The friends struggled to make money – then a Daniel Andrews meme made them millionaires.
Two friends from Melbourne have managed to raise $13 million in a year, thanks in large part to a very popular meme about their Prime Minister Daniel Andrews.
Ace Reunis and Marcus Siegel, aged 30 and 49 respectively, launched their T-shirt company Threadheads four years ago, but admitted it got off to a “slow start”.
It wasn’t until the Covid-19 pandemic arrived on the coast of Australia in March 2020 that things got off the ground.
As bored Melburnians went through a 112-day lockdown, they turned to online shopping to pass the time – and Threadheads were more than happy to help.
Sales were “literally nothing,” according to co-founder Ace Reunis, but a Daniel Andrews T-shirt changed their fortunes after it became a bestseller.
The Victorian Prime Minister now famously reprimanded Victorians in a 2020 press conference for “drinking the beers” with their friends during the first extended lockdown.
The T-shirt company wasted no time designing their own garment with those four iconic words printed on the fabric.
“We have added a lot of joy to people’s lives in a dark time,” Mr Reunis told news.com.au.
Along with a number of other humorous designs, the company got hundreds of orders a day and went from obscurity to making millions.
Fast forward to two years later and the partners are on track to bring in $13.2 million in revenue for fiscal year 2022.
Siegel and his wife Sabrina started Threadheads in 2018, with everyone telling them they were crazy for quitting their regular jobs to start their own business.
The couple brought Mr. Reunis on board for his marketing skills and the three of them scraped together $30,000.
To save money, they decided to print on demand, meaning they only printed the exact number of T-shirts ordered by customers.
“We had two outdated printers,” Siegel says.
“One of them made me depressed on a daily basis. We had technicians trying to fix them pretty much every other week.
They settled in an old massage parlor in Moorabbin train station and depended on foot traffic to keep their business afloat.
Sales were such an unusual event in the beginning that they would get excited if they got multiple purchases in a day.
“If we had a day in early 2019 where we sold five shirts, we would be popping champagne,” said Mr Reunis.
Things picked up when a “random guy” named Fulvio Obregon, who was from Colombia and worked as a cleaner in Melbourne, called with some custom designs he’d drawn himself that he wanted to print.
Mr Reunis described Obregon as “a wonderful brilliant illustrator” and said the founders “immediately offered him a job”.
“Suddenly the ideas we had started earlier came together. We called it Threadhead’s holy trinity,” Siegel added.
Mr. Siegel came up with the ideas while Mr. Obregon designed them and then Mr. Reunis brought them to market.
By Christmas 2019, the company finally looked like it had turned a corner – and just three months later, the world was plunged into lockdown.
“Covid struck and suddenly the demand for our gear exploded,” Mr Reunis said.
“We suddenly realized that our customers were on the internet” and not just around the Moorabbin station, he added.
In 2020, they had nearly $1 million in revenue and the following year, they had crossed $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 centers, one in Melbourne and one in Prague, and has 27 employees.
While Australians are their biggest fans, the UK is a close second and they have 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,” admitted Mr. Reunis.
They’ve come a long way by selling five products a day; now they sell about 350-400 a day in quiet times and that has doubled around Christmas.
Threadheads has a equity crowdfunding campaign on Birchal with plans to use the additional funds to open a third manufacturing center for the US.
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