It may be the silly season, but the news that Awesome Merchandise is setting up in the US is not so much silly as absolutely stupendous.
At the time of writing the firm had raised more than £150,000 via crowdfunding to help boost its plans to expand in the US. Its target is £350,000 and early access to the fundraising sent to employees and customers has already helped the firm bring in more than 40% of its target.
I’ve been watching this company’s progress for a few years now. I love anything that involves setting up in a bedroom, a garage or similar and then going on to bigger and better things. This Leeds firm co-founded by students Luke and Charlotte Hodson in the days before they were Mr and Mrs Hodson has certainly done that.
Luke was kind enough to share some of his experiences with us on our panel of young entrepreneurs at PrintWeekLive! earlier this year – he had to do so via video because, as can now be revealed, he was in Texas at the time working on the plans for the new Awesome Merchandise production facility there.
I often think about Awesome Merchandise when people ask: “how is the industry doing?”, because this company is a great example of my usual response to that particular question, which is: “it depends who you are, what you do, and how you do it.”
The Awesome Merchandise team have developed a strong brand and distinctive identity, with real verve and energy. The exude a huge enthusiasm for all the things they're printing. Added bonus: they also have a gorgeous mascot in the shape of French bulldog Dolly.
It’s pretty apparent that the fast-growing firm also has a great connection with a loyal customer base, as evidenced by the company’s growth rate, and its +38k followers on Instagram alongside nearly 28k on Twitter.
And these very customers are among those who’ve already stumped up more than £150,000 to back the company’s ambitions.
One of the questions asked on the firm’s Crowdcube page is “why not just get a bank loan?”. There’s a fulsome response from Luke about why the firm didn’t go down that route.
From where I sit this crowdfunding initiative is also a fantastic PR and brand enhancement exercise. It’s given the firm an opportunity to engage with established supporters and a whole set of new ones, and further increased the firm’s profile.
While I don’t underestimate the challenges ahead in what is a highly competitive space, I absolutely salute the ambition, drive and energy that has taken Team Awesome this far.
It’s an inspirational good news story and I wish them all the best, along with a [suitably branded] hat-tip.