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Creator Ink works with YouTube creators — and specifically gamers — on selling branded products, like Nintendo Switch cases and stuffed animals.
The company, which is based in LA, was founded in 2017 by CEO Stuart Felkner and chief brand officer Mikey Carlson.
YouTube star Matthew Patrick (know as MatPat) is one of Creator Ink’s top clients, and the company works with him on his merchandise line “Theory Wear,” which includes items like a Nintendo Switch case, mug, and sweatshirt all branded with the Theorist Media logo.
Creator Ink’s products can be found online, as well as at retail locations of GameStop.
DFTBA Records (which stands for “don’t forget to be awesome”) is a retail company founded and run by creators that specializes in working with creators in the education, art, and science categories.
CEO Hank Green, who is an author and YouTube creator, launched the company in 2008 as a way to help internet creators like himself connect with their communities and build additional revenue streams.
DFTBA has 52 employees, and it works with a number of creators across YouTube, podcasting, and Twitch .
Products include tees, pins, posters, and unconventional plush toys — like a cicada plush toy for Tyler Thrasher, an art and science creator.
“We don’t want merchandise to be an afterthought,” Brandi Jessub, a senior project manager at DFTBA, said. “We will put a logo on a product, but what we are really excited about is finding out who your audience is and how they interact with you.”
The company also sells products that support organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance, Project for Awesome, and This Star Won’t Go Out.
Clients include: Vlogbrothers (3.4 million YouTube subscribers), Tyler Thrasher (260,000 Instagram followers), Drawfee Show (1.7 million YouTube subscribers), and The Valleyfolk (245,000 YouTube subscribers).
Founded in 2014, Fanjoy is one of the largest influencer merchandise companies. Its first client? CEO Chris Vaccarino’s brother’s band.
Over the past five years, the company has pivoted its business model away from musicians to focus on YouTubers and other online content creators, with Jake Paul as one of its first influencer clients.
The company handles all aspects of product creation — from design to website building to shipping.
Its clients include top YouTuber Tana Mongeau, and TikTok stars like Addison Rae, Avani Gregg, and Tati Mitchell. Mongeau, for example, created a “Dizzy” collection with Fanjoy, which included necklaces, beanies, phone cases, and even a pair of underwear.
Fanjoy also works with many athletes, including student athletes — like the Cavender Twins and Zay Flowers — who have been allowed to monetize their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) since July 2021.
Clients include: Addison Rae (86 million TikTok followers), Alivia D’Andrea (2.3 million YouTube subscribers), Tyler Cameron (2 million Instagram followers), and Michelle Khare (2.5 million YouTube subscribers).
Nikita Kopotun co-founded Juniper in 2016 after his brother Denis Kopotun, known as just “Denis” on YouTube, started to gain a following for his Roblox and Minecraft videos. The company focuses on developing plush toys and other customized goods, rather than conventional apparel.
“I was helping him out at the time,” Kopotun said about his brother, who now has over 9 million subscribers. “All that we saw on the market was print on-demand products.”
Juniper, which is based in Canada and manufactures in China, moved beyond that, producing plush toys, board games, and nail polish.
“We are very anti-merch, in a way, but certainly anti-print-on-demand,” Kopotun said. “We hate that idea of just slapping a design onto a product and shipping it.”
The company has been lucky to build early partnerships with creators who have gone on to grow mega followings, like LankyBox, a channel whose subscriber count went from 6 million to over 15 million in the past year, according to data from Social Blade.
“We went to my brother’s friends at first, who were getting their YouTube careers kicked off, and started building brands for them,” Kopotun said. “We eventually were able to use my brother and his friends as powerful case studies of what we could do.”
Killer Merch, founded in 2014 by music industry professionals, was originally supposed to be a merch company for artists.
But in 2016, it expanded to partner with creators and now works with more than 40 of them. The company has a profit share model, according to CEO Stefan Toler.
Killer Merch handles all aspects of production, from design and digital marketing to fulfillment and customer service. It even has retail partners, which has allowed creators to sell in physical stores, as well as online. For example, creator Danny Duncan has sold some of his products, mostly apparel and accessories like bucket hats and backpacks, at Zumiez.
Represent makes products for some of the biggest celebrities in the world — like Leonardo DiCaprio, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the cast of “Friends” — as well as A-list creators like PewDiePie and CoryxKenshin.
Founded in 2013 as a platform for celebrities to raffle prizes for charity, Represent expanded into helping them design and sell products for a profit.
The company has an in-house design team which brainstorms ideas with clients and helps create unique products, and it only manufactures those products after they are sold.
A number of the products are sold in limited numbers to create increased demand, according to Bobby Maylack, Represent’s CMO.
“You see this with the Supreme culture, the shoe culture, the NFT culture: Everyone’s all about ‘buy it right now, see what’s fresh,'” Maylack said.
In November, Represent was acquired by Cameo, an app that lets people pay to receive personalized messages from celebrities. Both Cameo and Represent are ways for celebrities to monetize from their success, whether through products or videos, so the merger made sense, Maylack said.
“We decided to combine forces to tie digital and physical products,” he said.
Rivals Group works with top YouTubers and musicians on developing high-quality T-shirts, hoodies, and hats, sometimes in collaboration with name brands like Champion and Nike.
Rather than evergreen merch, the company helps clients develop and design seasonal lines.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, these products were often sold during tour stops. For example, Rivals worked with YouTube group Dude Perfect on apparel sold during various college and nationwide tours.
Aside from hats, tees, and sweatshirts, the company also creates accessories like PopSockets, backpacks, and socks.
Spring (formerly Teespring)
Spring — formerly known as Teespring — was founded in 2011 as a website where users could create T-shirts, and in 2018, it evolved into a broader merch company focused on creators.
In 2021, the company solidified that shift, changing its name from Teespring to Spring to reflect that merch for creators goes beyond T-shirts, CEO Chris LaMontaigne said.
Because Spring is a print-on-demand service, products are only physically produced after they are sold. This way, creators don’t have to pay upfront costs. Once their merch does go into production, creators pay a base price, which varies depending on the type of product. They can then set a price point and keep the profits.
Spring also helps creators make digital products, such as music or photo filters, and most recently, the company launched a Mint-on-Demand service, which hopes to help creators get into the NFT business.
As part of its mission to be creator-focused, Spring offers integrations that allow influencers to link directly to merch stores on several social media platforms, such as the YouTube “merch shelf.”
Clients include: Lucas the Spider (3.6 million YouTube subscribers), Connor DeWolfe (5.2 million TikTok followers), MMG (2.2 million YouTube subscribers), and Caroline Manning (1.4 million YouTube subscribers).
Warren James, which was founded in 2019, has always focused on creators. One of its first clients — who still makes merch with them — was gamer Aphmau, who has over 12 million subscribers on YouTube.
Warren James works with creators to make merch of any kind, including furniture, plush toys, and jewelry, and it is looking to expand into food and beverage, CEO Kevin Ramsey told Insider.
The company has an in-house design team that brainstorms ideas with influencers, as well as a team that creates a personalized website on which to sell the merch. It also handles digital marketing, quality control, and customer support, as well as collaborations with retail stores.
It even owns an apparel factory in Guangzhou, China, which manufactures products, and its own fulfillment center.
The company works on a licensing model: They license the brand from the creator for a set period of time, front the money necessary for production, and pay the creator royalties.
It has about 30 clients, many of whom are gamers, which makes sense given Ramsey’s previous jobs in licensing at Roblox and creating a Minecraft development company.