TL; DR: As Thatcher Spring was building a successful wholesale apparel company, he noticed that many of the merchants who bought his products encountered operational and supply chain roadblocks. So he decided to create a solution that would solve their problems — and GearLaunch was born. The 360° eCommerce solution supports merchants by offering a wide selection of products and customized online storefronts, as well as logistical tools and customer support. Now, GearLaunch also provides a dedicated app for Shopify merchants, solidifying it as a one-stop-shop solution for hard-working online entrepreneurs.
Soon after graduating from Georgetown University, Thatcher Spring founded a wholesale apparel company that provided products to about 500 specialty stores around the U.S. He noticed that many of his customers would attend trade shows twice a year, purchase a large amount of product, and then those goods would sit on their store shelves for six months.
“It was a hugely inefficient part of their business. And it wasn’t the only inefficiency I saw,” Thatcher said.
As he watched his merchant customers attempt to jump hurdles and fail, he decided that he wanted to solve those challenges online, rather than in the brick-and-mortar world. So Thatcher built GearLaunch.
“GearLaunch handles all of the blocking and tackling aspects of being a merchant,” he said. “We give our merchant customers a basic transactional system, and deep access to the supply chain. It’s all under one roof, which makes it easy for anyone to build an online business. More than that, it also simplifies the process of making money — and maintaining an entrepreneurial lifestyle with a lot of freedom.”
GearLaunch accomplishes this by providing customers with a behind-the-scenes operational apparatus and optimized website design that helps store owners sell products. From printing merchandise on-demand to customizing homepages, to customer service and logistics, GearLaunch does it all.
What Thatcher and his team have built is the ultimate one-stop shop for online merchants.
“It comes down to one word: convenience. We provide curated products, we create great digital renderings of those products, and we focus on customer success,” Thatcher said.
Creating Opportunities for Merchants to Grow Online
Over the past few decades, economic and technological trends have transformed retail worldwide. This transformation began with the transition from physical retail channels to eCommerce, which initially seemed to mean fewer barriers to entry.
“Look at the evolution of the store. It started with brick-and-mortar. Customers would go to their town’s Main Street to buy what they needed. So, successful merchants had to carefully consider their site location, its foot traffic, in-store lighting, and more,” Thatcher said.
They also had to find products that differentiated their business from other stores in the area, which took required sizeable upfront investment. In the early days of the internet, some of those barriers disappeared, but not all of them.
“Back then, you had to be an expert coder or have enough capital to hire a team. It could cost $1 million to build a quality website,” Thatcher said.
Now, things are easier, and entrepreneurs see fewer barriers to entry than ever before.
Thatcher said things on the transactional side have been simplified, and a number of systems are available to help entrepreneurs build storefronts, guide customers to the point of purchase, and accept payments. But, even in 2018, some roadblocks can stop aspiring entrepreneurs from achieving their goals.
“Every system out there ignores the behind-the-scenes aspects of running a store. Those systems will build a web storefront, but they won’t provide quality products. They’ll provide a payment solution, but they won’t help plan your inventory,” Thatcher said.
GearLaunch dismantles those obstacles, meaning anyone anywhere can create a successful online store using its solutions.
“Our customers want to create a business. What stops them is the risk and financial investment. When they use GearLaunch, those barriers disappear. Our tools allow them to make money independently and live the entrepreneurial dream,” Thatcher said.
GearLaunch Lowers Barriers to Entry with Shopify App Integration
GearLaunch is the one-stop shop for entrepreneurs who need a smart, hard-working back office. It offers a range of services, each designed to solve difficult merchant problems.
“When merchants ask, ‘How do I find products to sell?’ we answer with a massive selection of high-quality products across all of the most popular consumer categories,” Thatcher said. “When they ask, ‘How do I merchandise appropriately?’ we answer with a powerful solution. Without GearLaunch, entrepreneurs have to cobble together many services, manually hire staff, and spend a lot of time answering these questions themselves. But we do it all.”
Thatcher and his team recently launched an app for Shopify that makes the process even more natural. Merchants who run Shopify stores but want more customization can download the app to access everything from GearLaunch’s print-on-demand products to its global supply chain logistics.
Whether stores sell to a niche or a global audience, GearLaunch has the production capacity to deliver what owners need.
“We continue to build out our connective supply chain, so our technology is a useful tool even for the world’s biggest retailers,” Thatcher said.
And not all GearLaunch customers who use the Shopify app sell GearLaunch products exclusively. Some already have successful strategies and reliable supply chains, but they discovered that adding GearLaunch products to their stores helped boost sales.
Strong Customer Support for Merchants and Their Customers
Merchants who use the Shopify app also have access to another powerful GearLaunch solution — its helpful customer support.
“Even if entrepreneurs have built a successful online business by sourcing unique products, they still need people to answer the phones and respond to customer emails. Handling returns, exchanges, refunds, and questions can be a nightmare. That’s why our suite of products addresses all of those issues,” Thatcher said.
GearLaunch’s customer support team includes more than 50 agents who handle inquiries in seven languages. It’s available seven days a week and designed to turn window shoppers into repeat customers.
But GearLaunch doesn’t only want to help its merchants’ customers — Thatcher and his team also want to ensure the merchants themselves are supported.
“When entrepreneurs are launching their businesses, we help them find the right stepping-off point. When their online shops are up and running, we help them continue to grow. Even the most successful business people will eventually run into one problem or another.” — Thatcher Spring, GearLaunch Founder
“We’ve built a hard-working seller support team that’s focused on making our merchants more successful,” he said.
While GearLaunch has self-guided materials, the company understands many entrepreneurs don’t have time to read them — they want to start conversations and ask questions. That’s why the company makes it easy for merchants to schedule a call with a knowledgeable representative.
“When entrepreneurs are launching their businesses, we help them find the right stepping-off point. When their online shops are up and running, we help them continue to grow. Even the most successful business people will eventually run into one problem or another. If a merchant comes to us with a challenge, we respond quickly,” Thatcher said.
Building Solutions That Work for Every Type of Entrepreneur
When Thatcher sees a problem — as he did with merchants when he owned a wholesale apparel company — he sets out to find a solution. And while Thatcher is thrilled with GearLaunch’s success and its Shopify app, he doesn’t plan to stop there.
“We’re here to serve our customers. That’s why our business strategy is built around understanding their needs. And not all online merchants use Shopify, so we want to build apps for all of the other hosted transactional platforms as well,” Thatcher said.
Even customers who use the same platform have very different needs. An internet marketer using Facebook ads to sell products is much different than a photographer or an artist looking to showcase their wares.
While the average internet marketing professional is comfortable with the accessories and features offered in today’s eCommerce landscape, artists may be more focused on their craft and less interested in tech.
“An artist thinks, ‘I don’t want to pay for a fancy service and then not even use all the features. All I need is an online store where customers who want my products can buy my products, and I want it to be as easy to maintain as possible.’ We understand that all merchants are unique. That’s why we’ve studied a wide range of entrepreneurs and have built strategies to support each one of them,” Thatcher said.
What can unite all of those merchants are the benefits they can experience through GearLaunch — and not all of them are based on profit margins.
“Our solutions give customers time to focus on their family, on their personal freedom, and on the independence that comes with being a successful entrepreneur,” Thatcher said.