Every so often I stop and realize that I have been at this for a decade. I have never been actively working on such a particular idea for so long. I think it’s safe to say the crisis of career I faced a long time ago has been settled. This is what I’m supposed to do. In recognition of this “holy crap 10 years” and the fact that I like making charts, I present a series of charts about things I’ve been doing for the past decade.
This time, the saga of how Varsity Math started as a tweet and turned into a massive merchandise brand. A very limited supply was offered to the public this year, but it is but a fraction of what students receive. Here’s units shipped of Varsity Math merchandise for the last 5 years:
Next to each year is a rough approximation of the money making all this possible. Each stack of bills represents $500 in real money. Students pay for their items. Currently, a base fee of $20 gets a student a t-shirt, sticker, patch, and sunglasses. No student is ever denied the base package due to an inability to pay. Other items are offered a la carte. If you’re interested in sponsoring a student, options are available.
We started small. Kids like t-shirts, so we got t-shirts. Then Andrew Stadel got me hooked on Sticker Mule and I started ordering stickers. As the whole premise is making a joke about letter jackets, I ordered patches in 2015. These were adhesive backed and the thought was kids could stick/sew them to their actual letter jacket. The concept did not take off. In 2016, I ordered patches with velcro backs and the rest was history. You want to spot a Varsity Math kid at my school? Check the lanyard. This simple addition increased our visibility 10x. Suddenly, kids were hooked on the patches. HOW DO I GET A PATCH? random underclassmen would ask me.
But oh….we weren’t done. Summer 2016 we added Summer Camp and a merchandise line to go with it. These shirts and stickers are among the most exclusive because you had to be there. Before you know it, we’re in the sunglasses business, the sweatshirt business, the sock business, and the shoe business.
Eleven kids signed up to make custom Vans with a Varsity Math logo. These shoes weren’t cheap and took 4 weeks to arrive. For this year’s round, I started collecting merchandise money in August 2018, and by Dec 1 over 800 items had been delivered. Simply put, the kids are merch crazy.
I design all the merchandise (force teaching myself Illustrator has worked wonders) and developed a whole slate of contacts who can make me just about anything. It has been a fascinating study of design, manufacturing, and logistics. By no means do I suggest it if you’re looking for a casual hobby, but if you’ve ever seen the tweets and were curious about what kind of scales I operate at, well here you go.