How did Threadless start?
Jake Nickell started Threadless in 2000 with $1,000. Threadless began as a T-shirt design competition on the now defunct dreamless.org, a forum where users experimented with computers, code, and art. Jake Nickell and co-founder Jacob DeHart invited users to post their designs on a dreamless thread (hence the name Threadless), and they would print the best designs on T-shirts. This inspired "the Jakes" to create Threadless, an ongoing open call for tee shirt design submissions, as a way to "give back" to the community by actually creating products featuring the work created by participating artists.
Shortly after the first batch of shirts was printed, the founders built a website for Threadless and introduced a voting system where designs could be scored 1 to 5. By 2002, Jake Nickell had quit his full-time job, dropped out of art school, and started his own web agency called skinnyCorp, with Threadless continuing to build under the skinnyCorp umbrella.
A new batch of T-shirts was printed once the previous batch had sold out. In 2000, Threadless would print shirts every few months. By 2004, the company was printing new shirts every week. By 2004, Threadless was big enough that skinnyCorp did not need to continue outside client work. What began as a hobby evolved into a business once the idea took off after a few years. Threadless' growth was a community effort of increased participation and word of mouth.