BY JULIA CIRIGNANO
Ben Scrivens, President and CEO of the Rochester, NY, based business Fright Rags, recently spoke with Limelight Magazine. Scrivens founded Fright Rags in 2003 and has worked tirelessly since then to keep their mission of making the “best horror shirt designs period” intact while expanding and evolving in a positive direction.
“It happened pretty organically, really,” said Scrivens when asked about why he decided to open a horror-centered T-shirt shop. “I am a graphic designer by trade and was looking for something to do in my free time to let off some creative steam. I’ve always been a huge horror fan (and a fan of weird and interesting T-shirts) so I decided to combine the two because I never had any cool shirts to wear based on my love for the genre. Once I posted them on my friend’s forum (Justin Mabry of Nightowl Productions), people seemed to like them so I thought I’d start up a website and sell them.”
Over the past 13 years of business, the company has evolved in many different ways.
“What started out as just me with a couple boxes in the spare room of my apartment is now a business that employs eight people (six of whom are full time) in an office/warehouse (that used to be the old morgue) in downtown Rochester, NY,” Scrivens said. “Even though we are still a small company, it has grown bigger than I had ever imagined. However, the goal is still the same: make the best damn shirts and provide the best service, period.”
Scrivens also spoke about the ways in which he has grown as a business owner.
“I did not go to school for business so it has been all on-the-job training for me,” he said. “As we grow, so does the need to figure out how to handle that growth, lead people, and create the culture I want to have around me at all times. These are things I never thought about when it was just me sitting at my computer building the website from scratch.”
Fright Rags’ website states that it has the “best horror shirt designs period.” Scrivens explained the process of how he comes up with the T-shirt designs.
“The process differs depending on the artist, property, and other factors,” Scrivens began. “In general, it starts with us getting the license for a specific property. Once we sign the deal, we think about what we want to see on a shirt and who we want to work with to create the designs. Sometimes, we have very specific ideas that we give our artists; other times we tell the artist to run with it and only give them the limitations we may receive from the licensor. Then, we look at the rough draft and make notes, send for approvals, and eventually get to the final design. It’s a long but fun process and usually by the time the public sees them, we’ve been staring at them for a few months so it’s great to see everyone’s reactions when we finally reveal them.”
Many of the T-shirt designs at Fright Rags capture those favorite moments or scenes from a particular film. Scrivens said this is one of the main things that sets Fright Rags business apart from other niche T-shirt companies.
“Many companies tend to just slap images they are given from the licensor onto the shirt with the title,” Scrivens said. “While that has its place, we have always focused on the original art that we commission from artists as a cornerstone to what we do and I believe that it what helps set us apart from everyone else.”
Fright Rags recently launched some T-shirt collections with musicians such as Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie.
“Both artists have been pretty involved with the designs and we were given a fair amount of leeway when creating them,” Scrivens explained. “We worked through our licensor and Alice’s management to get approval. For Rob, I worked with him directly on all of our designs. He’s a great guy and has a lot of constructive input on our designs, which has made the process not only smooth but also very collaborative.”
A big part of Fright Rags’ success is due to their user friendly website. It has a lot of unique features such as the ability to request reprints of past T-shirts.
“We used to bring back a set amount of reprints each month but these days we only focus on the best-selling items and keep those in stock,” Scrivens said. “Like any product, there is a life cycle and we track sales on all items to see what is selling, what is not, and adjust. In general, we bring back four to six designs every month but that varies depending on what we are releasing at any given time. There is no guarantee that a shirt will be back, so it’s always good to grab it when you can because it might be gone for good.”
When asked what his favorite T-shirt design has been over the past 13 years, he said, “That is a tough one because I think of these shirts as my kids. However, a few of them are Chum Bucket, Halloween V1, and Kill Destroyers.”
Another unique trait of Fright Rags is their Midnight Madness T-shirt sales which have been quite popular. Scrivens talked about how he came up with this idea to release one-of-a-kind shirt designs for only 24 hours without the ability to ever purchase them again.
“I always liked the idea of releasing limited edition shirts that you had to jump on to get it in time or they were gone forever,” Scrivens said. “I wanted to do something that made me remember staying up late on Fridays and Saturdays as a kid, watching horror films, so releasing these late Friday to late Saturday seemed like a cool way to recall our childhood memories.”
Scrivens also talked about one of the horror conventions in Cherry Hill, NJ, that Fright Rags has been a part of for a while now.
“Monster Mania in Cherry Hill are the two shows (March and August) that we participate in on a regular basis,” Scrivens said. “It’s hard for us to get out to a lot of shows but we plan to add some more in the future. While they are great for marketing, I also love getting out there and meeting our fans and customers. They become the celebrities to me as I can finally put faces to the names we see on our screens every day.”
Besides conventions, Scrivens talked about the other ways in which he markets and promotes Fright Rags.
“We focus mainly on our email newsletters and social media for our advertising, as well as a few print ads,” he said. ‘We are extremely fortunate in that people like to share our stuff, so word of mouth has been instrumental to our growth.”
With the holidays coming up, Scrivens explained that this is definitely his busiest time of the year for him.
“Things pick up in September and are busy right through mid-late December,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the types of things we release around this time of year but obviously Halloween and Christmas play a huge role in that as well.”
Scrivens would like to thank everyone who has supported and continues to support Fright Rags.
“I just want to say thank you to each and every person who has ordered from us, posted a pic of themselves in a shirt, tweeted us, liked us on Facebook, or visited us at conventions. Every person who has interacted with us in some way has helped make this company what it is today. That is something I do not take for granted, ever.”
For more info about Fright Rags or to purchase a T-shirt or any of the other products they carry, click HERE.