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Buttonsmith Launches On-Demand Political Merch Platform – Advertising Specialty Institute

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The Carnation, WA, company is offering MerchBlue, allowing campaigns to sell union-printed merch on their fundraising sites.
By Theresa Hegel

Political merch is getting an on-demand upgrade.
Buttonsmith Inc. (asi/154315), a Carnation, WA-based promotional products distributor and production facility, announced a new software platform, MerchBlue, that allows political campaigns to offer union-printed merch to supporters via ActBlue, a nonprofit that provides fundraising technology to Democratic candidates and progressive groups.
“Merch has always been a problem for campaigns, especially medium and small ones,” said Darcy Burner, CEO of Buttonsmith. “The campaigns have had to purchase and warehouse merch on their own, so many campaigns just don’t offer it.”
Act Blue
MerchBlue, a new platform from Buttonsmith, lets political campaigns easily add union-printed merch to their ActBlue fundraising page.
MerchBlue allows campaigns to design various merch and add it to their ActBlue page. Once a supporter has purchased merch online, the order is sent to MerchBlue to be made and fulfilled on demand by Buttonsmith.
“Since we do all the production and fulfillment on demand, there’s no upfront cost to the campaigns and much less hassle,” Burner added.
MerchBlue is currently available in beta, with some active campaigns and organizations able to sign up for early access to the platform. According to the website, the platform currently offers custom T-shirts and buttons, but expects to add sweatshirts, signs, bumper stickers and other merch categories in the near future.
On-demand print and fulfilment has been a growing category in recent years, with digital printing technology allowing distributors and decorators to offer affordable one-off production on the backend of user-friendly e-commerce storefronts. During the pandemic, growth in the print-on-demand space accelerated.
Buttonsmith has been offering on-demand production for several years, developing a suite of proprietary software applications that help with order management, product configuration, listing development and digital product photography. It all enables the company “to manufacture goods in under three labor minutes,” according to its website.
The idea of Buttonsmith was born in 2013 when company founder Henry Burner was in fourth grade, working on a class project on trading.
Rather than resort to the expected route of baked goods, Henry chose to make pinback buttons to sell to his classmates. By the summer, he was selling the pins at local farmers markets, and by 2014, he had moved sales online. Eventually, Buttonsmith added magnets, lanyards, fixed-top badge reels and its patented Tinker Reel badge reels with swappable tops. In 2015, the company completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for its Tinker Reel badges and moved into a manufacturing facility in Carnation, WA.
Buttonsmith runs a 100% union shop affiliated with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), part of the AFL-CIO. It’s also in the process of becoming a certified B Corp.
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