Itsjusta6 is an automotive-focused brand that creates videos all about racing, building, and breaking cars. What started out as an idea between friends is now an entertainment brand with 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube and an additional 250K and 350K followers on Facebook and Instagram, respectively.
It was founded by 3 college friends—Nic, Daniel, and Gavin. While growing their audience and publishing new video content, Nic and his team simultaneously built the itsjusta6 clothing brand, which now averages 6,000–7,000 orders a month.
We talked to Nic, who manages the YouTube channel and the online store, about how they found success and flexibility with print-on-demand.
Nic, Daniel, and Gavin met in college and bonded over their appreciation of cars. Inspired by the entrepreneurial buzz that surrounded them at school, the three friends started brainstorming business ideas.
It all started when Daniel pushed Gavin to start posting photos and videos of his car on Instagram. They noticed that this content was gaining a lot of traction on the platform, so they decided to try publishing it on YouTube. At the time, YouTube was already well into its prime, so building an audience there was an uphill climb. But after some wins, a few failures, and constant determination, their channel started to grow.
“Success found us, but it helps when you’re looking for it, so maybe we bumped into each other.”
“We learned quickly with YouTube how snowballing views work. Kind of like a fire—the spark was there, and then it slowly started growing. Each small victory gave us just a little bit more motivation to move forward to the next video, and come up with the next cool idea for a video, and then the next one, which can be difficult after a while… When you put up hundreds of them, you really wonder how long can this stay successful, but it hasn’t run dry on us yet. So I think success found us by us going out there looking for it and just trying. Because a lot of videos that we put up have absolutely bombed. It’s been embarrassing. But we never quit, I guess. Even when it seemed embarrassing to keep going, we kept going.”
The team’s hard work, creativity, and grit paid off. 5 years later, they have over a million followers across multiple channels and a merch store that averages 6,000–7,000 orders every month. That translates to anywhere between $250K and $300K a month in revenue.
Typically, creators start selling merch only after they’ve amassed an audience, but that wasn’t the case for itsjusta6. From the beginning, building a clothing brand was as integral to their business as growing their channel.
“Starting a small clothing brand was actually as much of a goal as the channel was in the beginning. So while we were putting out videos that only got a thousand views, I can vividly remember having a stack of boxes in my college bedroom of t-shirts. Our first order was so exciting. We ordered 50 t-shirts and I folded them all in my bedroom and packaged them up, and sent them out to people. We sold 50 of them in like a day, I couldn’t believe it… I’d say early 2018 is about when the merch started. It’s 2022 now, and it’s come a very long way from boxes in the bedroom.”
Learn More: How to start a clothing brand
As merch sales started to grow with their channel, Nic realized that something needed to change. It was getting hard to keep up and manually order, pack, and ship everything themselves. There was a point when they were dealing with around $100,000 worth of orders in a month. As rookie 20-something-year-old entrepreneurs—Nic jokingly referred to themselves as kids—he knew they were in over their heads.
Their manufacturing process was also inefficient. It didn’t allow for flexibility—they had to spend money and place their orders far in advance if they wanted to add new designs.
“It was archaic, we had to plan out a month in advance. So if I wanted to drop a new design or a new collection of designs, I’d have to order way out, and we’d be out of that money.”
Nic says that he started to explore print-on-demand when he realized that he “liked the design process more than the supply chain and inventory management side of things. So it was a challenge running the merchandising. It was a challenge that we were up for, and we wanted to tackle it head-on. But the big, hard lesson that we had to learn was that sometimes you need to stick to your strengths. And our strengths were that we were creative, we were good at marketing, we knew how to play the social media game, and it was working out well for us. We’re not supply-chain specialists, we’re not so great at managing inventory, incoming and outgoing. So once the channel had scaled to a certain size, merchandise sales were also scaling to a certain size, so it was a lot to keep up with… But after a lot of mistakes and a lot of lost money, we realized that trying to manage the in-between on that level was just, to be frank, above our heads.”
Learn More: 50 Surprisingly Creative Merch Ideas + Examples
Even with their challenges, their merch sales were holding steady. Nic was determined not to let that revenue stream die, so they switched to print-on-demand.
Nic did his research before deciding on Printful. One of his top priorities was finding a print-on-demand provider that integrated with Shopify since that’s where they had already built their store. Printful stood out to him in part thanks to our Shopify integration and intuitive user interface.
“I wanted something that easily integrated with Shopify. And after going through 6 or 7 different options, Printful was the Goldilocks fit—it met all of my requirements. The user interface was friendly, which is a big deal. It may not seem like a big deal, but having a good, easy-to-navigate user interface is incredibly important for internal operations. For instance, if I hire somebody new to help me and I need to train them how to use Printful software, it doesn’t need to take them 3 weeks to figure it out. They need like a week and it’s all good, no problem. So honestly, just from my own research, and after getting hands-on with the software and trying it out, Printful stood out as by far just the best option.”
Partnering with Printful meant that Nic and his team could get back to working on what they loved. Printful’s flexibility also positively impacted their business growth, letting them drop new collections in hours instead of weeks.
“The flexibility that Printful gives can’t be beaten. Print-on-demand offers a business the insane ability to adapt to anything. When you’re working in entertainment, in marketing, that’s our bread-and-butter—entertainment marketing… People are quick to change what they like, so to keep up with that, you need to be innovating and putting out new designs or new products all the time. With print-on-demand, I can launch a collection of a dozen new products in a day.”
When you’re keeping up with rapidly-changing consumer sentiment, every minute counts. With Printful, Nic and his team can go from design to ready-to-buy product in a day, which is valuable time saved. While Nic supports small, local print businesses, he acknowledges that they simply can’t keep up with that pace.
“I can’t go to [a local printer] and say—hey, I have 12 new designs that I want to launch today, they need to be ready to go. With Printful, I can do it. It’s just a breeze. It opened up a world of possibilities really. So we stay innovative and we stay cranking out new designs and new products, and it’s great.”
For Nic, an unexpected bonus of working with Printful was the team itself and their enthusiasm.
“I will say, one thing that has been pleasantly surprising about Printful is the team. I don’t think I’ve worked with a more enthusiastic team. I’m regularly connected on Slack, so I chat back and forth pretty much every day. Printful also handles our customer service for us, which is a big deal. That’s a freaking awesome thing that they do. And we worked that out with them, and so far it’s been… I sleep better at night, I’ll say that.”
When working with a print-on-demand provider, they become an extension of your business. Your products and reputation are in their hands, so find a partner you can rely on.
“It’s encouraging for me to work with people who want to be doing what they’re doing. They’re excited to be working on whatever the project may be, they don’t get discouraged when the tough times show up, 'cause they will show up. I’ve learned over the years not to take that for granted, so I very much appreciate pretty much everybody so far that I’ve worked with at Printful. They’re always super positive and very enthusiastic and excited to just be present in the projects.”
When asked about advice he has for brands considering print-on-demand, Nic says to take advantage of the freedom you get. Print-on-demand removes a lot of the risk in launching new products, letting you experiment without losing money or tying up capital in your merch.
“[Print-on-demand] strips away the risk that comes with the traditional merchandising route. When you have to say—okay, I have to place an order, hypothetically, for 1,000 shirts, they’re not going to be ready for 2 weeks. Once they’re finished, then I can start selling them. You’re going to be out of that money for probably 4 weeks. For one, it ties up all your business capital and that’s very hard to do. When you don’t have money, you can’t do a whole lot of things as a business. With Printful and print-on-demand, we can keep all of our capital and say—okay, we still have a bunch of money, so whether we want to run new designs, run advertising, maybe push a new collection, or something else that we want to spend the money on, we can.”
Nic and his team have also experienced firsthand what happens when you invest in new products that flop. Needless to say, it’s not something they want to repeat, and with print-on-demand, they don’t have to.
“That was another huge part, it’s actually what made us switch to print-on-demand—that we thought a collection was going to do great, we put a lot of money into it and it flopped. People didn’t like it. And that risk punches you in the stomach when it happens, 'cause you lose a lot of money. It’s hard to deal with. When print-on-demand comes to the game, it takes all the risk off the table. You’ve got nothing to lose by trying out new designs or collections and constantly throwing darts at the board to see what works. Print-on-demand gives you the opportunity to learn without the risk of losing a lot of money. And that is invaluable. The value of that aspect alone is enough to probably never go back to traditional merchandising methods.”
Without the upfront investment and risk of traditional manufacturing, Nic and his team were able to triple the size of their product catalog. While this didn’t necessarily increase their order volume, it did increase the number of returning customers and their overall lifetime value. A customer might initially buy a t-shirt or hoodie, and then they’ll come back later for different products. The more you can offer the customer, the more they’ll come back to buy from you.
“Once we switched over to Printful, we were able to triple our product catalog. We had so much more stuff to offer people, so our returning customer count went up. When you have a small product catalog, they can only buy so much stuff. But when you open it up, people just kept coming back. So we didn’t see too much difference in volume, but we did see a huge increase in the lifetime value of a customer. Before, a customer would spend maybe $100 on our store. After Printful, a customer over a year or two would then maybe spend $150–$180 at our store. And if you look at that in a bubble for 1 customer, it’s not much of a difference. But when you’re looking at 10,000 customers, it’s like—oh, okay, this is awesome! So while the volume of orders didn’t necessarily increase, the lifetime value of a customer actually increased drastically, so having more to offer to our loyal customers was a very big advantage of using Printful.”
Print-on-demand is an ideal merch solution for brands in the entertainment industry who need to keep up with rapidly-changing trends and customer preferences. You can continue to scale your business without spending time on the manufacturing side. Ultimately, what print-on-demand really gives you is the freedom to experiment, grow, and be fearlessly creative.
Printful made it easy for the itsjusta6 clothing brand to scale alongside their channel and community. Nic and his team have the freedom to test the limits of their creativity and scale their product offering with almost no risk. They're not going back to their old way of doing things.
“We decided to pivot to print-on-demand and personally, for me and our small team, I’m not looking back. It’s a perfect solution.”
And for anyone wondering about the meaning of the itsjusta6 name, it came about as an inside joke between friends:
“So, “it’s just a six” refers to the cylinders of an engine. A couple of friends were racing. One car had a V-6 in it, kind of a smaller motor, and the other car racing had a V-8. More cylinders, bigger motor, more horsepower. Should be faster—should win. But Gavin was racing with a V-6. He ended up winning, the other guy got mad, and was like—what? What motor is in your car, what do you have in there, there’s no way it’s the normal motor, you must have put something bigger in there. And he’s like no, it’s just a 6, nothing special. And so that kind of stuck.”
Nic says that he and his friends-turned-business-partners weren’t thinking of their name in terms of long-term growth. At the time, their brand was so small that it didn't cross their minds to pick something that could scale with them, that was easier to market and explain. They weren’t anticipating that they would grow so big, but when you go looking for success, it finds you.
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.