As featured in Prudhoe Business Magazine

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Paul Sun is a co-owner of MyMerch Studio based in Low Prudhoe. The business was set up in 2021 during lockdown, to fill a gap in the influencer merchandise market and put a positive spin on a tough time.

Prudhoe Business Magazine spoke to Paul, who has a number of businesses, but spends most of his time at Pink Buddha – an events and communications agency based in London. It was the pandemic that left Paul eager to explore new markets and opportunities.

PB: Tell us about the existing businesses you ran before starting MyMerch?

PS: My main business – my bread and butter if you like – is Pink Buddha. We’re a full-service events and communications agency based in Greenwich. Aside from traditional event work, we have a specific focus on Influencer Marketing – something which has completely transformed our industry and the way clients and brands engage with their audiences.

Then there’s Late Tuesday Night Productions, or LTN, which provides sound, lighting and video equipment to the events sector and has a great synergy with Pink Buddha.

I also own Hiatco – a specialist aluminium welding and fabrication company based here in the North East in Stanley, which I inherited from my father when he passed away. Hiatco brings me up here every four or five weeks.

Finally, there’s SunEquip, which is predominantly an importer of agricultural products from China.

PB: So how did MyMerch come about?

PS: The pandemic lockdowns brought the events industry to its knees, with orderbooks and pipelines disappearing in the blink of an eye. Prior to this I would be working on projects at Buddha in the UK, across Europe, the US and Asia-Pac. Suddenly I found both Buddha and LTN with no work.

 On a trip up to the North East to visit the Hiatco team, during Eat Out To Help Out in August 2020, I went for dinner with Alan Sawyers from AS Design and his partner Nic, who are both also directors of CCS Products which produces merch and promo gifts for small businesses.

I had ordered a couple of t-shirts from comedian Nigel Ng, and after waiting over a month for delivery was hit with customs and import charges amounting to almost 40%. I did some research and found a lot of UK personalities were using US-based merch ‘giants’ to provide their merch offering. This gave me the idea of launching a merchandise business targeting influencers, TikTokers, YouTubers and other creators with UK audiences.

 The concept was to print on-demand merch in the UK for homegrown talent to reach their audiences quicker and with less of a sting-in-the-tail for their fans.

 I had worked with Alan for a number of years and found that we both had very similar ethics and approached to work, qualities that I knew I needed in a business partner hence why I approached him with my idea for MyMerch.

PB: Running seven businesses between you already, it must have been easy starting a new one?

PS: Actually quite the opposite. Alan’s businesses being in design, web and ecommerce, his workload and pipeline went the opposite way to mine, so there was a bit of reluctance on his part, mainly owing to time availability.

But we also knew we couldn’t run a merchandise company without offering t-shirts, which meant investing in the right kit to do that was inevitable.

Alan has worked with singer Toyah Willcox for twenty years, including some aspects of merch management and ecommerce, and more recently with her husband Robert Fripp. The couple had started a YouTube series during the first lockdown, which became a viral success.

 Toyah approached Alan about producing a range of tees using images from the series and it felt like the perfect opportunity to bite the bullet. So we invested in a direct-to-garment printer and since then we’ve produced a wide range of products for Toyah and Robert and have managed the supply of merch into Toyah’s two most recent tours.

PB: The production side of MyMerch hasn’t been plain sailing, has it?

PS: Not at all. Like most businesses who are new to a sector or certain type of product, it’s been a learning curve. Printing onto white fabric is easy, but printing – especially white ink – onto dark fabrics isn’t.

But we’ve persevered and managed to nail production that meets our exceptionally high quality expectations.

PB: What’s next for MyMerch?

PS: We’re continuing to work regularly with Toyah and Robert, on their 2023 summer shows and an autumn tour later in the year, alongside a number of small businesses locally. Our specialism in small runs and one-offs we feel make us ideally placed for further exploring our niche of being the go-to on-demand merch studio.