The Ingenious Business Model of the World’s #1 T-Shirt Company

When it comes to T-shirts, they can be as unique as the individual. From tie dye and psychedelic graphics to clean-cut logos, there are endless possibilities.

When it comes to online markets, the T-shirt industry has lots of room for expansion. In our homes, we toss around brand names like Xerox, Tylenol and Coke easily. But there’s never really been a household T-shirt name, that is until SunFrog came along.

“The T-shirts were our sweet spot because there’s an element of fun. It’s an enjoyable product and an enjoyable process,” said Josh Kent, CEO and founder of “Little did I know I had just connected with a humble and talented entrepreneur at a digital marketing trade show recently.”

With over eight-million designs, SunFrog’s isn’t only the largest T-shirt company, they’re also one of the most visited websites in the world. They’ve been featured in Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines and have made it to the 200 in the household names list.

Your Customers/Suppliers Run Ads to Your Site

Kent started his professional journey as a programmer by trade. But he self-identifies as an opportunist. In other words, he’s always had the entrepreneurial spirit.

Before pursuing SunFrog, Kent and his friends were online artists and sellers. They utilized popular platforms like Etsy, Amazon and Ebay, but were dissatisfied with the profitability rates, among many things. That’s when the idea was sparked. They knew they could do it better.

Kent founded three years ago. Along with his crew, Kent built a platform to work for both artists and sellers. However, unlike popular e-commerce distributors, they designed a business model that would cater to the creators.

“Every time we make a decision, we ask, ‘Does this benefit the artist? Does this benefit the seller?’ We built our whole company to service other people.” said Kent. “We’re treating others the way we want to be treated, as simple as that.”

Offering a 65% artist and seller return rate, working with SunFrog offers appealing profitability. Their attractively-skewed revenue model celebrates creativity and allows artists and sellers to rake in a majority cash flow.

SunFrog’s lack of paid advertising allows them to provide that high profitability rate. Their marketing goes as far as email drip campaigns, after that, the sellers are the ones paying for Facebook ads and attention-generating options. Genius.  Have others pay to drive traffic to your site because their return is substantial enough to warrant an investment.

In addition to the spirit of generosity, the company naturally cultivates a brand essence of fun.

From their likable mascot—kind of like Geico’s highly-popularized gecko—to the eight million T-shirt options, SunFrog caters to a wide demographic of quirky individuals.  

“Our brand embraces individualism. Inked up or cleaned up, we got everybody. With every walk of life, it represents humanity as it is,” said Kent. “We’re all working towards the same goal.”

The Dangers of Explosive Success

The early startup days of SunFrog were not blessed with any large, angelic investments. Rather, the team of programmers and creatives pressed forward down the traditional bootstrapping road. Despite the typical bumps of the entrepreneurial journey, SunFrog grew popular.

“Our biggest challenge is that we’re growing too fast. We hit explosive growth,” said Kent. “We once hired 90 people in one day at a job fair.”

More business is usually a good thing unless it happens too fast. At that point, the supply is breathlessly chasing the demand, struggling to keep up.

“We were on the brink of failure several times because we were getting too much business,” said Kent. “The bank can’t keep up, and they’re putting us on caps and restrictions.”

When you try to process millions and millions of dollars through PayPal, it might freeze on you. This scenario then puts a halt in the cycle of meeting demand, which can cause serious problems. When you’re a fresh face on the market, you don’t want to disappoint your customers.

“You can fail on the verge of success because your money can get tied up and your servers can get so slammed that it’s hard to keep them online,” said Kent. “Some people can’t wrap their head around that. You can drown and you can fail in success.”

Now, as one of the 500 most trafficked sites in the world, SunFrog is over the hump of danger and soaring into the land of memorability.

Check out the website to find your own unique brand. If you’re hungry for more of Kent and his story, check out his 2017 TEDx talk, listen to his IzeaFest speech, read through Entrepreneur’s post about “The Next Big Thing,” or hang on for part two on

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