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New Australian T-shirt biz’s grand designs (How to build a tiny global operation. Don’t plan.)


New Australian online t-shirt biz, HelloFresco, wants to trim the tricky business of having to choose your own new clobber.

Instead of hitting the shops whenever your clothes fail the sniff test, they design two top tees each month, because “less choice is fresh choice”.

HelloFresco founder and tee-signer (thunk that word-play up all by ourselves, we did.) Jono Chatterton says the website is the end result of five years of designing and printing t-shirts for friends.

*Warning: MBA Graduates, Avert Thine Eyes*

“In terms of planning,” Chatterton explains. “I have to be honest and say it wasn’t really planned in any traditional sense.”

“Business plans tend to take up a great deal of time and, as things change greatly from project commencement to finish, I opted not to bother.”

Instead, Chatterton did all the graphical mock-ups, designs and marketing himself. He recruited a part-time web guru in 2009 to start building the HelloFresco website, which was completed in February 2011. In addition, he has a printing and fulfillment company in Austin, Texas, which prints, packages and posts Hello Fresco goodies worldwide.

“So it really is a tiny global operation.”

HelloFresco’s lessons for new web businesses

In the years from conception to and launching the website, Hello Fresco had to overcome several hurdles. (Quiet up the back, MBA graduates.)

“My main problems occurred with Australian web developers,” Chatterton says.

“I don’t want to knock them as I’m sure they aren’t all bad; I just chose some people who really couldn’t do what they said they could and didn’t understand what I was trying to achieve.”

“I had two other web developers before I found one who got the site finished.”

Of his web development teething problems, Chatterton hypothesises: “A common problem with web developers is they think that as long as the back end of the website works, the design can come later.”

“Website creation is the culmination of both areas – design and coding – and only a developer who has an understanding of both can really create a website that works.”

For peeps looking to start a web business, Chatterton’s advice is to cast your net wide for talent.

“Don’t just look locally as the best talent is everywhere.”

“Get a web developer who understands coding and design.”

“Finally, get your idea out there in some tangible form so you can discuss how it will work. That will help paint a clear picture in both parties’ minds as to how the finished website will work.”

And the advice doesn’t stop there. In line with many SME pundits, Chatterton’s big on differentiation.

“Offer something [big players] don’t and never compete solely on price.”

“With Hello Fresco we try to differentiate ourselves from the others by offering fewer tees (two per month) and I like to think our designs set us apart from the others too.”

So is global tee domination the end goal for Hello Fresco? Not so much.

Instead, Chatterton has the more modest goal of selling “enough t-shirts to support me and my global wanderings.”