Michael Nemeroff is the founder of RushOrderTees and his siblings eighteen years ago in a desire to simplify and streamline the custom apparel buying process. The Philadelphia-based company specializes in custom apparel with rush deadlines, selling shirts, hats, jerseys, sweatpants, and more.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
My brother, sister, and I became entrepreneurs out of necessity. Our parents had a successful business which was seriously struggling when my siblings and I were very young — I was 8 years old at the time. After a 20+ year career in the fashion industry, they lost everything to the point of bankruptcy and an eventual shutdown. Our house was being foreclosed on because they could no longer afford the mortgage. Sometimes, we would come home from school and there would be a sheriff’s notice of foreclosure on our front door. It was the scariest thing to try to understand at such a young age. When you don’t know where you’re going to live or how the family will support itself, it’s pretty motivating.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the business itself and what we’ve learned through this process. I’m 35 now and started the business when I was 17. Half of my life has been spent learning and building this business. Today we have one of the most technologically sound businesses with amazing employees at every level. We weren’t supposed to succeed. A business started by some kids in our parents’ garage probably had a 1 in 1 million chance of succeeding. We ran into so many problems along the way that realistically, we could’ve failed at any point in the first 15 years. Today, we’re one of the industry’s leading companies with over 500,000 customers nationwide and we are incredibly grateful for that.
When was a time you came close to giving up?
We were bringing in about $30K a month in revenue in our third year. It’d taken us a long time to get there with my brother, sister and I working around the clock in a small warehouse to bring in every sale we could, only to find at the end of every year, we’d barely turned a profit. I mean to the penny break-even or a slight loss. It was almost unfathomable for the amount of work and time we sacrificed.
We were all exhausted. I was 20 at the time, and decided I was ready to move on. But my brother forced me to keep working on it. I promised him I’d stay for a few more months, and that’s when we doubled down on our marketing efforts. Within a month, our custom t-shirt company went from bringing in $30K to $200K in revenue. All of a sudden, we were a million-dollar company. The pace and dynamics of the business changed almost overnight. The growth was challenging since we didn’t have any employees at the time. The three of us were doing everything: the selling, marketing, printing, designing, purchasing, shipping, cleaning, accounting.
It was easily one of the most challenging and rewarding times in our career, but it taught us so many lessons. Sometimes success is just around the corner and you may never know it unless you keep going. You can give up a year, a month, a week, maybe even a day before it all clicks.
If you could start over, what would you do differently?
We would have invested much heavier into tech, marketing, and sales earlier. I’m very content with where we are today, but if we modified our strategy, we’d be 2-3x the size we are now. Also, we would have done acquisitions earlier. Brands like SouthBySea and TheDealRack have worked out well for us.