How Nearly Dying Inspired This Entrepreneur to Create the Future of Merchandising Powered by One-to-One Personalized Marketing

How Nearly Dying Inspired This Entrepreneur to Create the Future of Merchandising Powered by One-to-One Personalized Marketing

Long before Mike Krilivsky died in a car crash,

Then miraculously came back to life...

He was a 17-year old guitarist touring with a band. A year later he started his own record label, began representing talented musicians, and also organized what he calls some of the largest dance parties in the world.

Let’s Rage!

This was Krilivsky’s motto as he toured the country. At the time, this phrase was only meant to pump people up and to have a good time.

“That moment was a real epiphany for me,” Krilivsky says. “I was doing great things, but suddenly I wanted to find a more meaningful purpose.”

“Let’s Rage” remained Krilivsky’s motto. It now meant "to celebrate the fact that you're alive!"

As Krilivsky traveled with the musicians he represented at his label, he told his second chance story to anyone he'd encounter. “To be alive is a gift,” he preached. “We’re only here a short time so we all should be doing something meaningful.”

The response?

It may not have been the emotion-laden type you’re expecting, but it did spawn an idea that would ultimately become a category-creating multimillion dollar business that would empower creators everywhere to bring their ideas to life on demand.

“Some of them weren’t selling any merchandise,” Krilivsky says of the musicians with which he was working. “Fans kept asking to purchase merchandise and often we didn’t have any high-quality stuff to sell them.”

Suddenly, Krilivsky knew exactly what his higher purpose was.

What if he could create technology that allowed musicians, celebrities, or anyone with a creative bone in their body to create high-quality merchandise on demand and sell items one at a time without taking on any inventory risk?

“I just needed someone to believe in me,” Krilivsky says.

But the ambitious drive necessary to turn Krilivsky’s vision into a reality…

Would nearly kill him again.

The Birth of RageOn

It was November 2014 and the company he co-founded, RageOn, which allows people to cover the the entirety of a product with a design and print the items on demand when someone places an order, was on the verge of collapse.

“We seriously thought we were going to bite the dust,” Krilivsky says.

The problem?

Demand for RageOn’s merchandise was too great.

“Screen printing sucks,” Krilivsky says. “You’re limited to just a few colors that can only be printed in the middle of the shirt and if you guess wrong about the designs customers want, you’re stuck with inventory you’ll never be able to sell.”

He should know.

Krilivsky still has boxes of unsold merchandise sitting on shelves.

It’s why he invented a patent pending custom creation technology that gives people the tools to turn their imaginative designs into custom print on demand merchandise that doesn’t peel, crack, or wrinkle:

  • Shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Hoodies
  • Onesies
  • Shoes
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Shower curtains
  • And much more!

Besides allowing everyday creatives to turn their designs into merchandise, RageOn is a unique way for celebrities and musicians to reduce the inventory risk associated with merchandising by first testing designs, seeing which are popular on RageOn’s site, and printing orders on demand.

“We remove the friction of creation,” Krilivsky says. “It’s also really green because we only print a design when someone orders it so there’s no waste.”

Initially, no one thought Krilivsky’s idea would work.

“They told me I was a fu#$ing lunatic,” Krilivsky says of the printing professionals he contacted. “I went on a worldwide search and for six months was told I was an idiot.”

Except for one…

A printer in Boston agreed to purchase the equipment necessary. In return, Krilivsky promised to get orders from musicians and celebrities. It was a success beyond anyone but Krilivsky’s wildest dreams with well-known artists now choosing RageOn as their innovative merchandising partner:

The honeymoon was short lived though.

The Boston printer, Krilivsky says, couldn’t keep up with demand and fell three months behind in fulfilling orders. “We were getting up at 7am and packing orders ourselves until 8pm,” Krilivsky recalls. “Then we’d be up until four in the morning dealing with customers and taking new orders.”

The grind was too much.

He needed to find a new printing partner to save himself and his business.

“Yea, we thought we might not make it even with all of the demand,” Krilivsky says.

After another worldwide search, Krilivsky found a new printing partner in the Midwest.

So with a U-haul packed with everything he owned, he headed for Ohio. “We didn’t have a place to live,” he remembers. “We found an ad for a home on Craigslist, FaceTimed with the landlord during the drive, and made the deal sight unseen.”

The new printing partnership worked for a while.

That is until demand once again became overwhelming.

This time, though, Krilivsky had secretly been creating something that, unbeknownst to him at the time, would be the secret to his company’s success.

And prompt Silicon Valley to throw millions of dollars his way.

Partnerships Drive Growth

Second chances, in life and business, are precious.

With a second crack at both, Krilivsky wanted to be sure he made the most of them. It’s why when RageOn outgrew its Midwest printing partnership, Krilivsky was prepared.

To avoid relying solely on a single printer, Krilivsky had been duplicating RageOn’s supply chain in every time zone the company served. “We created the largest on demand custom creation technology supply chain in the world,” Krilivsky says. “If we hadn’t, who knows if we’d even be around today.”

But Krilivsky is far from a go-it-alone type of entrepreneur. After switching from a custom ecommerce platform to Shopify in 2013, a move that resulted in RageOn’s highest grossing sales day in the company’s history at the time, RageOn upgraded to Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for merchants like Krilivsky who need to scale quickly.

“I’ve tried every other platform and Shopify is the best ecommerce platform in the world,” Krilivsky says. “I love great things which is why I’m one of Shopify’s biggest fans and have persuaded hundreds of other merchants to switch to Shopify.”

Besides being able to scale on demand and handle the triple digit growth RageOn is experiencing, it’s the Shopify Plus account managers who Krilivsky says act like trusted advisors and make all the difference. “I actually feel bad and owe our account manager flowers,” Krilivsky says with a hint of guilt in his laughter. “We really needed a person to bitch at when we were having growing pains and they were always there to listen and support us.”

Since partnering with Shopify and growing RageOn into a multimillion dollar company, Krilivsky was lured to Silicon Valley where RageOn could participate in #1 ranked enterprise accelerator, Alchemist, raise venture capital from some of the top ranked Bay Area VCs including the original creators of Amazon’s marketplace - rocketship.vc, and assemble a team of employees and advisors from companies such as Apple, Pinterest, Google, and Uber.

“I remember thinking I’m already making millions why move to Silicon Valley,” Krilivsky says. “But I’m convinced I can make a deeper impact by surrounding myself with the type of people out there who believe in me and see the potential in what we’ve created.”

Similar to the way Krilivsky was seeking out the best and most optimal way to make his clothes, he also demanded that the merchandise in his store be presented the best way to each individual customer. It’s why Krilivsky partnered with Nosto, a personalization solution that helps online retailers deliver personalized customer shopping experiences that drive growth.

For instance, Nosto combined its proprietary technology with RageOn’s customer data to offer one-to-one personalized recommendations on RageOn product and checkout pages.

“We make powerful personalization easy even for enterprise retailers like RageOn with massive sites and millions of SKUs,” says Jan Sorensen, the head of customer success at Nosto. “The one-to-one personalization we offer across channels allows marketers to get back to what they’re supposed to be focusing on which is building their brands.”

With no minimum spend, no minimum contract length or any other commitments, Nosto's success is directly tied to that of the retailer's. Nosto only takes a small percentage of the sales it helps retailers generate. Backed up with an entire team dedicated to success, RageOn’s results have been impressive.

  • Nosto’s recommendations now account for 8-15% of RageOn’s sales
  • RageOn has seen a 6X ROI with Nosto
  • Since partnering with Nosto, RageOn customers spend more time on site and spend more money

Real personalization at the enterprise level, where there’s often too much data to manage manually, hinges on automating the process in real-time as Nosto does. Nosto’s unique patented algorithms and the ability to score customers based on characteristics such as brand affinity and price sensitivity allow it to automatically target each individual customer with the most relevant items at the right time through the right channel.

“It has been a match made in heaven,” Krilivsky says of RageOn’s partnership with Nosto. “I don’t know why everyone isn’t using them.”

RageOn and its powerful partnerships are a success by any measure.

But remember Krilivsky’s obsession with finding a more meaningful purpose?

He recently found a new one.

Real-Time Merchandise

Quick, name one of your idols.

Now imagine running into him or her by chance, snapping a selfie to commemorate the encounter, and being able to instantly print the selfie all over any piece of apparel you can can imagine.

“It’s real-time merchandising,” Krilivsky says. “Mobile is blowing up and we wanted to make it so anyone could instantly create, share, and wear their favorite designs.”

The RageOn App, which promises to bring the freedom of creation to the masses, allows people to transform their favorite pictures, memories, or anything they see into high quality products such as T-shirts, shoes, hoodies, onesies, pillows, and even more!

The mobile app makes technology that was once largely reserved for big brands, celebrities, and musicians available to anyone with a smartphone and an imagination to create merchandise in real-time.

The ironic motivation behind it all?

The near death experience that not only changed Krilivsky’s life, but those of creators around the world who now have the power to express themselves in ways never before imagined.

“I never would have taken the risks or put it all on the line to build something the world didn’t have without the crash that nearly killed me,” Krilivsky says.

About the Author

Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog and founder of The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best-known brands, businesses, and marketers. Get more from Nick here.

Topics: