I recently had the opportunity of doing an interview with Raymond Lei. Raymond is Founder/CEO of ooshirts, a company he founded in High school when he was only 16, Now at 20 Raymond is currently raking over 3 million in revenue at ooshirts.
Hi Raymond, Thanks for doing this, how are you doing today?
I’m doing well. Thanks for interviewing me.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
My name is Raymond Lei. I’m 20 years old right now, and run a custom t-shirt business called ooShirts.
Tell us about your company ooshirts.com, You started your company at such a young age, what was your inspiration? Have you always been entrepreneurial?
I was ordering t-shirts for my high school club, the “Tennis Club”, and had a club logo that I wanted to print on a shirt for the club members. When I began looking through companies to print the shirts, however, I found that the shirts were too expensive to print.
The companies I spoke with all said that, in order to fit the club’s budget, I needed to have a “simpler” design. I was unwilling to compromise, partially because I wanted the shirts the way they were, and partially because I thought that t-shirt printing couldn’t be that expensive. I did a lot of research on the t-shirt printing industry, and found that the prices all existing companies were charging had huge markups.
For example, if it cost them $4 to print a shirt, they would sell the shirt at $8 or $9 per shirt. I thought that, considering the volume of t-shirts purchased every year, this was grossly inefficient.
Believing that I could do better, and that many other clubs at my school could be benefited, I started ooShirts.
How were/have you been able to balance being in school full time and running a company?
When selecting courses, I tried to find courses I would enjoy so that running my business was my “work” time and going to school was “leisure”.
I don’t engage in certain forms of leisure other college students enjoy. I think that if people took all the time they spent using Facebook or looking at pictures of cats, they would have a good 500 hours of extra time every year (give or take a couple hundred hours). If you invested this time into learning one thing, you’d be very good at that one thing.
From your experience would you say it is better to start a business at a young age compared to starting after finsihing school? How has being a student helped you on your entrepreneurial journey?
Of course, it depends on the business. If it’s a business that has strict hours (a restaurant, for example), then it wouldn’t be wise. But in my case, and for anyone else with an online business, it’s ideal since the hours are flexible and the workload (in the beginning, at least) is not demanding.
What is the best part about running your own company?
You control all aspects of your work.
What are the main advantages that set you apart from the competition?
We sell the exact same product at half the price of our competitors.
How many employees do you currently have?
Three full-time employees.
What do you think has been your key to success with ooShirts so far?
Not becoming too greedy. Our prices are so much lower than our competitors that we can raise prices, and still have a lot of our customers. But our “unnecessarily” low prices is what causes customers to tell their family and friends.
How have sales grown in the last few years?
Similiar to the growth of a bacterial cell in a culture broth will unlimited nutrients.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
If you have a good product, the product will market itself. The customers we’ve served know that our product simply has better value, especially when they receive their shirts and find the quality is no different from the quality they’d buy at a retail store, and so we’ve been getting a lot of new customers through word-of-mouth.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
We’ll stick to our principle of having the better product at the lower price, and continue to grow.
What is an average workday like for you?
There’s such a diverse and dynamic range of tasks. The only answers I’d be able to give are very general – “marketing”, “operations”, etc.
How did you find your partners and how did you make sure they deliver good quality?
This is probably the step that takes the most time. Having good partners is more than about how much money is paid – it involves having a good relationship and a real understanding of each others’ businesses.
What advices could you give to entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?
Two almost contradictory ideas
1. Get rid of your limiting beliefs (for example: that you’re too young to start a business, or that you can’t start a business without 7-digit funding)
2. Understand how difficult it is. In order to succeed you need to do everything right plus get lucky.
Thanks for your time Raymond.
Check out their website: http://www.ooshirts.com/