“Never let them see you sweat” may be an adage to most of us, but to entrepreneurs Randy Choi and Billy Thompson, it’s motivation for going into business. Both Choi and Thompson suffer from a condition called hyperhidrosis (or excessive sweating), which caused them to sweat through their clothes daily. This condition can impact the activities, affect quality of life and disrupt the emotional well-being of the 15 million Americans who suffer from it.
After exhausting the medical options available to them, and not finding any products on the market that could help, the pair decided to put their expertise to use. Choi and Thompson created Thompson Tee, a line of undershirts and T-shirts for men and women that trap excess sweat, preventing the appearance of sweat stains.
Choi’s 20 years of experience in domestic garment production and Thompson’s sales background came in handy as they worked to create and market a product that literally changes people’s lives, making them feel more secure and confident as they go about their daily activities.
Path to Success
Thompson and Choi spent more than 10 years developing their products. They opened their online store in 2012, and in 2014 were awarded a patent for their “Hydro-Shield” sweat-proof technology. In 2017, Thompson and Choi appeared on Shark Tank, where they accepted $700,000 funding from Robert Herjavec.
ThompsonTee.com not only sells the Thompson Tee, but also offers information and advice about safe and effective hyperhidrosis solutions. Choi and Thompson’s motto: “Freedom. Comfort. Confidence.” informs every product decision they make.
How SCORE Helped:
Choi and Thompson took advantage of the diverse knowledge of SCORE mentors in the Orange County, California office, getting guidance about everything from developing their business model to digital marketing. They’ve been working with primary mentors John Pietro and Larry Tucker for five and two years respectively.
Thompson says they have a “great” relationship with their mentors. SCORE, Thompson says, has “provided info about banking, loans, distribution channels, manufacturing reps, marketing seminars” and more.
Specifically, Thompson says, they got help in two key areas: “focus and digital marketing.”
“We’ve learned to focus on what’s important,” Thompson say. “Focus on our revenue model — don’t chase revenue that doesn’t make sense.”
Choi says, “When we first started out, we were trying everything … informercials … just everything.”
It fell to Pietro to set them straight. “I convinced them that direct selling was better than selling to retailers,” he says.
Thompson adds, “Through SCORE, we connected with our current digital marketer who has been crucial to our optimized growth.”
Thompson Tee Today
Thompson Tee, the 2018 Outstanding Diverse Business SCORE Award winner (presented by AT&T), is an extraordinary success story. Thompson says they initially turned to SCORE because, “We were broke!”
“[There were] so many low points, many mistakes were made,” Thompson admits. “[But] we persevered.”
Thompson Tee now sells to consumers in more than 135 countries and, Thompson says they’ve, “built this business to over $10 million in sales without any outside financing.” The company has been featured on several TV shows, including Shark Tank, Counterpart and The Doctors.
Pietro is proud of what Choi and Thompson have accomplished. He says, “They’ve created tax revenues and jobs. They’ve contributed a great deal to the state of California and the city of Orange.”
One of the things Choi and Thompson are most proud of is the diversity of their staff. Thompson explains, “Randy is Korean. I’m half-Korean, half-Caucasian. Our employees are diverse; the majority being non-Caucasian. While it wasn’t the mission of our company to hire a diverse staff, our company reflects the great diversity of southern California. And it is all those different perspectives that makes our company stronger. We treat our employees really well. Pay well. At the end of the day, we’re hiring whoever can do the job best, regardless of color/ethnicity.”
Paying it Forward
Thompson Tee impacts many lives. Thompson says he and Choi are proud of, “The lives we are improving. We’re giving people confidence.” In fact, he says, when they were at a low point, “Reading the life-changing testimonials kept us going!”
Choi and Thompson have advice for prospective business owners: “Save as much money as you can prior to starting and be prepared to work harder and smarter than you ever have before. And contact SCORE immediately unless you got money to burn!”