Merchwide in Orange creates merchandise for some of the biggest names in the industry. They're a one-stop juggernaut in the making that hired a group of music lovers to build brands for national and local acts. Suffice it to say this is not your average merch company.
Merchwide takes pride in the fact that their operation does more than sell t-shirts. They have the resources to design, create, and ship a variety of merch in-house, but it's the hands on approach to reaching the fans that sparks excitement in president Jon Brucher and merchandising manager Casey Sullivan. Brucher's experience in the clothing industry coupled with his history of playing drums in local bands gives him valuable insight into the world of music merchandising. Bringing on Sullivan--lead singer for local prog-reggae rock band Seedless--gives the company further insider credibility. Brucher states that Merchwide's purpose from the beginning was to help bands improve their overall visibility, and given the backgrounds of the staff, the company has an edge.
"We work with people that are alike. Merchwide has a great culture," Brucher says. "Coming to work and seeing results for our clients and for the fans, that's why we connect so well. We even get on the drums and jam once and awhile. We have enough employees who are musicians to start our own band."
Brucher started Merchwide in 2006 after selling his clothing company, and set out to make his mark by resisting traditional business models upheld in the music community. In lieu of advances and confiscating licensing rights, he aspired to create an environment where real world marketing meant working with the band in multiple areas. Orchestrating an approach that served a wider range of needs felt like the only suitable option for the 32-year-old entrepreneur. Everything from merchandising, website construction, and touring fulfillment were addressed, and ecommerce and social media needs were greeted with determination. His vision proved attractive to globally recognized acts like Snoop Dogg, 311, and John Fogerty.
The grassroots approach that Merchwide takes extends beyond their clients, it applies to the employees as well. Sullivan became close with Brucher after hanging out at a Guttermouth concert behind the previous Merchwide building in Santa Ana, and it wasn't long before Sullivan became an official part of the Merchwide family.
Sullivan admits that working for the company is a dually beneficial situation. While his position in Seedless provides perspective, he states that a reciprocation process occurred. Seedless' fan base experienced growth as a result of his work with the company, where he was able to witness first hand the newest market trends and see what peaked interest from a merchandising and marketing standpoint. He happily pays it forward. "I get to do the same for my clients. Reeform, and Katastro are local bands that saw their merchandise and online store connecting their fans to current trends. It brought them more sales than they ever had. That's the goal," says Sullivan. "We're at all the shows, and they have all walked through Merchwide."
The pair of Orange County natives share that they're not afraid to roll up their sleeves and help out bands on their client roster. Sullivan manned merch tables at shows for Kottonmouth Kings and Matt Costa, and Brucher asserts that they're on a first name basis with a large pool of fans. "It's all about relationships," Brucher says. Sullivan echoes, "If you do something you feel is great, you go home feeling great."
The company churns out merch daily, personalizing and distributing surfboards, skateboard prints, digital blue tooth players, and bobble heads along with clothing. And while the company tackles more than the music world--breweries, sports figures, and instrument brands are also riding the Merchwide wave--Brucher's sense of pride is roused again while he's discussing Pennywise's 25th anniversary. He talks about creating the anniversary line with focused intensity, but lights up when the conversation turns to loyal fans that look forward to owning something to commemorate the occasion.
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"Sure, Merchiwide is about merchandise management, but anybody can do that," Brucher says. "It's our real world marketing that makes us different. To be solid at marketing you have to have a relationship, common goal, and understanding with your clients. That what keeps you in business for twenty plus years."
What the next twenty years holds for Merchwide remains to be seen, but there's no denying Brucher and Sullivan's passion speaks for itself.