Tee Me Up: a conversation with Glenn Tan

by Mitchell Firman

The web is a truly unique mechanism that has recreated the world in electronic form as it developed. Recently, I had a chat with Glenn Tan – the creator of Tee Me Up, a website devoted to distributing Australian indie t-shirt brands. If Amazon was a shopping mall and eBay was an auction house, Tee Me Up is the weekend market, with small stalls from all over Australia communicating directly with the customer. Throughout the interview it became apparent to me that Glenn was a passionate entrepreneur who loved the world of independent t-shirt brands – a world I have never truly been exposed to.

Glenn completed a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Melbourne in 2006. He then moved to Sydney and started working at KPMG in Corporate Tax. After five years, Glenn decided to move on and start up his own t-shirt label before launching Tee Me Up in November 2012. Being a solitary project, Glenn works fulltime in all aspects of his newly created business as well as funding it himself.

Where did the idea for Tee Me Up come from?

Having started my own t-shirt label, I grew frustrated at how hard it was to get my label and products out to the public without spending large amounts of money on marketing and advertising. Retailers were hesitant to stock any new labels given the current economic environment.

After contacting other labels, I found that many of them felt the same way, so I decided to start a website which overcomes this difficulty for smaller, indie labels by helping them get their brand name and products to the public.  Tee Me Up provides a risk-free and very appealing way for labels to sell.

How do you differentiate yourself from other online retailers, Glenn?

Tee Me Up prides itself on being young, fresh and different. It has replicated a weekend market into a website showcasing the best undiscovered t-shirt labels in Australia. As an online marketplace, Tee Me Up provides a “one-stop shop” for the public to purchase t-shirts – not your standard offering from larger, more established labels, but unique tees purchased directly from boutique labels as you find in a weekend market.

To attract these labels, Tee Me Up does not operate like a traditional retailer and provides a risk-free and appealing way for labels to sell. Labels hold on to their stock, manage and upload their own content, sell directly to customers and with no listing fees and a low commission per sale, they are given the best opportunity to showcase and grow their brand.

We have just introduced a new “Best Offer” feature which is unique to an online retail website, providing shoppers with the opportunity to negotiate the price of a product directly with sellers for certain products.

What are the expectations upon the retailers and are there any requirements?

The only requirement is that the seller must be a legitimate t-shirt label and not a retailer or third party seller.  We are highly reliant on our labels to stay engaged with the business and to do the right thing for our customers. As such, all labels are required to agree to a set of Seller Terms prior to being approved as a seller on Tee Me Up which sets out what is expected of them including the quality and condition of their products, shipping and handling, how to handle disputes etc. So far, we have had no issues with any of our labels.

Was it initially difficult to find these boutique brands or were they scrambling to find a service like yours?

We had a target number of labels we wanted on board with Tee Me Up before we commenced building the website. We reached that target easily when pitching our idea to them. The feedback we received from most of the labels we pitched was positive as well – both in terms of the service we offer, how we are helping the t-shirt industry and how we could help them get their label and products out to the public. Some have even told us that they wished they came up with the concept themselves.

Currently, we have 56 Australian labels partnered with Tee Me Up and this is growing by the day.

Glenn Tan

Glenn Tan of Tee Me Up

The “Best Offer” feature has been very well received and many labels have amended their products listings to incorporate the new feature. There have been several sales made through Tee Me Up utilising the feature.

We feel that providing shoppers with the opportunity to negotiate the price of a product directly with the labels not only enhances their shopping experience on Tee Me Up, but also promotes interaction between the customer and the labels as they would in a weekend market.  We expect more offers and sales to be made utilising the feature in the future as our labels and shoppers get used to it.

One tiny feature I noticed and loved was continuous scrolling. Are there any other nifty features in production?

We are looking at implementing a feedback function in the future where customers can provide feedback on a label on a completed transaction on how satisfied they were with the transaction. This will form an overall feedback score for the label which other customers can look at prior to making a purchase from them.

As your website increases, will it be harder for smaller, less popular brands to get noticed?

We don’t think so. Tee Me Up was created to help smaller indie labels get their brand names and products to the public. There are no “favourite labels” and all labels are provided the same opportunity on Tee Me Up with their own storefront and products appearing in the search pages. There is no doubt some labels will perform better than others.

Have you ever had any problems with payments and how secure is your payment system?

We are fortunate enough not to have encountered any problems with payment thus far.  All payments for purchases are processed securely by PayPal, the largest and most secure payment gateway in the world. In addition, the Tee Me Up website is protected by Comodo SSL using a 256-bit secure socket layer (SSL) encryption technology.

As a retail platform, it seems Tee Me Up focuses on the marketing side of the sale. But how do you market your website itself to your target audience?

We market Tee Me Up through targeted advertising and marketing initiatives including online advertising through Google and Facebook and social media to increase awareness about Tee Me Up and our labels.  Like all businesses, we also rely on word-of-mouth from friends, family, fans and our labels.

I also write a t-shirt blog and I got involved with and advertised t-shirt related events such as TEES – Exposing Melbourne’s T-Shirt Culture, a free exhibition which ran in Melbourne’s Federation Square until 17 February 2013.

What are your plans for the future?

We will look to expand Tee Me Up to include international T-shirt labels.  With our business model, geography is not an issue as all labels sell directly to the customer.  We have already had labels from the US, UK and France express an interest in selling their t-shirts on Tee Me Up.

The t-shirt market around the world is huge and our goal is for Tee Me Up to become a worldwide t-shirt marketplace featuring labels from all over the world.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Glenn – we hope Tee Me Up continues to flourish!

by Mitchell Firman

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