Online Business

Adventures in Merch by Amazon

I am so excited about my new online adventure.  I’ve been daydreaming for months how to start making money online.  The thought of making a few bucks on the side and learning some skills that could one day turn into an online business gets me fired up!  While I am not anywhere near declaring victory, I can’t wait to show off my new designs that are available to be printed on tshirts from Merch by Amazon.

I am a regular listener of ecommerce podcasts such as Side Hustle Nation, My Wife Quit Her Job, and Entrepreneur On Fire.  I first heard of Merch back in February when a Merch advocate was on the Side Hustle Nation podcast.  Elaine Heney, the face and voice behind, explained the ins and outs of Merch.  It is a tshirt print on demand service where you carry no inventory.  All you have to do is upload designs, and they enter the Amazon machine to show up as people’s search results.  The shirts ship as Prime, so shipping is free. If you are a Prime member, they show up on your door step in about 5 days or so.

At this point, it takes a couple of months from the time you apply to when they send you an invite.  I applied not sure if I would even make any designs, but I thought I’d at least get my name in.  That way, I’d at least have the opportunity if I wanted to.

About three weeks before my first design went live, I was pitching some very small business ideas to my wife and Merch was one of them. Merch surfaced as the lead idea simply because I could start on the platform with a minimal time investment. Working full time with two kids leaves little time for a side hustle.

But, when I sat down at my computer to figure out my first couple of designs I quickly realized that my graphic design capabilities are pretty much limited to text and photo editing. The good news is that we have plenty of photos from our travels! It did take some time to dust off the old Photoshop skills, but that’s something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now.

The first design was inspired by our trip to Costa Rica back in 2013. When going back through pictures, I found a picture of a monkey we came across on a trail near the place we were staying. We stayed at 3 or 4 different cities in Costa Rica over the course of two weeks. It was an action packed trip; Jessica had excursions planned for us nearly every day – zip lining, hanging bridge hiking, volcano hiking, boat ride through the rainforest, tree climbing and rappelling, wildlife tours and more. This picture was taken on a hike through a national rainforest called Corcovado. There were a handful of monkeys blocking the path. They were chowing down on some type of fruit that fell from the trees.

Monkey we came across while hiking in Costa Rica. This little guy inspired our first tshirt design!

With a little Photoshopping, it ended up as this.  There’s some blank space due to the dimensions that Amazon needs it to be.

This is the final design of my first tshirt. Inspired by a monkey we saw in Costa Rica.

And voila! I have my first thing for sale online! Photoshop is, of course, a skill. And, I am just learning, but it’s a start! I’m sure I’ll look back at these first designs and wonder why I though these were acceptable to put online, but you have to start somewhere.

The next picture that caught my eyes was of a sloth that stayed outside our window for just about the entire 4 days we stayed in Dominicalito, Costa Rica. Throughout the day and days you could tell that he changed locations by a handful of feet, but you really couldn’t see him move. There was one time where we got to see him ever so slowly pull a few leaves to his mouth and chomp away in slow motion.

This sloth hung outside our window in Dominicalito, Costa Rica for the 4 days we were there. We caught him one time mid meal. What a cool, slow motion show.


With a little Photoshopping (actually it was a lot of selecting, copying and pasting to different layers), I ended up with this.


The sloth outside our window in Costa Rica is going to be famous!

Boom, two designs out there on the Interwebs!

The next picture I found was from a fancy hotel that we were visiting while in Dubai for Thanksgiving in 2013. There are strict rules regarding alcohol in Dubai, but what it comes down to is that all bars have to be attached to hotels or private clubs. I think the intent is to discourage resident Muslims from drinking. You can get liquor licenses that allow you to purchase alcohol if you live there, but you have to prove that you’re over 21 and earn more than a certain amount of money.

Brunch is a big fancy affair in some of the hotels. At the hotel we were at, it was a $150/person all-inclusive and 4 or 5 hour event. I did break away from the indulging to take a few pics of the ultra fancy artwork and decorations of the hotel. There was a wall with this intricate design made of wood veneer paneling.

The entire wall of the hotel in Dubai was this design. Super fancy!

And it turned into this!

Final design from the hotel picture in Dubai

Also part of our trip to Dubai, we got to see the aquarium that’s attached to the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world). It was a magnificent underwater zoo! When we were there, we saw a scuba diver schmoozing through the throngs of fish, sharks, sting rays, and turtles. This sting ray stuck out at me because it almost looks like it’s smiling.

The aquarium at the base of the Burj Khalifa was amazing! This sting ray seems to be enjoying it 🙂

And it ended up inspiring this design!

The friendly neighborhood sting ray at the Burj Khalifa aquarium will be immortalized forever, or as long as Amazon keeps the file alive.

These are some of the pics that I was most inspired to design. I also tried to ride the Father’s Day wave, which is supposed to be good for tshirt sales.

I wanted to share my experiences so far with Merch in case this is interesting for any of our followers. While I haven’t made any sales yet, I really enjoyed making the designs. I would love to be able to do more graphic design involving pics from our trips in the future. It’s another way that we can interact with someone who reads our blog.

So, if you like any of these designs, of course, feel free to purchase through amazon (just click on the links above or click here for the list of all my designs)! And, we would love to hear any feedback that you have about our or your experiences with Merch or print on demand.  Also, if you have a tshirt idea, email me ( or say it in the comments below!  I will draft it up and send you the link if you’d like to buy it on Amazon.  If you like it, buy it.  If not, don’t.  No worries!