Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Press Release--Cafepress Puts 6.5 Million Business Partners Out On the Street

Here's one version of the press release I recently sent to the San Jose Mercury News, The San Francisco Chronicle, the Associated Press, CNN, CBS and I forgot who else (a few of the TV news stations make it almost impossible to send press releases via the internet). Feel free to use this as assistance in writing one of your own.

I used to work as a journalist so I do know the basics of writing a press release—making it current, including who, what, where, when and how, and making sure you send it out. Press releases, by the way, do not have to only be sent to the regular news media. Get creative--try sending them to Cafepress's so-called corporate partners (will they be getting the shaft from them sometime in the future?), their stockholders (if you can figure out who they are), and anyone else you can think who might be of assistance in the process of getting the word out—has anyone found a kick-ass class action lawsuit attorney yet?

Oh yeah, if you have a really good BRIEF story of your own about how what's happened at Cafepress has affected you or someone you love, include it and include contact information so a news reporter can follow up and interview you!


Internet Giant Cafepress Puts 6.5 Million Business Partners Out On the Street

Cafepress, the self-described Internet leader in print-on-demand marketing of user-designed t-shirts, greeting cards and a wide variety of gift items, just made a financial decision that has literally ripped the livelihoods, near livelihoods, and extra income from 6.5 million of their own designer shopkeepers overnight.

Cafepress describes itself as “a community of 6.5 million members, where folks from all walks of life gather online to create, sell, and buy T-Shirts and other "print-on-demand" products.” Until May 31st the basic premise was that anyone with a great design or slogan could upload their creative work to Cafepress, offer it on a wide number of products, add their own mark-up and share in the profit if the item sold. A single design can be uploaded for free but people who are serious about making a living from their work can also pay for a “Premium shop” and, at one time, could upload an unlimited number of designs. Shopkeepers are encouraged to spend time making their shops look nice, write detailed product descriptions and develop good Search Engine Optimization (an essential ingredient for successful internet marketing).

Some shopkeepers were highly successful at this. Many did well enough to quit their day jobs and a large number of people committed a large amount of time and effort with the belief that with enough diligence their work would pay off over time. Typical shopkeeper profits were in the range of 25-45%, many charged even more. Most of this income depended on the sale of their items in the Cafepress Marketplace.

At the beginning of May Cafepress announced that as of May 31st it would no longer allow shopkeepers to set their own prices in the Marketplace and the new commission would be 10%. Shopkeepers are reporting a 50-80% slashing of their income overnight.

The number of people severely impacted by this decision is hard to judge. There are participants on Cafepress’s own online forum , claiming to be the sole providers for their families, who were dependent on this income. One woman, the stay at home mom for three children, claims her $50,000/year income will be slashed to $5000-7000 and she doesn’t know what she will do. A disabled Vietnam vet wrote saying that without his Cafepress income he was in danger of losing his house. Many others have been sharing similar tales.

On the homepage of their website Cafepress claims to be “rewarding self-expressionists since 1999.” For many of those shopkeepers rewarding self-expressionism has died.

Online Resources for Researching this Story Further

Cafepress Announcement of Marketplace Changes...

The Cafepress Press Center...

The Cafe Press Forum Section on this Marketplace Decision...
(PLEASE NOTE: This section of the forum will be closed on June 15th and will be taken down from the site July 1st.)

Cafepress Made Me Lose My Shirt... A blog for preserving the stories Cafepress shopkeepers are sharing about how this decision affects their businesses, from the Cafepress Forum...

Blog post about how Cafepress’s business model worked, why so many people were enticed, and what this means for those people now...

Blog post about the disproportionately high number of disabled people, work-at-home moms and family caregivers losing their income as a result of Cafepress...


Contact Info:

Corporate Headquarters
1850 Gateway Drive, Suite 300
San Mateo, California 94404
Phone: 650-655-3000
Toll Free: 877-809-1659
Fax: 650-655-3002

Press & Analyst Contact Public Relations
1850 Gateway Drive, Suite 300
San Mateo, California 94404
Phone: 650-655-3039

Provider of this Press Release:

Sheryl Karas
Cafepress shopkeeper
Contact me via this website
Email: xxxxxxx
Telephone: xxxxxxx

A Few Sample Stories from the Cafepress Forum

(many more available on Cafepress Made Me Lose My Shirt...

Freakshow Productions:
I work full time at my CP shop. Over 90% of my sales are generated thru the marketplace. I am raising three kids and working from home lets me be there for them and set my own hours. I too took a huge hit when they took away the volume bonus. I've been a "Top Shopkeeper" for over two years and last year made $50,000. Now me and family are screwed. According to this new plan I will make $5000-$7000 this year!! WTF CP??????????

This is my job. MY JOB. I quit to do this full time before the volume bonus was taken away, and I took a hit on that. I dealt with it, though, even though is was a loss of income. We cut back on everything and I felt lucky to have a job. But this .... I'm going to have to go back to working outside the home. I have MS, and I have a hard time working full time. I can work at home, because I can work around my good days and bad days. You can't do that in a regular job.I would go on disability, which I could qualify for. Except it's $800 a month. This is devastating to me, as well. I'm going to lose 70% of my income.

My story: I share my shop with my sister. For her, this is her entire income. She is agoraphobic and even stepping outside of her house is terrifying. When this came along, it was a huge financial relief for her (and our whole family) as she has been able to support herself. Since hearing this news, she's literally been throwing up, not knowing how she's going to pay for anti-anxiety medications and her monthly bills. My husband is a student, and my cafepress income has allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom to my two and four year old children. Cafepress has been paying my mortgage as well as my healthcare premiums. Jobs in my field are very hard to come by at the moment, and my earnings on other PODs and affiliate ventures will take a long time to even come close to CP.

Thankfully I didn't quit my day job, but half of my income comes from my various CafePress shops. I, like many of the rest of you, have made significant life decisions based upon a budget that included my CP income. I bought a home that I stand to lose at this point, as the math just doesn't add up. I'm getting married this summer and have no idea how I'm going to tell my fiancé this evening that we very well may lose our home this year. I'm crushed.

Since December, I've lost 50% of my total income as a result of the economy. It was beyond my control. Today I've been informed that I'll be losing 80-90% of what was left thanks to Cafepress. Also beyond my control. At the moment, I have little to no income, and I'm left scrambling for alternatives that I never thought I'd need to pursue..... And the really tough part to all this is that... since we were not employed by CP, we do not qualify for unemployment, there is no severance package, AND all our hard work has -- one could argue -- been stolen by the company that worked for us.


Anonymous said...

Can the rest of us have a printable version that we could also send to newspapers?

Anonymous said...


To opt out of the marketplace, please follow the steps below. Here's how it's done.

1. Log into your account.
2. Click on the "Your shops" tab.
3. Click on the shop id you want to opt out of the marketplace.
4. Click on "edit shop profile."
5. Check the "affiliate eligibility opt out."
6. Save changes.