When Inc.com named Mount Pleasant-based Print Your Cause as the fastest-growing business in South Carolina in 2023, co-founder Jayson Tompkins was honored, but he wasn’t surprised. After all, a business that’s grown 1,583% over the last two years alone is sure to attract some attention, both local and national. And when you add in a mission to serve schools and nonprofits across the country, you have a winning formula for stunning growth and success, especially when you consider Print Your Cause’s humble beginnings.
“If I had a superpower, it would be the ability to create great teams,” Tompkins said. It’s a skill Tompkins has honed since his days leading group projects in Clemson’s Computer Science program. Tompkins began his career working for Blackbaud, maker of the gold-standard in software created for nonprofits and knew from day one he was surrounded by brilliant software engineers. “I’m an okay engineer,” he added. “But I knew who was really, really good.”
When Tompkins had an idea for a small business that would fill a large gap in the nonprofit industry, he set to work on making his vision a reality. Tompkins recruited colleagues Jon Bell and Adam Hickey to his team and explained his idea: nonprofits wanted to sell custom-printed merchandise but couldn’t afford a big up-front investment and lacked space to store inventory. He knew there was a better way and together they could build it.
Tompkins and his team began writing a brand-new platform for an e-commerce and order management system, tying it in with Tompkins’ wife’s screen-printing home business. In 2018, their first year of business, they managed $30,000 in revenues from the Tompkins’ dining room, while Tompkins and his 3-year-old daughter delivered orders to local clients to save on shipping costs. By 2022, the organization reported over $6 million in revenue.
How did they achieve such tremendous success so quickly? Tompkins is quick to credit his team, as well as early support from the founders’ former employer. “Blackbaud was extremely supportive from the get-go,” he said. “First, they allowed us to moonlight with this new business venture, cheering us on. Then they became early adopters. In fact, they were among our first clients.”
Also, the idea itself is nothing short of brilliant. Nonprofits and other businesses who want to sell branded swag used to have to bulk order their merchandise ahead of time, relying on guesswork to determine what colors, styles and sizes would be most popular. This often resulted in unsold merchandise, wasted funds and the need to store excess items. Alternatively, teams and schools who wanted spirit wear had to collect order forms and cash ahead of time, wasting time and energy and often taxing a teacher or coach’s bank account.
Print Your Cause shifts the garment fulfillment industry paradigm by offering businesses, teams and schools personalized online “stores” where they can sell their wares, relying on custom software to handle the nitty gritty details of sizing, colors, money collection and shipping. Gone are the hours spent tallying orders and divvying up sizes and gone are the piles of unsold merch gathering dust in school closets.
Today, Print Your Cause has grown to include offices and warehouses in South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom. The pandemic expedited their growth with businesses encouraged to streamline their merchandising processes, seeking safe and socially distant ways to promote their causes with custom swag. They count among their clients national and international organizations like Amazon, Costco, Habitat for Humanity, Children’s Miracle Network and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
So what’s next for Tompkins and his dream team? “Well, we’ve built our team and foundation,” he said. “Now it’s time to build our skyscraper. Our mission is to support you so you can focus on your mission.”
By Leah Rhyne