Teemill Updates

Controversial Designs and our Values

Teemill is a platform, not one big shop. Anyone can potentially upload a design to Teemill, build their own store, sell their designs to get printed. It raises some interesting questions… Do we need some rules?

Firstly, there’s the obvious: In order to upload a custom design or create a product, the user will have both agreed to the custom product terms, store operator terms and confirmed they have obtained all relevant licenses (i.e. copyright and trademark permissions) to right to use, sell and reproduce the artwork.

So that’s clear: Designs on Teemill must be original artworks. But this blog is about something else – the more subjective idea of what is “ok” or “acceptable” to sell on Teemill. It’s a really interesting question, and it’s the first time we’ve had to think hard about this. After all, every time we’ve created a product in the past, we’re responsible for it and know the intent and values behind it. Teemill is different, because we don’t create any of the designs. We created the platform that allows people to upload and sell these designs. And it unlocks loads of powerful results.

Teemill is for the new brand that needs a platform to get started. For the talented designer to make creativity pay. Or the struggling charity that needs revenue to keep going. Maybe the band who want a better way to do merch in the 21st century.

That’s a nice idea. But it’s on the internet, we know what can happen: Trolling, incitement, extreme opinions. We want to build a platform that shares the values of the business we started out as, Rapanui. And so we got everyone at the Rapanui factory together to debate this. This whole blog is a result of that debate.

Quality

The first word that came up and everyone instantly agreed upon was quality. We want Teemill to be a quality platform with good products and designs. That means we might need to have an active role in maintaining quality. We also felt we don’t want Teemill to be about exclusivity – we want Teemill to be accessible to anyone, but the product and presentation has to be of a high quality.

Freedom of Expression

We then talked about opinion. Some of us are atheists and some of us are religious. Some gay, some straight. Some like guns. Some don’t. Some love football, some like photography. Our own beliefs and opinions shouldn’t dictate what people can and cannot design on Teemill. We all agreed that even if we don’t agree with a message or like a design, freedom of expression is important.

Some designs or opinions might be considered unpalatable or in bad taste, annoying or even offensive. It’s not always easy to know when: If you look hard enough, you might find an individual somewhere that’s offended, no matter what you do or say. For us, it becomes different at the point where a design’s made with the intention to upset people or cause offence.

The Teemill platform is a place that enables freedom of expression, even if your opinion of belief isn’t universally popular. At the same time, we will work to prevent and reduce designs that incite hatred, are designed purely to be offensive or that attack people or groups of people with the intention of causing harm.

Politics, conspiracies, far out beliefs

Politics came up when we discussed our values. We really didn’t relish in getting too involved with politics. If individuals that feel like they’d like to make tees that represent their politics or beliefs in state institutions in a reasonable way with a quality t-shirt design, this should not be something we prevent. We decided that it’s not our place to censor messages in products with a political theme.

Nudity, adult content

Nudity came up. It was quite early in the morning, and nobody liked the idea of printing lewd pictures so soon after breakfast. We’re all adults and it’s not our place to censor a bit of risque fun if that’s what you’re into. Those cheeky or flirtatious designs, if you think they’re cool, you’re welcome to upload them – but we’d rather not have all out nudity submitted in T-shirt designs for Teemill.

Profanities

Whilst we’d rather not have heaps and heaps of dumb profanity t-shirts all over Teemill, we recognise we’re all adults and if you choose to have some mild sweary language on your store for the purposes of making a funny or entertaining t-shirt, that should be up to you. Please remember, Teemill is about making profit from great quality clothes, not making a scene so let’s agree to draw the line at the C-word.

Giving customers a voice

And we realised too, that our customers are part of this debate. We have made it easy for any person to comment or flag a product that they believe is not in the spirit of Teemill’s values at any time on the contact page of every Teemill store. This page also gives anyone the opportunity to resolve a copyright or IP dispute with the store owner, and in both cases the user can alert us to help resolve the situation if a resolution cannot be resolved.

It comes down to Intent

Really, it came down to tone and intent. If a design sets out to offend, abuse, shock or hurt people or organisations, please don’t be surprised if we uphold a complaint and shut down your account.

Our attitude is that if a t-shirt design is of a high quality and the tone is not intended to be malicious, whether we agree with you or not, you’re welcome on Teemill.

*This article is blog intended to give the user a deeper understanding of how our values  guide choices that we have to make at various stages in Teemill. You might now better understand the values that influenced the design and action of algorithms that can detected and rejected your content. Or you might now have a better understanding of why we upheld a complaint against one of your products from an offended member of the public.  It does not form any part of the Teemill user agreements.

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The Difficult Second Album

Lets say you’ve decided to make money selling t-shirts online and built a store using Teemill, with some success. How do you take it to the next level?

Ever heard of “the difficult second album?” It’s an idiom about the difficulty we have in finding a way to produce successful creative content, time after time. Thing is, it’s really quite simple. A good understanding of your goals and applying the constant improvement process will make this stuff a breeze.

So first, what’s your goal?

Too often folks can’t answer this well enough. “Well, to make money of course!” – when actually, you might be more interested in growing the brand and reach at first, and not so bothered about profits. The two have different outcomes: If you want money today, go sell some stuff on eBay. If you want to grow reach, get on social media and hammer out some comms.

Clarification of goals is the fastest way to find the right action to take.

Once we’ve clarified our goals, for example, to increase the number of tees we sell, we need to find the right metric. Simple: It’s not money, it’s volume of tees sold. Now we can make a plan.

Constant Improvement Process

Enter our ethos, the constant improvement process. The constant improvement process is a way of thinking that helps growing businesses facilitate the change they need to get to where they want to be – in other words, a framework for your goals.

CIP

Plan.

Planning is where you set out your goals, and devise plan to achieve them. Be calm when planning – your strategy could be any plan, even a bad one. Just write it down.

  • Plan: Increase sales of t-shirts by eating more salami.

Do.

This rule is important. When you do it, you do it. No half measures, no slacking. You go at it like Obi Wan vs. Anakin. Stop after an agreed time, i.e. a week or month.

  • Do: Eat as much Salami as possible in that time frame.

Measure.

This is not a finger in the air, see how we feel thing. Teemill is equipped with a quality suite of lightweight, powerful analytics tools – use them. Measuring is about numbers – and normalisation, ie. percentages and fractions. “I sold 1000 t-shirts this week” may be great news to a startup but failure to an enterprise: A 50% increase in sales is universal.

  • Measured: Sales dropped by 1%

Report.

If you’re working alone, take time to read and think about your report, and challenge assumptions. If you’re in a team, have a quality meeting – it doesn’t matter where, although we find it’s best to go someplace without distractions.

  • Report: Salami does not affect t-shirt sales.

 

Repeat: Make sure you go straight into your planning phase….

  • Plan: Stop eating so much Salami, it didn’t work. Start posting some marketing communications each day.
  • Do: Post an amazing quality story each day, every day, no matter what.
  • Measure: Sales increased by 10%
  • Report: Posting online increases sales.
  • Plan: Increase posts, and design a new product to keep story fresh.

… Continue all the way to success

So that’s it?

Yes. This is pretty much the engine of most great companies, and is perhaps one way of explaining what people mean when they say “success is not a destination, it’s a state of mind”. Enough of the cheesy stuff. You really should be starting out on your first planning phase. After all, the number of times you repeat this process is linked to how fast you will reach your goals.

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Customer Problem? Don’t worry about it.

Someday, if you’re successful with Teemill, a customer will reach out and get in touch with you with a problem. It might be something simple like a size change, or something dramatic like a damaged product or refund request.

It’s our job to take great care of it. That’s part of the deal with Teemill: Factored in to the pricing structure is the cost of handling returns, exchanges, calls and emails all day in a busy customer care team. We do this every day, and we’re quite good at it. Let us talk you through what you need to do to resolve customer issues.

But I want no problems, ever!

Firstly, stats. In the e-commerce fashion world, return rates of 20-40% are common. That means 20-40% of all product most companies send out comes back for some reason. Returns, exchanges, problems – it’s part of the game. The only way to get no issues, is not to play.

At Teemill our return rate is very low (in single-digits) largely due to the optimisation of our shops, size chart advice and photography.

The point is, zero returns, exchanges and issues is not possible: If you’re selling, you will encounter a return, exchange, refund etc: It will happen: It’s totally normal.

It might be a question from a customer about the product’s manufacturing provenance, the fit and feel, or it might be an expression of disappointment or a request for a refund or exchange.

Whatever the issue is, we’ll sort it the same working day.

Exchanges are free in the UK, refunds are part of our customer service policy, and we often go above and beyond to make sure your customers are happy.
Every problem or question is a great opportunity to build a customer for life: Our full-time customer care team understands, and we love resolving customer issues and getting amazing reactions out of them: Particularly on social media!


This service costs you nothing – we’ll deal with all your customer issues the same day. So how do you make it happen? Simple…

Let us know immediately.

If you’ve got a customer who needs attention, let us know immediately. Our hello@teemill.co.uk account is a catch-all for any issue to do with customers. You can also call us on 01983 409790 to tell us about an issue too.

Or on twitter, tag us with @teemillstore

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VAT registered? Teemill VAT invoicing

Value-added tax is a UK-specific sales tax. Big companies in the UK are often VAT registered, and can get the VAT due on top of royalties too. This blog is for accounts-literate financial professionals: If you’re not VAT registered, or don’t know what that is, this blog is not for you!

At Teemill, the customer transaction is between their bank and ours, and we pay you royalties on each sale. Royalties are paid exclusive of VAT automatically, but if you’re VAT registered you can get the VAT due on top of your royalties too.

VAT Registered Example

For example, if a white t-shirt that retails for £20 and costs us £10 inc VAT to make, there’s £10 profit including VAT to split 50:50:  £5 for us and £5 for you.

As royalties are paid exclusive of VAT, our system will automatically pay you the £5 ex.VAT above: Therefore the standard payment will be £4.17. If you’re VAT registered you can claim back the VAT due on your royalties (e.g. the £0.83 balance from your earnings, from the VAT man.)

All royalty payments are made automatically at the end of the month. If you’re VAT registered, you can then claim back your VAT by advising your accounts team to do the following:

  • • Send a VAT invoice including your total royalties paid for the month PLUS VAT due on those royalties

and

  • • A statement that shows this invoice as well as the payment of ex.VAT royalties made by our system at the end of the month to pay@teemill.co.uk.

 

This will show a balance of the VAT due on royalties you have earned.

All royalty payments are made each month, automatically by our system. We also make VAT balance payments (each Friday) for the VAT amount due, bringing your VAT balance to zero.

Hey presto, VAT-registered companies accounting with Teemill, made simple.

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What’s the difference between DTG and Screenprinting?

Digital t-shirt printers

This article is a comparison between screen printing and DTG (digital direct to garment printing). Our bulk factory screen prints for some of Europe’s biggest brands, yet for all but a few of the top Teemill sellers, your on-demand fulfillment will be via DTG. How do the two print methods compare?

Firstly, lets talk over the reasons there are different print methods in the first place. Screen printing is a low cost, high quality way to print high volumes of shirts where the design on each product is the same. It costs very little in ink and time per print. However, the set up costs to cut the lithographic screens, mix the inks and process the art is seriously time intensive. It can take hours to set up for a job. It’s only really suitable where you’re printing 50 or more tees of the same design. The average order size for screenprinting at our factory is around 2000 units, for example.

Compare that to Teemill print on demand fulfillment, where the customer gets a free online store and sells their designs online. We print each order one at a time and ship the same day with your branding. Doing setup on each order just wouldn’t be viable.

Digital printing is different to screen printing, in that the print head prints directly onto the fabric like a paper printer. Screen printing machines put one colour down at a time.

That means that there’s almost no set up – in fact, our technology automates all this. So we can print on demand, and in as many colours as we like!

The look, feel and capability of the print differs with each technique. Screen printing produces thick, punchy block colours which are slightly more vibrant and saturated.

The blacks are blacker, the whites are really bright, whereas with digital printing the inks are mixed differently and have slightly less pop. But digital has many advantages.

Screenprinting is limited to block vector graphics with a limited number of colours, and the artwork is much harder to prepare. DTG in comparison is a breeze, you can upload a simple jpeg photo and get the print out in full colour.

Washability

The print wash-care of both methods should really be comparable, especially when you follow the wash-care instructions – wash cool, hang dry. However, our feeling is that screen print inks have the edge in long-life wash-care scenarios, but only just.

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