The idea behind Swag Space is the definition of industry disruption.

Launched under CustomInk (PPAI 594384, D2) and developed by and its CEO Jeremy Parker, Swag Space is an e-commerce platform for distributors meant to eliminate unnecessary friction. Everything an end buyer needs to find the product that fits their needs can theoretically be found, customized, boxed/kitted, ordered and delivered through the Swag Space website. All contact and inquiries by the customer go through the distributor.

The service, now launched, is currently free to use with a percentage each sale going to Swag Space.

“This allows typical distributors to get a taste of the e-commerce of the giants,” says Parker, referring to the industry’s billion-dollar distributors.

The Background

Parker started in 2016 with the goal of becoming the best place for companies to buy high-quality premium products. In the beginning, he couldn’t get over how much time he and his co-founder spent on tasks that weren’t actively moving toward that goal.

“In my first year of business, I was knocking on doors, waiting on hold with suppliers and creating presentations from scratch,” Parker says. “I found myself spending about 20% of my time on selling and 80% of my time focusing, frankly, on BS.”

  • In its second year, the company launched the first version of its e-commerce site and tripled its sales through the efficiencies the site created.
  • After being acquired by CustomInk, over $10 million has been invested in the platform with 40 full-time developers dedicated to it. This model was replicated to create Swag Space.

In Parker’s opinion, small-to-mid-sized distributors are being held back from scaling their business, not because of talent but for the same reasons was bogged down in its first year: time wasted.

The Vision

Parker tends to speak in hypotheticals when he discusses Swag Space. From an early stage, four years ago, he could envision what it might mean for the average distributor.

“What if we took all the technology – every single thing that we built; inventory capabilities, our integration with Shopify, the ability for customized boxes, PDF presentations in real time – and give it to the entire distributor network?” Parker says he asked himself even before being acquired by CustomInk in 2021.

  • Every time there’s an order through the website, it would hit CustomInk’s back end.
  • By doing all the coordination and execution through a supplier, Swag Space would become the de facto supplier for the distributor without disrupting the established supply chain.
  • The service they are offering is to give that 80% of time that Parker remembers wasting in his first year back to the distributor.

That last notion gets Parker back to thinking about potential benefits.

“With that extra time, do they want to make more sales and grow their businesses or spend more time with their families?” Parker says.

CustomInk CEO Marc Katz echoes that sentiment in his excitement about the launch.

“Swag Space is the first end-to-end platform in the custom swag category,” Katz says. “Our business was built on digital innovation, and we want to help other swag distributors benefit from our experience and leverage our infrastructure.

“Swag Space not only improves the buyer and distributor experience, it also eliminates the operational stress and wasted time spent on inventory snafus, supply chain glitches and production problems.”

Evan Rosenberg, CEO of Powerhouse Prints, has had access to Swag Space through a beta program and says that his experience has touched on that vision.

“The team is really attentive,” Rosenberg says. “I’ve had times where I needed something that was not on the site, and I reached out to them, and they were able to source it and add it in a few hours. It’s been a really great experience so far.”

How It Works

There are a number of steps to get started using Swag Space, ultimately ending in a contract agreement between distributors and Swag Space/CustomInk. That contract stipulates that Swag Space/CustomInk will not go after the distributor’s customers.

“The customer speaks to the distributor,” Parker says. “If there’s an issue with the order, the distributor speaks to us. We become the de facto suppliers, so we’re never communicating ever with our distributor network’s customers. We’re the front-end tech, but we’re also the back-end supplier.”

A few steps and offerings in the Swag Space process include:

  • Distributors apply to be a member before getting access.
  • They fill out a form to set up their site.
  • Distributors then upload their logo and brand colors and set their URL.
  • Product categories range from inexpensive to premium items.
  • The user has the option to select the commission – a higher commission will raise the price of the product for the client.
  • There is an option to do warehousing distribution. The platform allows users to buy swag and choose between having it sent to their office or holding it in Swag Space’s inventory. They can upload a CSV and ship it to as many different addresses at once.

“They handle all of the production,” Rosenberg says. “I don’t need to manually place orders with various suppliers or buy blanks from one supplier and send to a screen printer and another to an embroiderer. Once the orders come in, I can start focusing on the next sale.” 

Parker wonders aloud how many more deals small and mid-sized distributors will close with the time savings he believes Swag Space offers. He doesn’t believe most of those distributors otherwise have the resources to continue to compete as the industry becomes more remote and more digitally savvy. They need to keep up with their customers.

“We’ll save them,” Parker predicts. “I think that. I really do.”