A number of sellers who make pop culture merchandise to sell on Etsy or other marketplaces do so as a sideline. But some can turn that side gig into a full-blown career. So Andrew Ortiz made Super Yaki, his pop culture t-shirt and merchandise business, his full-time job.
Ortiz started Super Yaki about five years ago as an event coordinator and programmer at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. “It was my job to do this [movie] Events as fun and engaging as possible. I love movies and it was a dream job, ”says Ortiz. “But I always wanted to do things on my own terms and see how they succeed or fail on my terms.”
Ortiz posted an enamel pin on Instagram featuring creator and director Hayao Miyazaki (who has made animated films such as “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro”). Fans of the director wanted to buy it and it snowed from there, says Ortiz. “A little pencil started it all.”
Then in 2016 Super Yaki launched its online store on the Big Cartel platform, a stripped-down e-commerce platform aimed at artists and small businesses to sell goods at low up-front costs – even for free when an artist is five or want to sell fewer products. For example, an artist can pay $ 9.99 per month for an e-commerce website with all of the base technology, but according to the Big Cartel website, sales are limited to only 50 products and only five images per product.
“I did everything by hand, wrote addresses, brought packages to the post office and paid for everything on site for shipping,” says Ortiz. “It was exciting, very do-it-yourself. And I’ve enjoyed the consumer commitment to bring this to fruition from the start. “
When Super Yaki emerged from Big Cartel a few months later, in 2016, it launched its online store SuperYaki.com on Shopify’s e-commerce platform.
Home-made movie buffs are driving growth amid a pandemic
Super Yaki has grown steadily over the past five years since then. But 2020 was really the test. Ortiz quit his full-time job in February 2020 to focus on Super Yaki – just before the pandemic broke out.
“I wanted to take a leap and run the store as my main source of income,” he says. “But the pandemic took my trust and swept it away from under me. It was a terrible mix of despair and excitement. For the first few weeks I thought about what I was doing here. “
But 2020 was Super Yaki’s biggest sales year. The online retailer doubled its online sales in 2020 from 2019 and is well on the way to continuing its growth this year. “I always take a conservative estimate, but we tend to do a little better,” he says.
“But I have mixed feelings because I know we had a really great year and the world was a terrible year,” says Ortiz. “Balancing those two emotions is something I think about a lot and I don’t take what we’ve been given for granted.”
In addition to sales growth, Super Yaki grew out of the corner of a room Ortiz was processing online orders as it slowly overhauled its home. In November, Super Yaki moved into an office where Ortiz now runs the operation, which also serves as a mini-fulfillment center. The office space houses their inventory and also serves as a pickup location for local Houston buyers. The retailer also uses Houston-based Night Owls Print Shop to screen-print all of its shirts.
Super Yaki has used its success to give back and donate a percentage of all revenues for most of the past year and for the foreseeable future to organizations and charities that are important to the company, such as social justice and disenfranchised communities.
Social media power
As a retailer focused on honoring niche movies, “Feelings of Guilt” are movies with t-shirts that read, “Josie & the Pussycats is the best movie ever,” “Screaming Laura Dern,” and “G for Gerwig “Super Yaki is also working with its consumer community on social media to get a boost on what’s popular in films old and new – but not particularly in mainstream media.
“We do goofy movie shirts, but we’re part of a bigger conversation about movies in general and we want to help people feel comfortable about what they like and see rather than feel guilty about what they enjoy,” says Ortiz .
What started as a couple of posts has grown into a “well-oiled machine,” he says. Super Yaki’s Twitter account reached 10,000 followers in January and its Instagram has approximately 16,500 followers.
Ortiz isn’t borrowing all quickly. Super Yaki hired Brittani Tuttle as Social Media Director in summer 2019 to manage the retailer’s social media presence and connect with its followers. She took the account of about 400 followers where it is now – all organic, he says.
“For me it is important that people recognize that there are people behind brand accounts,” says Ortiz. “It’s easy to hit the Follow button on a brand or company page, but for us we want to know how to stay close. How can we be a functioning member of the community and not just a business? I’m sure some people just want to see what shirts come out but we want to do the best for the followers who want to get involved. “
Plans for its fifth anniversary
From new product designs to site upgrades, Super Yaki has a busy year ahead of it to celebrate its fifth year in business.
Ortiz finds that it hasn’t updated its Shopify websitee in a long time. So the retailer plans to update the theme in February and add more apps to make it more user-friendly, he says. For example, Super Yaki plans to add an option to allow buyers to sign up for notifications when an item is back in stock.
“We take caution with changes in the store or in the store,” says Ortiz. “So for us it is about testing everything for a T before we implement something we are not familiar with.”
Super Yaki also plans to further diversify its product line this year by working with more artists and graphic designers who can contribute designs while staying true to the Super Yaki style.
Some of the upcoming drafts include highlighting Brendan Fraser’s film work in February and a summer camp theme later in the summer, Ortiz says. Super Yaki’s plan with product launches is to wrap the themes in its collections into a cohesive plan, not a “lucky bag of ideas,” he says.
Super Yaki has three full-time employees – including Ortiz – and two part-time employees.
“This is definitely a collaborative effort,” he says. “How we grew and expanded is not just one person. I am forever committed to the people who help us. Everything the store becomes from that point on is a testament to their hard work. “
Presented by Emarsys
February 17, 2021, 2 p.m.AND