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May 08, 2020

Image of stacked DVLPR shirts

It’s been five and a half years since I started DVLPR®. In that time I’ve learned a lot, met a bunch of awesome people, and have had a lot of fun. However, what DVLPR turned into wasn’t what I set out to build.

DVLPR is my second apparel company. The first one was called Feachured and I ran it with my sister. We did things the way we learned how to. We made some designs, found a screen printer, got a lot of t-shirts made and sent to our parents house where we lived at the time. We then would ship each order on our own, adding in stickers and personal touches. It made for a great experience for the 10 people who bought our stuff 😅

When starting DVLPR, I wanted to avoid having hundreds of unsold tshirts in my basement (which I still do from Feachured) and learned about a newish way of doing things, at the time, called Print on Demand.

Print on demand, or POD, looked like the perfect option. I could make a design, put it up on a site, and sell it without carrying any inventory. When a customer bought something, it would get printed from my supplier and shipped directly from them to my customer. I made the small difference in my sales price, and the price I paid for it to get printed and shipped. Not too bad for not having to do any of the hard work.

With everything, there are pros and cons. In the beginning the pros of POD out weighed the cons by quite a bit. However the longer I kept growing DVLPR the more I started to rethink things. It quickly got away from my vision, and turned into more of a souvenir shop filled with gag gifts. For the most part, people really liked it, but it wasn’t me and I lost the passion for the project. It became so easy to think of a funny code thing, make a design and throw it up on the shop. I could make a t-shirt, iPhone case, mugs, etc, all from one design and using one supplier. Suddenly I had 100+ products and no real focus.

Since items are shipped from the supplier directly to the customer, there was no way for me to add stickers, thank you notes, etc to the package. (They have since allowed for this, but it costs a lot) There was also no way for me to QA each product before it got shipped out. Many customers got defective products, and one even got a totally different shirt from another shop that used the same supplier as me. She ordered a code shirt and got some random dog shirt 😂

Branding was another issue. You couldn’t print neck labels, add hem tags or do anything besides a couple different print areas, which is fine for a gift shop type experience, but again, not what I set out to build.

I got lazy. The shop was working, people enjoyed my products, and it was making a very small amount of money.

One day, last year, I decided it was time to change it up. Go back to what I envisioned for DVLPR, a brand, not a gift shop. I went back to the basics. I found a local screen printer, got hem tags made, got custom mailers, stickers, etc…

I also wanted to build my own site instead of using a free Shopify theme. So I did. I made a headless Shopify site with Gatsby. It looked and worked great. That was five months ago…

I told myself and the community I would reopen the shop in early 2020. January went by, February was crazy busy with my wife and son being sick most the month, then this whole Covid thing, and now suddenly it’s May.

It’s time to stop making excuses and just ship the damn thing, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m starting with a small amount of inventory and product offerings, with the goal to increase that as time goes on. All orders are shipped by me, from inventory I already have.

Will any of this pan out? Who knows. What I do know is that I’m happy with this direction and it feels like what I set out to build five and a half years ago.

Happy Coding,

Travis Werbelow


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