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Bonfire Funds changes name, expands scope of T-shirt design business to include for-profit ventures

Bonfire Funds changes name, expands scope of T-shirt design business to include for-profit ventures

A Henrico County-based company with a website that enables people to create and sell custom T-shirts for fundraising campaigns, has expanded its platform to include for-profit apparel sales ventures.

Bonfire Funds recently rebranded itself to the simplified name Bonfire, with a revamped website at that offers enhanced features.

“We have opened the platform up for any community to use it,” said company founder Brian Marks. For instance, for-profit users could include artists, bands and sports teams who want to create custom apparel and sell it on the company’s online platform.

Founded in 2012, Bonfire itself is a for-profit, online-only business that offers customers a simplified way to manage T-shirt fundraising campaigns.

Marks had the idea for the company after he held a T-shirt sales campaign to raise donations for the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams Athletic Fund. He ran into the same problem that many other fundraisers do — he ended up with unsold T-shirts at the end.

His idea was to create a website where people who wanted to support a cause could preorder a T-shirt, which would eliminate some of the risks for fundraisers such as ordering too many items of the wrong size.

Bonfire has gained a loyal following among nonprofit groups. It has served thousands of fundraising campaigns and shipped T-shirts to more than 100 countries.

“The foundation of the company was built around causes and fundraising, which our name Bonfire Funds evoked,” Marks said. However, “we kept hitting a wall because a lot of our customers would ask for things that were outside the scope of fundraising.”

The revamped platform allows anyone seeking to design and sell custom apparel to do so, either for profit or for a cause, Marks said.

The basics of the website still work the same, he said. Organizations or individuals can go to the site to design a T-shirt, or submit an original design.

They can set prices above a base fee that covers expenses including Bonfire’s fees, and then hold a sale campaign for a period of time. Bonfire handles the payment processing and the printing and shipping through its suppliers.

The revamped website now includes a mobile “seller dashboard” that enables sellers to track and manage campaign sales and orders, manage account information and request payouts.

It also enables sellers to choose and mix-and-match a combination of product styles and colors.

Apparel options also have expanded to include crewneck sweatshirts, zip-up sweatshirts, long-sleeve T-shirts, raglan baseball tees and tank tops, along with classic T-shirts.

The company plans to eventually expand beyond apparel to include other types of custom merchandise, Marks said.

He said opening the platform to for-profit sellers “expands the market tremendously for us.”

“It allows us to really touch a lot of new verticals, or sales opportunities, so it is exciting,” he said.

Bonfire employs more than 40 people at its office in western Henrico, and expects to employ about 60 by mid-2017.

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