our number one priority is quality. Customers may come to us for the speed of our printing, but they keep coming back because the prints continue to wash flawlessly for years to come. We’ll continue our efforts to get more and more people into our shop and spread their words about our unrivaled printing speeds.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Spend a few months asking questions before making any large investments or decisions. The biggest mistake I made was assuming what I thought the customers wanted. Also, it hurts me to say this but physical retail shops are on a downtrend. It is much easier to scale your business, and keep your cost low if you are online only. Some of the most successful business are finding ways to bring online convenience to businesses that were previously retail only.