Using the success of his existing Malaysia-based design and manufacturing company SaltyCustoms, young entrepreneur Shannon Toh is determined to go where no Southeast Asian start-up has gone before: a mobile app for creating custom designed t-shirts than can be shipped — for free — worldwide in just 15 days.
Toh was inspired by the popularity and power of custom t-shirts, especially their strong appeal with the younger, smartphone-wielding and tablet-toting generations. All smartphones have cameras, many of which are so high quality than they can produce images that are comparable to those taken by traditional D-SLR cameras. As such, smartphones are perfect for capturing photos that can be used in custom t-shirt design.
By combining these factors, Toh was able to create an interesting cocktail for a potential — and successful — business model: an iOS and Android-compatible mobile app that allows users to easily upload an image, design a t-shirt, and place an order as simple as 1,2,3. The five-month old app, Doobie, is focused on being user-friendly.
“How this whole thing came about was from a very simple need. If I were to ask you where to get custom t-shirts, where are you going to go?” Toh asked. It’s likely that most users would turn to Google.
“So the biggest issue everyone faces is they’re not sure where to go. What about if there was a convenient company or app that comes to mind straight away? That’s how we first started getting into it,” Toh added.
Toh admits that part of the appeal of custom t-shirts is they’re a fashion staple. Based on 2013 data, AOL reported that nearly $2 billion worth of t-shirts are sold globally each year. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s booming textile industry is worth a cool $3.5 billion, according to Toh.
Doobie aims to simplify the process of designing a custom t-shirt. The app uses Adobe software for the design process, providing the user with an intuitive interface along with several design ideas. The affordable fixed price of $24.90, including free shipping worldwide, only adds to the app’s appeal.
“This app is a fantastic idea for the mobile generation,” says Elise Harding, Owner, Tee Compressed. “Being able to create a custom t-shirt with such simplicity will allow individuals to express themselves in a one of a kind way.”
Doobie’s growth has been relatively slow — a problem that’s common among start ups in their early stages. Yet Toh remains optimistic.
“Fundamentally, we all love t-shirts. We love how it’s one of the easiest things to buy when you go into a store or you’re looking at clothes, and it’s ever-changing. People demand different kinds of style. There’s so many demographics for t-shirt wearers. That gets us excited about what new designs we can do and how we can sell it differently,” Toh said.