Please welcome Jon Kennedy of Fine Sports Prints. Jon is an entrepreneur from Ottawa, Canada. He is also owner of FineSportsPrints.com, a marketing expert, and an occasional writer. Previously he co-founded Clicklabs.ph and is now focused on developing a fleet of profitable eCommerce businesses, while pushing the boundaries of conventional work.
Q. Where are you right now?
Hi TJ, right now I’m writing to you from Ubud, a nice town on Bali Island in Indonesia. I live here. I work from a well-known co-working spot called Hubud. My girlfriend and I moved here to explore, to build up my business and keep overall costs of living low. I’m also surrounded by talented and enlightened people, so it motivates me to hustle and makes me feel like I’m not alone.
Q. Describe finesportsprints.com in 5 words
Minimal sports themed wall décor.
Q. What is your background?
Out of school, I interned with the Toronto Blue Jays. Shortly after, I got drafted to the marketing and sales department at the Montreal Canadiens. There, I built up the memorabilia and game-worn jersey sales channels which proved to be big profit centers for them leading up to their centennial year in 2009. Although this job kept me busy 6 days a week, I usually spent Sundays peddling vintage tshirts and exercise equipment on eBay to get my monthly earnings up. I had a huge student loan to battle at the time.
I loved working in pro sports, but deep down I was an entrepreneur with no community. In 2010, with the support of some entrepreneurial friends – I quit my job, sold my stuff and moved to the Philippines to build and grow an online marketing business. We did loads of amazing work under our brand called Clicklabs.. They are still doing incredible projects there, check them out.
I recently left the company to pursue new opportunities in the eCommerce space.
Q. Can you describe in more than 5 words how you run finesportsprints.com and how the business operates?
Fine Sports Prints is a shop and marketplace. We invite artists to contribute minimal sports art work and we design some prints internally. We handle all the fulfillment and payout a commission monthly. I have 2 full-time virtual assistants that help with the day to day. They handle order processing, customer inquiries and live chat, social media graphics, product uploading and small development tasks.
The wall prints get dropshipped from the US and the UK. I have amazing printing vendor partners that make this all possible. They know paper and ink, and most of all they are customer-centric, especially the vendor in the US – 80% of the orders go through him. I need that right now because I’m not able to control the quality of what gets shipped out. Bigger printing vendors may not be inclined to offer this attention to detail.
I do all the marketing myself and test new channels every week. Our Etsy shop, Instagram and Facebook ads have had the most success in driving new customers so I am primarily focused on developing these channels to a point that I can systemize the approach.
Q. What’s the story behind your tagline “100% wife approved”? That’s funny.
Once I figured out that most of my paying customers were women buying gifts for their boyfriends and husbands, I just tweaked the home page a little to make them feel comfortable. Sports posters are usually tacky. Let’s face it, sports is not the frontrunner in design innovation, although it’s getting better. Wives and girlfriends are more than happy to celebrate home team victories but would never allow a traditional sports poster to hang in the living room. The minimal style of the art prints is a happy medium for them.
Q. I see you are using Shopify as your ecommerce platform. Why did you choose Shopify?
I was referred by a good friend and Shopify expert, Alex from SpicyDesign.ca. All I can say is that as a non-developer, who loves to work on product and marketing, Shopify takes away all the system and hosting concerns and allows me to pour energy into the business and drive sales. I migrated from another platform because I just didn’t have the skill set to make it work technically – and I spent more in developer costs than I care to admit. I debated the move for a long time and in January, I had a short talk with Alex and I was a Shopify customer the next morning. I’ll never look back. I feel like I can open 10 more niche stores now. It’s been empowering.
Q. Who designs all the posters? Are you licensing these, if so talk a bit about that process.
We have different types of designs – many are famous quotes by athletes and some are based on concepts that I mock up. I’m not a designer myself but I love the design process, and I know what sells. I pass on these mockups to our graphic artist who helps me bring them to life.
The artists that contribute get paid 15%-20% commission on sales of their designs. But, good artists are busy people, so the rate of new designs going live from our artists isn’t stellar.
Licensing is tricky and it’s been a challenge for us, but the general rule for graphics and illustrations is not to use photographs, team logos, or athlete logos outright. We can use numbers, fonts, team colors and illustrated versions (as parodies) of athletes without issues. This is certainly a part of the business I’m aware of and working on.
Q. What’s something you’ve learned from your past and now your present with finesportsprints.com that you could share with an inspiring entrepeneur?
- Find and follow mentors that do what you want to be doing and study their path, listen to what they say. Everyone needs gurus, even business people.
- Make little bets every day, don’t sit idle.
- Hire help as soon as you can afford to. There is someone more suited than you to handle pieces of your business.
- Hang out with like minded people and stick with them, they become your tribe when you start to face challenges.
Q. What are your big plans for 2015?
I’m working on an exclusive, commissioned series of art prints for hockey fans with an artist on our roster. Opening two more stores by the end of the year. Getting more involved in the Shopify community. I want to see the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
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