A few years ago, Charles Smith, a young father living in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, left corporate America in pursuit of happiness. He had grown frustrated by the daily robotic routine and was yearning to get involved in something more fulfilling.
With a family depending on him and no regular income, achieving his dream was proving to be difficult. That is until he discovered the potential of print-on-demand. Charles found his niche and started a brand that resonates with him and what he knows: fatherhood.
Today, Black Fathers Exist is one of the topmost performing print-on-demand businesses on Printify.
We sat down with Charles to talk about his business, his journey with Printify and what he would say to an aspiring online entrepreneur.
Tell us a little about you and your background
I’m a young entrepreneur. I have my family, married to my wife of just over 10 years, and we reside outside in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. We have two boys, one four years old and the other is one year old. I grew up in the Atlanta area, went to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, and then got my master’s degree at the University of Georgia.
I worked in corporate America for about nine years. However, it was always a dream of mine to leave the corporate world. I had a vision to build something of my own and be able to impact the world. So in 2017, I made the transition from corporate to being an entrepreneur and have been on this entrepreneurial path for a couple of years.
Why did you feel the need to leave the corporate world?
I’m grateful for the opportunity that the corporate world gave me. I was able to provide for my family and learned a lot throughout that career. But deep down I knew that there was a different path for my life. I knew that I had a purpose, I had gifts, talents, and I wasn’t really able to exercise those talents within that career.
I grew up observing my dad’s entrepreneurial spirit and watching him probably planted the seed in me to own a business one day.
I had a strong desire to find a different path. Leaving was a difficult decision, but my life is completely different now. It’s been well worth the ride.
How did you start using print-on-demand?
About four years into my corporate career, I heard about e-commerce, saw a Facebook ad and watched a webinar about how to sell on Amazon. I was really amazed and fell in love with the idea of an online business. I created a product in China, sold it on Amazon, and soon after, moved over to my first eCommerce store on Shopify.
I realized that I didn’t really have to trade hours for dollars just to make a living. Print on demand opened up a new world for me.
When I left my career in 2017, that’s where I tried to start building businesses. I tried so many things such as dropshipping, building an app, and marketing for other eCommerce brands.
But my business success has come from working with Printify and what I do today. It fits perfectly with my ability to create designs and products that people love. Print-On-Demand was my last and only option at the time, but I’m glad that my path led me to this business model.
For such an important black-owned business, why did you choose Printify?
Print on Demand was a hot topic online and that led me to Printify. All I really needed to do is tap into my creative ability, my vision and what’s important to me to create a brand. I didn’t have to pay thousands of dollars upfront to buy t-shirts or inventory.
I chose Printify because, for starters, I really loved the interface. It is easy to use so I knew that I could create products very easily. I love the pricing of Printify products too. I get better income in comparison to other platforms that I checked out. With the Printify interface, you also get really good free mockups. Printify was more economical when I started my business, which allowed me to have better profit margins.
In 2017, you created the brand called ‘Black Fathers Exist’. Why ‘black fathers exist’?
I created this brand because it was about me. I’m a black male and I have two young boys. I’m a father. In my experience, there is a negative stereotype about black fathers. I’m not saying that everyone thinks this way, but there is a negative narrative.
The media and other social views suggest that black fathers are absent, that we are not present in our children’s lives. I find that to be far from the truth. I’m a black father, I have several friends and acquaintances who are black fathers, and I see them being very involved in their children’s lives. I want to tell a different story.
I created ‘Black Fathers Exist’ because it was something I deeply cared about. I knew that other black men, black fathers, would feel the same exact way. And it has definitely been confirmed through how the business has grown.
What has been the response to Black Fathers Exist?
I run a lot of social media ads, so my message goes out to millions of people all across the country. The response is generally positive but sometimes it differs. Unfortunately, I see lots of negative responses to my ads when I talk about this issue.
I always say that the mission of Black Fathers Exist is to change the narrative, but my intent is to never exclude all other fathers. Prior to Black Fathers Exist, I started another brand about all fathers. But I knew there was an issue and I desired to create a platform for positive change.
I wanted to educate people of other races about this topic. That there is a damaging narrative about us. That there is a need for our positive stories to be highlighted. There are black men all across the world who take their responsibility as a father seriously, and we are also encouraging our brothers who have not been as involved, to step into their position as strong dads.
What products do you use from the Printify catalog?
Our main products are our t-shirts, we’ve put a lot of powerful sayings on t-shirts. We also sell sweatshirts and hoodies, especially in the winter. We have a few accessories added like bath mats, stickers and a few other accessory items that we’ll be slowly adding as we go into the holiday season. So guys have something new from Black Fathers Exist to look out for.
What has been your experience with the Printify print provider services?
I absolutely love the business model. I couldn’t see myself doing all the backend fulfillment. I’ve done that before in a different business where I had to spend two or three hours packing and putting labels on envelopes and sending stuff out. I’d rather just work on the front end of the business; how to market, how to sell, how to make upgrades to my eCommerce store and get people in the door.
With Printify, the process on the back end is completely automated. It frees me up to do the parts of the business that I love. I also love the customer support that I get from Printify. My mom is my business partner and when she has questions about orders or processes, the customer support team is always very helpful. This gives me confidence that our business and customers are being taken care of and are not neglected.
If you don’t mind, how much have you made so far?
The very first month for Black Fathers Exist was June 2018. One of my friends purchased from me and that was my only sale for the month, it was $39. Fast forward a year later, June 2019, when we had a huge father’s day sale and I generated $144,538. Right before that in May, my revenue was just over $99,000. I have been really blessed to achieve such a big accomplishment in my entrepreneurial journey.
What’s your magic to building a successful print on demand business?
A few different things contribute to success but the number one thing is finding your niche. I believe that if you can attach your brand and what you create to a mission, a positive movement, something you and other people care about then put out a message that really connects them and empowers them, you have a great opportunity to have a successful brand.
When people buy slogan t-shirts, they buy them because the t-shirts represent a piece of who they are.
People connect to different things. It could be their beliefs, upbringing, background or experience. If you create something that makes them say “Hey, you know what, this is who I am. This represents me” then you will find success because they’ll want to buy it.
Any tips for entrepreneurs running an online business?
Social media ads on platforms like Facebook have been a true gift. Whatever idea I come up with, I have a way to validate it very quickly by reaching out to people through ads. We live in a wonderful digital age where you can create and get feedback within a matter of hours. Be fast about your ideas, use platforms to reach masses and iterate as you go.
Lastly, never give up on your dream and vision. Things have gotten very tough for me at times during my entrepreneurial journey, but I never gave up, and I’ve started to see big wins as a result of my persistence and faith. You’re literally one idea away from taking your business to the next level.
The Printify team would like to thank Charles for sharing his brand and experience with us. We hope his story inspires and empowers young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams courageously. We wish Charles great success as he continues his Printify journey.
Check them out on Instagram: Black Fathers Exist
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