Teen Launches Online T-Shirt Company

The idea for creating ooShirts.com came in 2006 when a group of California high school students needed custom t-shirts for their tennis club. One of these students was...

The idea for creating ooShirts.com came in 2006 when a group of California high school students needed custom t-shirts for their tennis club. One of these students was Raymond Lei, then a sophomore. Lei volunteered to take on the task of finding the right company to print the clubs’ shirts.

Lei investigated several companies, both local and online, and discovered that unfortunately the tennis club couldn’t afford to have its design printed in tri-color like it wanted, only in black-and-white. After further research, Lei found that the actual shirts and printing process weren’t what was expensive—it was the companies’ inflated prices that made the shirts unaffordable for his club.

Disappointed by the way these companies were run, Lei vowed to one day start his own t-shirt company that ran efficiently and saved its customers money.

After saving $2,000, Lei was able to launch the first version of ooShirts.com in March of 2007. The first version of the company’s site was very simple but contained a few essential tools, such as a quote generator and preview maker that, in addition to its low prices, helped the company earn its first essential customers.

In the three years since, ooShirts.com has continued to improve its business while sticking to its three founding principles:

1. Our business is efficient.
2. We do it right the first time.
3. We communicate everything.

Learn how Lei built ooShirts, leveraged a high customer return rate and a healthy amount of referrals to grow his company.

Company: ooShirts.com

Founder, Age: Raymond Lei, 19

Location: Cupertino, California

Startup Year: 2007

Startup Costs: $2,000

How I Got Started:

I was still in my second year of high school. I was ordering shirts for a club at my school and I wanted a nice three-color logo to be printed on a black shirt. After contacting several companies, both local and online, I discovered it would simply be too expensive and that I would need to settle for a black and white logo. I didn’t want to settle, so I started my own custom t-shirt company.

Best Success Story:

My business is built on efficiency and one way we accomplish this is by having more than 20 suppliers scattered around the United States which allows us to cut costs and shipping times and gets shirts to our customers faster.

One day a customer from Georgia called us and started off the conversation by apologizing that she had procrastinated. It turned out she had a big even coming up the next day and she needed the shirts delivered at her doorstep by the next morning for the event.

If you’ve ever ordered custom t-shirts, you would know that it typically takes two weeks to get your shirts—anything under two weeks is considered a rush order, even if you’re ordering from a local company. But luckily, next day delivery was something our supply chain was optimized to do.

We were able to connect our suppliers, get the shirts printed to our customers’ exact specifications and deliver them on time.

Biggest Startup Challenge:

Probably coming up with the actual idea. I think when people say that 95% of businesses fail, a significant portion of those failures happen because the business didn’t have a good idea to begin with.

#1 Tip for New Entrepreneurs:

Believe in yourself.


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