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Setup an Online Store on Your Chapter Website

Tuesday, October 07, 2003   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ed Miller, Hampton Roads Chapter
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Ever wanted to sell a T-shirt or hat with your chapter name on it? How about one that promotes a special chapter event or a slogan? Wouldn't it be great to sell branded merchandise like that from your own online store? However, if you have ever looked into it before, you probably abandoned the idea as too expensive or complicated, especially if you were looking at small quantity orders.

My chapter (Hampton Roads, Va.), like many others I'm sure, works on a tight budget. We knew that if we were to do anything like that, it would have to be done inexpensively. Now, thanks to new Internet services that have recently become available, much of the time and expense has been taken out of the process for setting up an online store and selling items of that type. There are three or four such Internet sites that I was able to find that offer similar services, but one in particular seemed to offer the best fit for our chapter. It's through a new Web-based company known as Cafepress (http://www.cafepress.com/aitp_hr). Using their Website, you can completely design and sell merchandise that has your own multi-color logo on it, from your own Website "store," with no minimum quantities, no inventory to keep, no sales quotas, no payments to track, no orders to ship and no costs at all to your chapter. You can even mark up items so that your chapter receives a commission from everything that it sells. The concept interested our chapter enough that we decided to give it a try.

Cafepress has more than 50 items that you can sell from your own Website. They have T-shirts, hats, golf shirts, teddy bears, coffee mugs, tote bags and many other items. Clothing items are available in a number of colors and in many different sizes. You can choose a few things or a lot of things to sell. Cafepress handles the order for you, 24 hours a day, using a SSL-secured Website. They will also accept toll-free telephone orders. They take the order and credit card information, create the item and then ship it directly to the customer's address. If you have included a markup on the item, Cafepress credits your account for the sale. Setup is easy and then everything is automatically handled for you.

Best of all, it costs your chapter nothing. As long as you sell items at a price that covers Cafepress's minimum "base price," anything above that amount is earned as a commission for your chapter. Prices are reasonable enough (considering it's all custom work) and the quality of the items seems to be very good as well. For example, a T-shirt with logo has a base price of $13.99. At the Hampton Roads Chapter, we mark this item up $2 and sell it for $15.99. If you want, you can even sell at the base price. It's still a great promotion for your chapter even if you don't make any money directly from the sale. They also make very nice gifts if you need it for speakers or door prizes.

If you are interested, take a look at the online store I created for the Hampton Roads chapter (www.cafepress.com/aitp_hr). This took only a couple of hours to setup. Just go to cafepress.com and sign up for a free account. Then, create a graphic or graphics you want imprinted on the items you sell. Cafepress has helpful Web pages and templates to help you format graphics so they will print correctly on your merchandise. Just about any inexpensive photo editing or graphic software is all you need to get started. Then, just upload your graphic, click on the items you want to sell, type in your selling price and you're done! After that, invite everyone to visit your store. It's really easy.

I bought a couple of items, a golf shirt and a hat, as a quality check. They use a digital transfer process that is similar to silk-screening and the logo is very nicely reproduced on the items. All the colors and wording came out on the graphic very cleanly and the shirt and hat look great! I've washed the shirt a couple of times and the logo still looks crisp and clear.

There are many shipping options available, including UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service. Although overnight delivery is an option, I elected the least expensive method, which was a $5 U.S. Postal Service charge for the entire shipment. I got my order in about 10 days. I also understand that they have a very reasonable return and refund policy.

It's too soon for us to tell how successful this will be and whether we will make any significant money from it. We've only just started and sold a few items so far. However, since it costs nothing and takes no volunteer time (after initial setup), we can't see any downside to giving it a try. If you have any questions on the process, I'm sure most of them can be answered best from the Cafepress Website (www.cafepress.com). However, if you want to e-mail me directly (Ed Miller, efm@cox.net), I'll be glad to share more of my experiences with you and help you if I can.


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