Business

Melbourne custom printing T-shirt company Threadheads makes $13m in a year

The friends were struggling to generate any money – then a Daniel Andrews even made them millionaires.

Two Melbourne mates have managed to rake in $13 million in a year in large part thanks to a widely popular meme about their state premier Daniel Andrews.

Ace Reunis and Marcus Siegel, aged 30 and 49 respectively, launched their T-shirt company called Threadheads four years ago but admit it got off to a “slow start”.

It wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic arrived on Australia’s shores in March 2020 that things took off.

As bored Melburnians endured a 112-day lockdown, they turned to online shopping to pass the time – and Threadheads was more than happy to oblige.

Revenue was at “literally nothing”, according to co-founder Ace Reunis, but a T-shirt of Daniel Andrews changed their fortunes after it became a bestseller.

The Victorian premier now famously chastised Victorians in a 2020 press conference for “getting on the beers” with their mates during the first extended lockdown.

The T-shirt company wasted no time in designing their own item of clothing with those four iconic words emblazoned across the fabric.

“We were adding a lot of fun to people’s lives in what was a dark time,” Mr Reunis told news.com.au.

Along with a number of other humorous designs, the company started to get hundreds of orders a day and went from obscurity to making millions.

Fast forward to two years later and the mates are on track to rake in $13.2 million in revenue for the 2022 financial year.

Mr Siegel and his wife Sabrina started Threadheads in 2018, with everyone telling them they were crazy for quitting their stable jobs to strike out on their own.

The couple brought Mr Reunis on board for his marketing skills and between the three of them, they scraped together $30,000.

To save money, they decided to print on demand – meaning they only printed the exact amount of T-shirts that had been ordered by customers.

“We had two outdated printers,” Mr Siegel said.

“One of them depressed me on a daily basis. We had technicians pretty much every other week trying to fix them.”

They set up shop at an old massage parlor in Moorabbin train station and relied on foot traffic to keep their business afloat.

Sales were such an unusual occurrence at the beginning that they would be stoked if they got several purchases in a day.

“In early 2019, if we had a day where we’d sell five shirts, we’d be popping champagne,” Mr Reunis said.

Things picked up when a “random guy” called Fulvio Obregon, who was from Colombia working as a cleaner in Melbourne, rang up with some custom designs he’d drawn himself that he wanted printed.

Mr Reunis described him Obregon as “a fu**ing brilliant illustrator” and said the founders “immediately offered him a job”.

“All of a sudden the ideas that we had previously started to come together. We called it the holy trinity of Threadhead,” Mr Siegel added.

Mr Siegel came up with the ideas while Mr Obregon designed them and then Mr Reunis marketed them.

By Christmas time in 2019, the business finally looked like it had turned a corner – and just three months later the world was plunged into lockdown.

“Covid hit and suddenly demand in our stuff exploded,” Mr Reunis said.

“We suddenly realized our customers were on the internet” and not just around Moorabbin station, he added.

In 2020 they nearly cracked $1 million in revenue and by the following year, they had surpassed $4 million.

“During that lockdown period I would do 100 hour weeks, week in, week in [because] there was nothing else to do, all we had was the business.”

Threadheads now has two production centres, one in Melbourne and one in Prague and they have 27 employees.

Although Australians are their biggest fans, the UK is a close second and they’ve also shipped products to a total of 40 countries.

Last year, they sold 280,000 T-shirts last year. “It’s a lot of T-shirts,” Mr Reunis admitted.

They’ve come a long way from selling five products a day; now they sell around 350-400 daily during quiet times, and that is doubled around Christmas.

Threadheads has launched an equity crowd-funding campaign on Birchal with plans to use the additional funds to open a third production center for the US.

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