I founded Fantastic Bonanza in the summer of 2006 with Greg Poulos and John Chouinard, both of whom I had known since high school and earlier. Having grown somewhat tired with the popularity and predictability of Threadless, we wanted to create some t-shirts that we’d like ourselves. Without much in the way of specific goals, we jumped right in and registered the business. Soon we had a website, designed by Greg, and five single-color t-shirt designs that we hand screenprinted in my basement. Fantastic Bonanza updated its website in 2007, and released a total of 12 designs before I left it in the summer of 2008. I even got interviewed by Fox 25 while at ROFLCon!
I was responsible for nearly all of the business aspects of Fantastic Bonanza. As the primary contact for suppliers (like professional printers and wholesale garments), I made the necessary business purchases and dealt with suppliers whenever issues arose, and arise they did. I also filed the necessary tax forms for Fantastic Bonanza, which was registered as a general partnership (Form 1065 – U.S. Return of Partnership Income & Form ST-1 – Illinois Sales and Use Tax Return). When orders were placed, I recorded them and shipped them via USPS.
I had little direct involvement with the coding of the website, though I did make minor updates and changes via FTP. With the second iteration of our site, however, I made large contributions to its format in an attempt to make it an effective e-commerce website. The key aspects that I believe contribute to making the site legible and effective as a t-shirt e-commerce website that I recall at this time are:
- large, emphasized display of products on the front page
- prominent display of prices on the front page
- redundant access to the sizing chart
- multiple product pictures, including models and detail images
- email newsletter (which was underutilized)
- prominent ‘contact’ navigation button
Although John Chouinard was our primary artist, I nevertheless created five of our designs and was involved in both vectorizing others and working on colorways. The programs I used to create the designs were Inkscape (vector) and Photoshop 7 (raster). Design ideas were frequently a result of group brainstorms.
Mustard – NO!
The People’s Condiment
For most of my time with Fantastic Bonanza, I was the primary writer for our indie t-shirt blog, which we called Fantastic Blognanza (Greg’s pun, I believe). Of our 426 posts over the course of 20 months, I published 243 (57%). Although we mostly covered other online indie t-shirt companies, especially new releases and sales, news of Fantastic Bonanza’s relatively rare updates and sales featured on the Blognanza as well. My favorite and possibly most popular post was about getting your t-shirts written about by blogs (read a repost of the article here).
In the summer of 2008, I decided I’d had enough of Fantastic Bonanza. I have learned innumerable skills through my experience running the company, directly related to t-shirts and otherwise. I’m glad I was able to be a part of it for two years! The future of Fantastic Bonanza now rests in the hands of John and Greg, who may make it an adjunct of their new webcomic (John draws and Greg writes), Chronillogical.
Feel free to ask me any questions about anything! There is of course a ton more about Fantastic Bonanza, and business and t-shirts in general, that I could have included, but chose not to.