On Dec. 8, creator commerce platform Spring (previously known as the print-on-demand platform Teespring) announced that over 8 million people are currently using its platform to sell products. Remarkably, Spring told the Daily Dot that over 5 million of those people signed up in the last two years.
In the wake of this announcement, we spoke with Spring CEO Chris Lamontagne about recent company changes, his advice for creator monetization, as well as his opinions and goals regarding an evolving workforce.
Lamontagne began working for Teespring in 2016, and not long after, in 2019, he became the CEO. Lamontagne’s beginnings with the company were centered in the print-on-demand world; back in 2016, Teespring was mostly focused on products like T-shirts and hoodies. Lamontagne told the Daily Dot that back then, he felt that Teespring’s business could be more powerful if it branched into monetization strategies for creators beyond print.
Rebranding in 2021, Spring began to venture into new categories of product—accessories, athleisure, and beauty—in order to play more into creator verticals. Most notably, it introduced digital products. “We started with things like courses, tutorials, downloadable coloring books and photo filters,” Lamontagne said. “Now that’s evolved into things like social tokens and NFTs as well.”
Lamontagne continued, “Creators know what they want to put in front of their fans. We just have to figure out how to do it and support them. What we’re ever-increasingly seeing is this mix of physical products and digital products working together.”
Digital and vertical-specific products were not the only development Lamontagne said he pushed for. He also said he has driven the company to pursue heavy social integrations with platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and so on. He said he believes monetization tools are most effective when they do not send followers outside of the social platforms they trust and engage with.
“Fans don’t want to have to click off the website. They want to buy directly on the social platforms. That’s really what we’ve been focused on,” Lamontagne said.
Beyond advising creators to stay in-app when engaging fans, Lamontagne offered some other advice for successful monetization strategies. He recommends creators stick to their categories of expertise they are known for, like beauty, education, cooking, or fitness. “We’ve got a lot of fitness creators who want to produce fitness courses for their fans,” Lamontagne said. “Then maybe you’re also selling athleisure.”
For creators trying to determine what products their audience might like best, Lamontagne had some more advice: Just ask. “It sounds like such an odd thing to do, but it’s actually crowd-sourcing ideas. Say, ‘Hey, what do you guys want from me?’” Lamontagne suggested.
Lamontagne has been looking toward his community to decide the future course of Spring’s business. He told us he has been reevaluating trends over the past two years, in the face of a growing population of creators and the economic effects of the pandemic.
Many people have quit their jobs this year, perhaps due to family pressures, the closing and opening of businesses, a desire for better working conditions and higher pay, as well as pandemic-related experiences changing how we view ourselves in relation to our work. Lamontagne said he personally thinks the so-called “Great Resignation” accelerated creative entrepreneurship.
“Creators might actually represent a huge disruption to the workplace as we know it. I think people want to work on their terms. I think it’s an extension of what we drove in the gig economy,” Lamontagne said. “People are now saying I want that flexibility, but I also want this creativity as well. I don’t want to be doing a dead-end job that doesn’t make me feel good. I want to use my brain.”
We asked Lamontagne how Spring is shifting its own workplace in response to this disruption. Lamontagne didn’t say much about how Spring’s staff operates, but he did speak to the services Spring wants to offer to creators who are forging an entrepreneurial path for themselves.
Spring is developing “creative spaces” for creators, Lamontagne said. He spoke with us in San Francisco, where Spring recently developed a working space with both a photography and podcast studio that creators can drop in to use.
Lamontagne said he envisions future creative spaces being attuned to local communities of creators. In Los Angeles, Lamontagne said that Spring plans to have a gaming studio where creators can come stream from. In New York, it’s looking into a kitchen where creators can shoot cooking videos.
“Where is the office of the creator economy? Is it people’s bedrooms? It kind of feels like it is.” Lamontagne said. “So how can we give creators spaces where they can be creative from? Our vision really is that if we can empower people to work where they want, when they want, and how much they want that’s kind of our role to play in society.”
However, Spring has not been without criticism regarding its social impact. Spring’s hate speech and harassment policies have been under scrutiny in the past. The Daily Dot asked Lamontagne how Spring has attempted to make a fair and equitable platform in recent years.
In response, Lamontagne said that Spring worked on developing an in-house creator experience team to counter harassment and content policy violations. Additionally, it provides creators who have seen massive growth in sales on the platform with a strategic partner team to consult with for issues that arise.
Lamontagne also said that Spring works with the American Influencer Council, a membership trade association for prominent U.S.-based influencers. He said that Spring looks to them as thought leaders in the creator space. He said that he thinks that there’s a lot more work to be done in cultivating helpful and healthy working communities for creators.
So what is next for Lamontagne? He said that he wants to continue leaning into digital products, specifically exploring social tokens, NFTs, and educational materials. He also expressed an interest in improving Spring’s international reach. “One of the wonderful things about online communities is that they are borderless. Our platform needs to be totally borderless,” he said.
Thank you, Chris, for speaking with us!
Are you a business leader in the creator space? Shoot a message to [email protected] for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter.