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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Alum Envisions the New Zazzle

COURTESY JOSH WEI Georgetown students and Fr. O’Brien, S.J., hold up a shirt made by Taggler, a customizable apparel startup founded by a Georgetown alum.
Georgetown students and Fr. O’Brien, S.J., hold up a shirt made by Taggler, a customizable apparel startup founded by a Georgetown alum.

Josh Wei (SFS ’08) is making waves in the customizable apparel industry with his startup company Taggler. A joint venture with Josh’s brother, Jason, a University of Southern California Marshall School of Business graduate, the company allows consumers to create and design custom T-shirts, tank tops, polos and a variety of other shirt styles.

Beginning as a class project in Jason’s entrepreneurial class at USC, the idea of Taggler took shape through the USC Viterbi Startup Garage, a cross between business entrepreneurship and engineering ability. A 10-week challenge between accepted projects, the Startup Garage pits teams against each other to create a business space, develop their product and create a sales plan.

“I remember taking a lot of classes that were very strategy focused — most had the message ‘Innovate or Die,’” Wei said, crediting his Georgetown education as providing the foundations for his entrepreneurship drive. “I think that helped me in the way I thought about business.

Despite success in the Viterbi challenge, Taggler struggled to find investors until the brothers were able to rally a fellow Hoya alumnus and find supplementary investors at a financial literacy competition in Los Angeles, in which Josh was a judge. The investments from a fellow Hoya alumnus who chose to remain anonymous, accounting for around 10 percent of Taggler’s total investments, along with help from a personal investor, let Taggler get off the ground. The company has already generated over $150,000 in annual sales and expects to see large gains in the coming years.

The key to Taggler’s business model is its network of printers that provide customers with various options for their apparel, based on quality and price information. The company combines a system of blind bidding and a Yelp-like review system to provide a wide array of options. Customers use the easy Taggler interface to choose shirt style, color, size and custom art designs that they can upload themselves before submitting orders to printers. Various printers then submit a blind, one-time bid for the job and customers are able to choose a printer. Customers can read the reviews of each printing company that have been written by past Taggler companies before deciding upon which company to use.

“We are unique, there is nothing like us out there. We use a mix of a qualitative and quantitative approach to printing to find the right printer for each customer,” Wei said. “Every order is unique and each order requires something different — our network of printers provides that to customers.”

Taggler has currently been focusing on university clubs for its main source of revenue, with over 100 campus representatives across the country at schools including USC, University of California at Los Angeles, New York University, Duke and Georgetown University. With 50 percent of sales coming directly from universities, Taggler has started to dig a niche for itself in customizable printing.

“We want to become a major player in the market as it is continually growing and we see great potential. In addition, we want to expand outward from the apparel market to the entire custom printing market as a whole,” Wei said.

Although the market of customizable products is already saturated, Taggler aims to stand out through commitment to customer service.

“The consumer gets multiple choices of price, quality and ability to choose, which translates into ease, convenience and a level of transparency never before seen in an industry that’s notorious for overcharging and poor customer service,” Wei said. “We also feel that no one’s ever attempted to try to consolidate the industry in this way, bringing consumers and suppliers under one roof.”

The enterprise has already snagged significant partnerships with Georgetown, providing the t-shirts for the Welcome Back Jack barbecue for the last two years, and has partnerships with various clubs on campus such as the Graduate Student Organization and the McDonough School of Business case competition team.

The Wei brothers have big ambitions for Taggler in the coming years — when asked where Josh sees the company five years from now he explained their changing business plan and marketability.

“We envision Taggler being a customizable promotional goods company, doing anything from banners to golf balls,” he said. “We will also continue to develop and expand the Taggler verified printer network, an asset that can be of use to other companies and consumers in general.”

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