As we wrote recently, many of the more interesting startups that have emerged over the past year are improving our lives in the real world better by using data, location and curation as their competitive weapons. Startups like Uber and Airbnb are bringing industries online or mobile, creating a more seamless experience for consumers. A Chicago-based startup called Apparel Media Group (AMG) is aiming to disrupt the custom apparel printing industry by connecting brands and consumers.
Imagine a community that needs athletic uniforms or t-shirts for a kids soccer team and a brand like Honda that wants to target soccer moms with their latest vehicle. AMG helps the team purchase Honda-branded apparel at a discount price and allows Honda to create a deeper connection with their target audience. Historically, local businesses have sponsored community or college teams, but Apparel Media gives national brands a way to target these specific communities at schools, colleges and in communities.
On the consumer side, Apparel Media’s online platform partners with local and national screen printing companies in cities and towns in the U.S. On the advertiser side, Apparel Media’s online platform can be used by advertisers to target specific groups (i.e. a men’s college ultimate frisbee team, or a girls softball team in the Midwest).
Through AMG’s SaaS platform, advertisers can see what groups are currently in need of sponsorship and can initiate a campaign with specific groups. Because the shirts and apparel include an advertiser’s branding, the printing company is given supplemental income, which then reduces the price of the consumer’s mass order of t-shirts. Apparel Media says discounts range from 20 to 80 percent of the price for the apparel.
Advertisers can use a variety of printing options to engage with consumers. Some advertisers simple include a logo of their brand, and others include QR codes on t-shirts (for a more tech-friendly crowd such as college groups). Advertisers can even include special packaging (like free samples, or coupons) for t-shirts, so that when a consumer receives a branded packaging with the t-shirt.
Apparel Media is also in the process of launching an in-depth analytics dashboard that will allow advertisers to see analytics and data around campaigns.
The startup’s business is taking off. Brands like AXE, OfficeMax and Hertz have already jumped onboard with Apparel Media and the company has a number of other high-profile advertisers that are using the platform. Currently, Apparel Media says it reaches 35 million consumers per year in more than 5,500 local markets.
AMG, which launched last year, has raised $2 million in funding from FF Venture Capital, LaunchCapital, Gravity Ventures, OCA Ventures, Vast Ventures, Anduin Venture Partners, Daniel Toscano, Keith Miller, Lon Chow, Stuart Larkins, Greg Rudin and Vijay Chattha.
While there are a considerable amount of logistics involved with signing up printers and integrating these small businesses into their SaaS platform, Tolia and Golden have extensive experience with the screen printing business. The pair started a custom apparel printing company while at University of Indiana as college students.
Apparel Media, which was founded by Amish Tolia and Jared Golden, has an compelling take on connecting advertisers with local consumers. Although Apparel Media is going after a smaller market than Airbnb, it is adding value to both the consumer (discounted t-shirts) and brands (targeted reach).