Aaron Wallace, the co-founder of Inspire Uplift, launched his business 5 years ago. What initially started as a community on social media has since turned into a custom-built marketplace that helps its sellers connect to a wider audience organically and through advertising.
Thanks to how much Inspire Uplift is growing, Aaron’s role and responsibilities change on almost a weekly basis. You'll find him communicating with customers, coordinating marketing activities, and launching new features on his platform. Inspire Uplift’s Facebook page has grown to 6 million followers, and their marketplace supports over 4,000 sellers.
We spoke to Aaron about Inspire Uplift’s growth trajectory, and how print-on-demand helped him transition into ecommerce.
Aaron and his team started out by launching their Facebook page in 2017. He reflects, “It was kind of a media company where we shared content that would get a lot of organic reach. Over time we built up millions of followers on Facebook and started transitioning into selling unique products that would get a lot of engagement.”
“We slowly evolved from a media company to an ecommerce retailer, and over the last 2–3 years, we started working directly with manufacturers that fulfilled products for us. Then about 2 years ago we migrated away from the Shopify platform and custom-built our own marketplace that we opened for other sellers. There they can open and manage their Shops, manage their products and inventory, and communicate with customers.”
Aaron decided to launch his own platform because he saw a gap in what’s currently available. He felt like popular platforms and marketplaces today don’t offer sellers enough support. His goal is to act as a partner to his sellers in terms of advertising efforts and connecting them to a wider audience.
“We’re hoping to bridge the gap between these really talented independent creators and small businesses that have something super unique but they don’t know how to reach people online. I don’t know what’s harder—paid advertising or building up an organic following and reaching them organically. It’s very difficult for people, especially when they’re already managing a small business and making their own products by hand.”
“At this point, we have over 4,000 sellers using our platform and I’m hoping that it’ll keep growing. We have over 6 million followers on Facebook, but we also have a bunch of other pages that have anywhere from 200,000 to 600,000 followers on each page. We have groups on Facebook that have maybe 50,000 members, and a Pinterest profile with 3.6 million followers.”
Aaron Wallace, co-founder of Inspire Uplift
Aaron started working with print-on-demand in 2019. He had tried several services before landing on Printful, but the quality was often inconsistent. Since partnering with Printful, product quality and consistency drastically improved.
“With print-on-demand and Printful, the barrier to entry is so low. If you have an idea, you can open up your Etsy shop or Shopify store, integrate it with Printful, and it doesn’t cost you anything to get started and test your idea. If it works, you can expand upon that. If you do find something that works, you’re not going to be limited by ordering products in bulk, waiting 30 days for them to arrive, and shipping everything to customers yourself.”
“It’s easy to get started. You’re not bulk ordering or guessing—you can just try it out.”
In addition to testing new design ideas and launching new products quickly, working with Printful means you don’t have to stretch yourself thin learning about manufacturing or spend time shipping products out yourself. You can focus on your strengths and outsource the logistics to a reputable partner.
“Printful has solved the problem of access to products, manufacturing, shipping, and these kinds of things. We have talented design and social media teams, but we don’t know how the manufacturing or print-on-demand side works. Printful makes that really easy for us in terms of how it connects to our marketplace and automatically fulfills products, the fast fulfillment times, shipping times, and quality. These are things that we can't take on ourselves.”
Inspire Uplift is an interesting use case—they use Printful to fulfill their own products, but they have also launched an integration on their platform so sellers can use it. Aaron says that “Printful was actually one of the first integrations that we built for our marketplace—it was a no-brainer when we migrated from Shopify to build our own platform. We made sure that it was open to third-party sellers.”
Aaron has found that print-on-demand is an especially good fit if you already have a big following. Printful has helped them to leverage their audience, respond to trends in real time, and run with designs that go viral.
Source: Inspire Uplift
“We have our own design team that makes shirts with memes translated on them—funny quotes and things that you would want to share—and we post them on our social media channels. It was pretty easy for us to get into because we had an existing following, and we could experiment with 10, 20, or even 50 t-shirts and see which one would get the engagement to make it go viral.”
“Printful has allowed us to better harness our existing social media following.”
With such a big audience, Inspire Uplift also has a high order volume—they're currently averaging 500 orders a day. This is lower than their usual level, since they recently decreased their marketing budget and efforts to focus on the development of their platform. But they're predicting a strong holiday season.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth since we started, but now we’re averaging maybe 500 orders a day across our marketplace, which adds up to about 15,000 orders a month. During the holiday season, I'm hoping that we can get back to a point where we’re doing 2,000 or 3,000 orders a day.”
Printful makes it easy to pivot into the ecommerce space and monetize your existing audience. You can test several designs at once to see what your customers are drawn to, or respond to topical trends and launch new products in minutes. If a product takes off, Printful can handle the scale. You don’t have to place orders in bulk and package everything yourself. We do that on demand while you focus on your strengths.
The barrier to entry to sell merch with Printful is low. So try it out, and let us help you harness your audience.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Nora has been part of the Printful team since 2015. She has spent the last several years writing content, coordinating communications projects, and helping customers learn about ecommerce. Now as Printful's Brand Manager, she gets to use her experience and knowledge in new and challenging ways.
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