Creative Lives — Everpress founder Alex Econs on why you don’t always have to do it the traditional way
Global fashion marketplace Everpress arrived on the scene in 2016, and has since grown to become one of the biggest platforms for independent T-Shirt designs. For its founder and CEO Alex Econs, the journey getting there wasn’t without a few roadblocks or altogether straightforward. After studying graphic design at Nottingham Trent University, Alex initially steered away from the design world to work in property. But what was meant to be a short hiatus from the creative industry soon left him unemployed once the financial crisis of 2008 hit. It was having this time to brainstorm, however, that eventually led Alex to launch his first business venture – which set the foundations for his second business idea, Everpress. We speak to him about the sleepless nights and the process behind bringing your vision to life with limited resources and proof that it would work.
Founder and CEO, Everpress (2016–present)
Jean Jullien, R&S Records, Dexter Navy, Kyle Platts, Gasius
BA Graphic Design, Nottingham Trent University (2001–2004)
How would you describe what you do?
I’m the founder and CEO of Everpress, a global fashion marketplace that connects consumers to unique and sustainable products from independent designers. We work with artists, designers, DJs, record labels and nonprofit organisations looking to make some merch. We help them to engage with their audience and create a strong revenue stream.
Everpress simplifies the merchandising process – giving creatives the right tools to build their brand and sell their products via the Everpress platform on a pre-order basis. Ultimately, there’s no risk and no waste. We take care of the fulfilment logistics, printing, packing and shipping the items directly to their buyers around the world.
How are you right now and how has this period changed the way you work?
I’m good considering the circumstances. I feel very fortunate that Everpress can help provide a valuable source of income for creatives during this challenging time. For the past few weeks the team have been rallying and pulling out all the stops to make sure we can continue to support our community. We have a tight-knit culture here and we wanted that to stay the same, regardless of where we’re working. We had already implemented flexible working hours and work from home Wednesdays prior to Covid-19, so we had a feel for the ‘remote’ side of things already. We’ve now implemented a weekly all hands meeting [company-wide gathering including seniors] and other bits like virtual beers on Fridays to keep the momentum going.
Fruits Art Club x Everpress 2019 (left); Jiro Bevis x Everpress 2019 (right)
What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
Prior to going into lockdown, I would normally grab a coffee from E5 Bakery or Allpress in Dalston before starting work. However, now that I’m working from home, I’m trying to get into a good routine by having regular coffee breaks, doing a HIIT class or some other form of exercise at lunchtime. Going for a long walk outside to get some fresh air is also really important. I normally finish the working day at 6 or 7pm but being a business owner means I’m always ‘on’. I’ve realised that my best ideas come once I’m fully switched off, though.
How did the idea for Everpress come about?
Luckily, I already had first-hand experience working in printing and the creative industry. Before Everpress, I had founded another printing company that worked with UK brands to supply traditional merch and promotional apparel. Through that business, I saw the problems that creatives and record labels faced when wanting to sell good quality merchandise online. From high up-front costs, risk of expensive dead stock if they don’t sell enough units, the need to set up and manage a web store, and the hassle that comes with shipping and customer service enquiries. It’s just really long, and it puts people off. At the same time, Kickstarter was regularly in the press; there was a lot of momentum around the pre-order model, and I saw that the idea had legs. Printing only what is sold – it’s a no brainer right? You see Burberry burning £36.8 million worth of unsold dead stock and it makes you scratch your head. It seemed a bit mad.
In 2016 we did a test with a local design agency. They wanted to sell T-Shirts to raise money for Comic Relief and I suggested they did pre-orders instead of printing upfront. Nick, our lead developer put together a basic version of our website in six weeks. The campaign wasn’t as successful as we had planned, but I still thought the idea was solid, so we persevered. It’s been utterly amazing and ridiculously hard at times, but also incredible to look back and see the progress we’ve made since launch.
Ben Arfur (left); Jiro Bevis x Everpress 2020 (right)
Justice4Grenfell x Everpress 2019
How do you think Everpress has impacted young creatives?
We hear of new ways that we’ve impacted our creators every day. To date, we’ve paid out over £2.5 million in profits to our community – so the monetary impact is huge. Young designers are paying bills, going on holiday, buying new tools and releasing records with their Everpress profits.
We’ve also become a significant source of freelance work, collaboration and connection. One of our sellers had over 600 pre-orders on his first campaign. He was able to put a deposit down on a flat in London with the profits he made from the campaign! A few weeks later he was approached by the manager of the indie band Friendly Fires, who had seen the designs and wanted to commission him to design their merch. Through our platform people are catching on that you don’t need to do things the traditional way. Our creative community is sick of seeing their designs ripped off by big brands and getting under-paid for good work.
“Our creative community is sick of seeing their designs ripped off by big brands and getting under-paid for good work.”
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
It’s fun work, I love the people I work with and I get inspired by our clients. I feel super-lucky! I also love the fact my role is so varied – it covers all aspects of the business, from creative direction to setting budgets, pitching investors and visiting suppliers.
The least enjoyable aspect of the job is probably some of the admin tasks. Being a creative person, sometimes my attention span wanes when talking about finance and tech. I definitely don’t hate it as much as calling the bank, but I don’t find it anywhere near as fun as discussing branding or new marketing initiatives.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Our annual 50/50 project is always a big highlight for me – there are a lot of community-led fundraising projects on our site at any given moment, but working with the whole company on a project that is 100% owned by us is so rewarding. From Amnesty International to Justice4Grenfell, these campaigns require every ounce of care and skill that we can muster to execute them in a way that we’re really proud of. It’s a challenge that we set ourselves every year.
Gregory Page design, Type in Focus series
Femme Type design, Type in Focus series
Jacob Wise, Type in Focus series
Koln design, Type in Focus series
Superimpose design, Type in Focus Series
What was the thinking behind your recent Type in Focus campaign?
Type design is a technical field that is often portrayed as being terrifyingly so – it can put those just discovering it off. We wondered whether we could put together a project which featured top-quality type in a more accessible way. Having spoken previously with Jacob Wise, Regular Practice, Travis Kane and the Yarza Twins about their practices, we’ve seen that it is possible to make the technique accessible.
I certainly don’t think that type is under-served, there are some great resources out there dedicated to shining a light on the top designers in the field. However, I can’t recall a project that has brought much of their work together, and I believed the medium of clothing was a useful way of amplifying the message.
How I Got Here
Did you study at degree level and if so, do you feel you need a formal education for what you do?
I definitely think that studying graphic design has stood me in good stead. In both graphic design and business, you have to problem solve and think creatively. Our brand, aesthetic and our design-led community is one of our USP’s (Unique Selling Points). I think my design degree was a crucial step in the formation of Everpress when it first started.
Why did you choose to go into business rather than graphic design?
I wasn’t the most talented graphic designer, and I felt like design came more naturally to my peers than it ever did to me. I always wanted to do my own thing, to have that independence and I guess to have control over my destiny. After graduating, I thought I was young enough that if my ideas failed there would still be time to try again or to get another job. I had nothing to lose!
Superimpose x Everpress 2020
Superimpose (left); Bureau Borsche 2020 (right)
Would you say you ever experienced a lucky break?
Straight after graduating from university I worked for a property business. Initially it was meant to be a short-term hiatus from the design world, but I was learning a lot and there were some aspects of it that I enjoyed.
I guess the lucky break was when the economy took a massive dip in 2008 because of the credit crunch, which meant I was out of work and had to look for something else. At the time it was a very stressful six months with many sleepless nights – but ultimately it was a blessing in disguise as it led me to set up my first business (making bespoke clothing for forward-thinking brands and agencies). That’s how I got back into the creative industry and it was also the reason I saw the opportunity for Everpress.
R&S Records x Everpress 2019
What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
Probably raising investment. We were lucky to have had the support and backing from companies like WeTransfer and ustwo. However, it’s always been challenging and tough mentally as you have to keep persevering and not letting rejections get you down.
You have to meet a lot of people and hustle hard, especially in the early days. I knew how I wanted Everpress to look and feel but we didn’t have the clear messaging that you see in the brand today. This made it particularly challenging, as I was trying to explain a vision with limited resources or proof that it would work. A couple of times it really came down to the wire. On one occasion our lead investor pulled out at the last minute and we were just a couple of weeks away from running out of cash completely.
“On one occasion our lead investor pulled out at the last minute and we were just a couple of weeks away from running out of cash completely.”
Words of Wisdom
Do you have any advice for someone that’s thinking of doing something similar, or launching a creative business?
Do something you love, and that you’re genuinely passionate about. And work with people you love and who compliment your skill set – that’s when your passion and enjoyment will shine through. Everpress is really just made up of all the things that my team and I are genuinely into – that’s what forms our business model.
Finally, seek advice from those you look up to in a similar space or industry, try and provide as much value as you can, work hard and enjoy the journey!