Jack of all Threads: contribute to causes while buying funky T-shirts

Remember your college days when you’d run around collecting T-shirt orders for your festival or student group? The frustration of not knowing how many T-shirts to order is a pain college students are a little too familiar with!

Jack of all Threads (JoaT) is here to solve that and help students contribute to the causes they care about! Jack of all Threads is a socially innovative custom apparel company targeted at college students.

They have designed the unique Impacthread concept which allows college students to support social causes when bulk-ordering their college tees and hoodies from them. With Impacthread, JoaT encourages customers to pay Rs.10-20 extra per college tee and match the donation to the selected cause. They also print a complimentary thumb-sized Impacthread heart as a show of recognition and awareness.

Think of them as an awesome blend of Threadless, TeeSpring and Sevenly!

Jack of all threads

Most recently, they have launched RAISE, India’s first crowdfunding platform for customised merchandise. RAISE allows people to create and sell their own tees, while keeping the profit at zero risk. It’s being used for all kinds of projects — college tees, fan groups, witty designs, artwork and best of all, for promoting social causes.

We caught up with one of the Singapore-based founders, Yash Vardhan Kanoi, to find out more about what makes JoaT tick.

YS: What was the inspiration for Jack of All Threads, Impacthread and RAISE?

Yash: During my last years of high school in Singapore, I became a theatre fanatic and practically lived in the studio. So my theatre society t-shirt was a matter of some serious pride, much more so than my school uniform. After high-school, I wanted to take this same spirit of doing amazing things outside of class back in my school in Bangalore, India.

A couple of friends and I started The Campus Store. It failed. But a year later me and one of my previous founders, Apoorvaa, reconnected and decided to give this another try and with a proper team. Akash and Pratibha were asked to come on board and Jack of all Threads was founded.

Through our unique model we encourage students to stand for more when in college.

Inspiration for Impacthread: We wanted to do something socially charged. But we wanted to be more than a donation box. We wanted to tap on the fantastic viewership college tees receive.

Impacthread was born of a very interesting mix of inspiration – Movember and Pepsi.

Movember is a social concept in which guys grow their moustaches in November. Their friends can’t help but ask them in shock – WHY? In reply they’re told about prostate cancer awareness. So the element of something highly visible and iconic is used to raise awareness.

Pepsi introduced something called the Freshness Label. It was a whole new way of measuring the quality of a cola! The thought was gripping, we could introduce a new standard of measure in college apparel, one that had never been thought of – ‘Does your college tee make a difference?’

Inspiration for RAISE: RAISE also has interesting roots. The same marketing class in which I learned about Pepsi, I also studied Groupon’s group discount model. To a bunch of college kids who couldn’t for their lives figure out retail, this was very exciting; a potentially zero-risk selling option and the massive scope for impact that could come with it. But developing a platform was extremely intimidating, and they simply let the idea go.

More than a year later, I spent six months managing the marketing for a new product launch of a hi-tech company in Israel. I was much clearer on how such things worked and geared up to apply it to JoaT.

YS: How big is the team and what are the backgrounds of the co-founders?

Yash: We have four co-founders. I am an engineering and liberal arts student under the University Scholars Programme at NUS, Singapore. I bring the team together, set direction and try to amplify the work that everyone does. I am best known for walking around the campus in bright red pyjamas.

Apoorvaa Agarwal is an engineering student at PESIT, Bangalore. She handles all the datasets, financials and partnerships and generally employs her intelligence to set up things in an awesome way.

Akash Datta is an animation student at NAFA, Singapore. He is responsible for the stunning visuals behind every aspect of JoaT and managing our Design Monkeys.

Pratibha Nair is a biotech student at MVIT, Bangalore. She manages the entire production line, is responsible for JoaT’s epic customer feedback and manages the Marketing Execs across India.

We also have an amazing team of Execs, Campus Ambassadors and Design Monkeys spread across India, Singapore and the Middle East. They make JoaT the most fun place to work at in the world.

YS: How long have you been around and what has the success been like so far?

Yash: Jack of all Threads has been around for a year and a half. It’s been quite a ride. We started getting good business right from our first couple of months — with even top international schools wanting to order with us. We recruited people from multiple countries, got covered by different media houses and partnered with some amazing causes.

But things didn’t pick up pace until now.  Before this our goal had been to have a startup on the side, and so we were growing extremely slowly. But as mentioned, last year I worked at a $10m startup in Israel and understood how a startup really works. My co-founders were graduating soon and they were all keen to see JoaT make it big. Endless sleepless nights, espresso shots and failed assignments ensued.

And RAISE was born! RAISE was launched just a few days ago this week, and the response has been phenomenal!

In two days, we’ve got over 60 users, and from various backgrounds. So far, Raisers include students, college groups, designers, social groups, teachers and even retail outlets. For instance, one person is using RAISE to fund his art school and another person is using it to share his extremely inspirational story of how he overcame the life-changing struggle of being run-over by a train.

Even in general, we have seen some tremendous growth over time. We get emails nearly every day from potential new recruits, and it’s pretty amazing to see that students around the country in the most off-beat towns understand our vision and relate with it, and want to make a difference as students. We’re extremely excited about what’s ahead.

YS: How is Jack of All Threads different from Threadless or TeeSpring?

Yash: Threadless focuses on just artists and doesn’t use crowdfunding. They do straight-out retail. Crowdfunding is easier and cleaner. Plus, unlike either of these two, JoaT does the design! Our team of Design Monkeys work very closely with Raisers to churn out something great. We’ve had situations where the client sends a snapshot of a drawing and we turn that into what we think is a beautiful, ready-to-print design.

Jack of all Threads targets a more tailored set of needs, given its experience in the college student market of India. So the initial need that we are fulfilling with RAISE is getting a clear order number for festivals and group tee orders. We’ve been in frustrating situations where every day the order quantity would change for class orders, and the main person ordering would be running around with a piece of paper. We wanted to save ourselves and the customer some pain.

And with college festivals, what happens is that a student union places bulk orders and marks up the price to raise funds from students. We hated that students didn’t understand that and thought that our prices were that high, and we also hated that the reason for the high markup was not knowing the optimal quantity — ordering too much meant inventory loss, too less meant shortage cost for the student unions. We wanted to address this.

So our brand, its marketing, pricing, usage scenarios etc. are a lot more fine-tuned to the college student market specifically. We believe it makes quite a difference.

YS: How do you manage the production of the T-shirts?

Yash: We’ve had partnerships worked out over time with a set of manufacturing units around South India for different aspects of production, each being constantly evaluated even as we work towards scaling enough to take it in-house. Pratibha ensures that we always maintain quality that we’d be proud of and reasonable enough for us to have paid for.

We’ve seen quite some growth even in this regard. A year back, we literally got thrown out of one production house and were told not to waste their time. Now we get emails every week from new manufacturing units requesting that we partner with them.

YS: How does JoaT make money?

Yash: Jack of all Threads charges the Raiser a flat fee per tee that is included in the cost price given to them. We do not charge a percentage of the Raiser’s profit.

YS: What is the big audacious goal for Jack of All Threads?

Yash: Students in every city in India want to use RAISE to create and sell something amazing.

YS: What’s the next big thing in the horizon that your team is working on?

Yash: We’re taking RAISE to all kinds of people to see the great things they’re using it for. It’s something like the App Store a few years ago, even we don’t fully realise the things that people can do with this.

Check them out and order your funky t-shirts here: www.jackofallthreads.co

Satya Kothimangalam

Satya Kothimangalam

Satya is a start-up, innovation and social enterprise enthusiast based out of Singapore. She writes about startups in South East Asia for YourStory. She is a vegetarian foodie (they exist!), avid traveller, tennis lover and Federer's biggest fan. Email her at satya.kothimangalam@gmail.com.