T-shirt and Sandwiches- An interview with DeliFreshThreads
Recently I decided to contact the owner of DeliFreshThreads, Anthony “Biggie”Bencomo to learn more about his brand. I didn’t know what to expect from this brand, but I knew that the designs and branding were solid. I’ve seen food brands come and go, but DeliFreshThreads is chugging along and thought it would be great to get an insight look on what they’re all about. So enjoy this serving of the F.A.R. Collective’s first interview.
First and foremost please introduce yourself.
My name is Anthony Bencomo, aka Biggie. I am from Orlando, FL; however I was born and raised in New Jersey. I am happily married and we have a 5 year old little girl. I graduated from the University of Central Florida and I am big sports fan. In case you are wondering, since I live in Orlando and a parent… we do have annual passes to see Mickey Mouse and love it!
What made you start Deli Fresh Threads?
In college I owned a clothing company for my university. It was called KnightMare Apparel and it was run by myself and a few friends. I loved coming up with designs and doing the marketing and branding. It was so much fun and even while working a full time job out of college- I never thought of it as work. We closed up after a few years because when it comes to college apparel – your sales are dictated by your team’s performance and we weren’t as good back then as we are now!
What was the reason for starting it?
I started Deli Fresh Threads because I wanted and needed a creative outlet. My life was going great and I enjoyed my day job but I wanted something that was mine and something I was passionate about. Have you ever thought to yourself “what would you do if you won the lottery?”-whenever I did; sandwiches were always involved. I have tweaked my idea and then decided to combine my love for sandwiches and t-shirts and create a brand out of it.
Did you want to replicate the success of brands you were following?
I knew coming into this process that this would not be an overnight; get rich quick process. I was also not looking to copy any brand. There are elements that I love and I am inspired from other brands. I really want to create a community atmosphere with my brand- that is something that organically happens. I made it a point to reach out and try to learn from various brands that I admired to get tips and suggestions so that I could be better prepared and learn from those I admire. I also knew that based on me being a food based brand- I needed to make a great 1st impression and not be considered a copier, but my own brand.
Where do you work the hardest as a brand owner online or offline?
I work a lot offline for online. I have to prep and draft blog posts; schedule tweets and posts. I am continuously emailing and processing orders. I work with designers and keep on top of everything that is needed. So as much as I’d love to just interact online with others, like many brand owners you are juggling a lot of things. I thought I would try to do a release every quarter, but it hasn’t happened. There is so much planning necessary and working hand in hand with many people that sometimes they are not on the same schedule as you.
I also do my #SandwichEatUp events since people know I enjoy a good sandwich- they always ask me where I go- So I thought this would be a great way to meet people offline and enjoy good sandwiches at local sandwich shops (never a chain!).
Do you prefer to market the brand more offline in your local area or online through social media and blogs?
I have been marketing my brand more online since the beginning. I was tweeting and posting on tumblr almost a year before I even opened up shop. I thought it was a great way for people to see that I am truly passionate about sandwiches. Since my brand is more global than say my 1st brand that was based out of Orlando and a school- my niche is so much broader that I can reach a larger audience online via social media and blogs. Considering more than 1 Billion sandwiches are eaten everyday throughout the world and there are about 4 billion t-shirts sold a year worldwide.
What’s your creative thought process when working on a new collection? If you do not design your own shirts, how do you feel it is best to proceed with having designers work on your brand?
I have a brainstorming book that I come up with various ideas and themes and doodles. Since I am not an artist. I am always looking for designers to follow– whether on Instagram, dribbble, twitter, etc. I am always searching for someone that will blend well with what I am looking for and my brands style.
I usually interact with the designer and build a relationship with them. From there I tell them my vision and we work from there.
I am open to their ideas but I usually have a doodle or a concept for them and try to explain it the best way possible. Sometimes we talk on the phone, Skype or email. It has worked out well so far. I’ve worked with Lain Lee III, InkParkCo and David Babich and they have been great. I plan to work with them again and few others as well.
Do you feel it is better to have a new theme for each release or have new designs that fit with your brand?
I think it’s great to mix it up. Some series releases are great but I like to mix it up. My Sandwich City Series will be a planned themed release. I hope to do one every year. For others I can just say they are all Sandwich themed.
Considering that there are a lot of food theme brands out there, what makes Deli Fresh stand out from the rest?
I started the brand because I am obsessed with sandwiches. That is why all my designs are to show love to what I consider to be the King of Meals. My branding is sandwich based and I plan to stay true to that. I am a niche brand and with such a large population of t-shirt wearing sandwich eaters I plan to cater to them. I’d love to become the official brand of sandwich eaters everywhere.
What further products do you want to go into in the future? Posters? Prints? Jeans? Belts? New Lunch Recipes?
I am working with DomeHats to create some Deli Fresh Threads hats for the Summer. I am also trying to find accessories that are lunch/sandwich themed that I can incorporate. I have some female sandwich eaters, my wife included asking for women’s v neck cut t-shirts. I am trying to find something that is actually for women and not just a junior’s size collection.
If American Apparel is your go to t-shirt blank, what is your go to sandwich?
Great question. I picked American Apparel because they make a great t-shirt. I’ve been wearing them for a few years and they hold up really well with care. So quality ingredients are important to me.
Sandwich wise- I would say my go to sandwich is a ham, turkey and roast beef sub. The bread has to be good and put some mayo and spicy mustard on it with cheddar cheese (not on the top or the bottom but in the middle of the meats).
I pretty much try to make everything I eat into a form of sandwich.
Which of the three is it, hoagie, sub, or a hero?
It actually depends on where you are from. Most of the nation calls it a Sub. If you are from South Jersey/Philly you probably call it a Hoagie. If you are from NY, Hero is the usual term. Grinder is also used but thats a New England term. They all refer to the same thing- a long roll of Italian or French bread split lengthwise and filled with goodness. I tend to call it a Sub depending on where I am.
You seem offer youth sizes too, do you feel like the challenge of feeding the youth with Deli Fresh to be as difficult as adults?
Since I have a daughter, I made a youth shirt because I wanted my daughter to wear my brand. I love the design and thought it would be a great kid’s shirt. However it has been more difficult to sell than adults shirts. Since I use American Apparel they are a high price point and kids tend to grow quick- so it’s a little tough. I will not be producing a new kid’s shirt for a little bit but that is not to say I won’t make any more. I have lots of ideas for a kids line.
What would you say are the most common mistakes for brands who are established and forget to put in the work to keep a brand going?
That’s a tough question. You always have to keep humble and always be evolving and growing. You can’t rest on your laurels. I am always open to suggestions and am looking ways to improve my brand- whether its logistics, packaging, etc. I know the day I stop hustling and trying – people notice.
You see many brands that start off hot but then die down after some time. A lot of times it could be budgetary- spent too much on many shirt designs, website, and shirts and then sales may not have been as great as they expected and now they are in a hole and can’t produce more items since they blew their budget from the beginning or overspent.
I think you need to constantly look to introduce yourself to new people. Also try to create things no one else is making or at least make it different if it’s the same item as everyone else.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned while running Deli Fresh Threads?
Rome was not built in a day. You have to put work into this every day. You are not running a 40 yd dash this is a long marathon- so you need to be built to last. Believe in yourself and put out a great product. Just like in a good sandwich- quality ingredients are key. Also this business is not a get rich quick. If you think you are next The Hundreds or Johnny Cupcakes- be prepared to build- cause those guys didn’t just make it big overnight- they built it and took chances and worked hard to get where they are today.
Being that you’re a family man, what are some challenges that you face while running your brand and spending quality time? Do you make them pack your orders to add that extra family feel vibe?
This is a real challenge. I have to balance quite a bit. I am always looking at ways to improve on this (any suggestions let me know). I work a full time job, and juggling family time and Deli Fresh Threads time is often difficult. Trying to balance a social media presence and packing orders and running a 1 man deli shop is hard. I don’t have my girls pack but my wife does edit my blog posts for me. I was inspired on how I pack my orders from things my parents would do – the napkin, the nice little note, a little treat. All those things inspired me with my packaging.
Which brands in the past 12 months have really come up on your radar you would recommend?
I love the indie brand community so I am always looking, following, interacting and researching other brands.
I just recently purchased a shirt from Lemniscate Apparel. I really like what the Milk UK guys (itsmilkuk.com) are doing with their branding. I met some great new brands thanks to TeeMadness14. I was introduced to:
Coolie High Clothing Company, Edison Brand Clothing, All Hail Clothing, Walk in Love and One Man Surf Party.
I also continue to be a fan of what they are building when I see: Branded Baron, Atslopes, Fed Clothing, Supersonic Jelly Beanz, Ugmonk, Geniuz Ink, Seventh Ink, Koalocore Clothing, Fresh Kaufee, Loud Silence, Forever Gold, Edward Teabelly, Seibei, AntiSparkle, Rock’em Apparel to name a few.
Of course I am a fan of Johnny Cupcakes and I am always curious to see what Johnny is baking and what frosting he has up his sleeve.
What current fashion trend would you like to see thrown overboard?
Keep Calm…; Since I live in FL- all the ski caps – however that may be more jealous that I can’t wear them.
What do you have in store to change and/or improve?
I want to improve on my organizational skills and create a better base marketing plan for the year and then build off of it. I want to keep consistent in adding new items every quarter. I need to start getting out and selling outside and letting the public see and buy my merchandise.
#SandwichEatUp is a great way to support your local businesses and promote your brand by meeting up with people a sandwich shop and hanging out enjoying good food, do you see yourself taking this idea and travelling to different states in the future?
I get asked so often where do I eat sandwiches and I thought #SandwichEatUp was a great way for me to interact with people. Everyone knows I own a business but I am not shoving it down their throats. I really am trying to build a community of sandwich eaters. I love interacting and meeting new people and the group keeps growing and growing. I also like supporting small businesses. It can become a partnership with those local shops supporting and tell folks about my #SandwichEatUp since in the end it more business for them. I also think it’s a great extension of my brand and shows that I am all about the sandwich.
I would love to make it big enough that I can do it in different cities and states. I just need to grow my brand more and build a large enough following of Sandwich Eaters Club members to do one. I also think it would be great to have food bloggers jump on this idea and maybe collaborate with me and maybe make it bigger and across the country- It’s one small bite at a time.
Last year I did a SandwichTour of Chicago and a friend and I went around the city in 1 day and we ate at various sandwich places around the city and then flew back home! I loved it. I plan to do another city this year with him.
Which Deli Fresh t-shirt design is your absolute favorite? Why?
I am a big fan of the Argyle design- I have never seen anything like it. When you initially look at it looks like a regular argyle shirt but after another glance you can tell they are breads slices. I actually don’t own the PB&J one and am considering reprinting it at a later time so I can have one and others who missed out. The Argyle was one of the 1st things I doodled when I knew I wanted to make shirts.
Who out of your social media circle of friends in the clothing industry and elsewhere would you recommend our readers to follow aside from yourself?
I love twitter. I follow a bunch of great people on my personal and brand. For clothing industry I follow: I am a fan of @FARCollective @IamtheTREND @IndieMnded, @ThreadMeetsWrld @hideyourarms along with all the other brands I admire.
For social media and business follow: @JohnHaydon @ProfessorJosh @GaryVee, @inc @EntMagazine to name a few. There are some great business/entrepreneur folks.
For twitter fun and food follow: @AdamRichman, @KellenJames @DustBunnyMafia @DudeFoods @Foodbeast @foodimentary
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
I love talking about sandwiches, branding, doing things you love. So please send me an email or tweet me @DeliFreshThrds and let’s talk. If you see something sandwich related- take a pic or tweet me and let me know.
I have a new shirt coming out called El Lunchador, so be on the lookout for it atDeliFreshThreads.com. If you see something you like. Use the code BUYINDIE and get 15% off your order. You will be happy you did.
Last thing is: I along with other brands, printers, designers have been given the opportunity by Lain Lee III to collaborate together in an e-book called “Indie Like Me”- It’s an essential guide to launching your own apparel brand. Suppose to be coming out this May/June and I think it will be a good resource for those wanting to start or even own a brand. I know I am always looking to learn more about this industry. You can learn more on twitter https://twitter.com/indielikeme
I would like to thank Anthony for taking the time to answer these questions. Enjoy the discount and make sure you follow DeliFreshThreads.
If you want to be featured on The F.A.R. Collective please contact us here We may interview your company next!
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