- CISE is a purpose-driven apparel business that reinvests profits into organizations supporting the Black community.
- Shopify Fulfillment Network allowed founder Blake Van Putten to provide customers with fast, reliable shipping and avoid backlogs.
- The time he gained by outsourcing fulfillment is spent on big marketing and sales ideas that have led to the exponential growth of his business.
What goes into making a successful apparel brand? You could argue that it’s design, marketing, sales, or any number of other factors. But for Blake Van Putten, founder of CISE, it clearly boils down to two things: purpose and optimism.
Van Putten is an L.A. native who has always turned his passions into a business. From selling duct tape wallets to event planning, he always had a hustle on the go during his school years. When he graduated university, Van Putten took a more traditional path. He worked on Wall Street as a project manager overseeing 400 people and supporting C-level executives. But a broken ankle brought him back to his home town for recovery, and during that stay he decided to rekindle his old passion for entrepreneurship with a clothing embroidery business, CISE.
This was in the spring of 2020. Just as he began working full-time on his company, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minnesota, sparking nation-wide protests. Van Putten suddenly felt like he should be doing more for the Black community, and he focused those feelings towards his entrepreneurship.
Stronger threads for a stronger community
This led to his first run of CISE clothing, adorned with the slogan, “Protect Black People”—and the creation of the Shopify ecommerce store he needed to get his clothing out into the world.
CISE saw some early success but Van Putten felt he needed to leave his comfort zone to try and take his message and business to another level.
“I told my friends that I was gonna make a purse. And they're like, ‘You don't know anything about purses.” Van Putten explains. But, an eternal optimist, he believed in the idea and pushed it forward.
He made 30 purses with his slogan and jumped on social media to share his story and talk about how he was trying to give back to his community. The post and the purses went viral, selling out in 30 minutes.
Then he did a second round of preorders for the purses. Those sold out even faster.
Suddenly, Van Putten’s business, which had no employees and no real marketing behind it, was selling purses and clothing collections like wildfire. People loved the designs but, perhaps more importantly, they believed in the brand’s mission.
With sales exploding, Van Putten actually hired his mom to help him pack orders. Then he hired his mom’s friends.
But despite the best efforts of his supportive packing crew, Van Putten needed more help to keep up with the demand.
So Van Putten applied to Shopify Fulfillment Network.
Fulfilling customer needs at lightning speed
After being accepted, Van Putten remembers renting a U-Haul, packing up a bunch of Home Depot boxes, and driving from Los Angeles to Chino, CA, to deliver CISE’s very first inbound transfer to the Shopify Fulfillment Network warehouse.
Before he even got home, inventory started appearing in the app. The quickness of the inbounding was just a first sign of things to come.
“When we got onboarded with SFN, we had like 1,000 preorders backlogged. SFN pushed out the orders in literally a day and a half,” Van Putten says.
Once the backlog was taken care of, Van Putten took advantage of a few key benefits of Shopify Fulfillment Network to continue growing his brand.
For example, before handing off fulfillment, he had trouble providing customers with processing times.
“We had so many orders, we would say, ‘Processing time can vary between five to nine days.’ or ‘It'll be between like 96 to 200 plus hours.’ Everybody was like, “What does that even mean?.’”
But Shopify Fulfillment Network processes orders quickly and offers two-day delivery across most of the continental United-States. So CISE was able to offer customers clear, trustworthy delivery promises, helping him retain and delight customers.
CISE was selling fast, but now it was delivering fast too.
What hands-off shipping unlocks
The value of Shopify Fulfillment Network for CISE extended well beyond the fulfillment itself. Van Putten explains that not having to spend time on or even think about the shipping part of his business allowed him to try big, new ideas that have really taken CISE to another level.
This included the construction of an entire mobile storefront. Van Putten built a 27-foot trailer that he can tow across the country on the back of a truck. When he pulls up in front of a venue, heads can’t help but turn in his direction. The store is completely digital, tied together with Shopify Point of Sale systems. Basically, shoppers enter the trailer, explore inventory, and then when they decide to buy the goods are shipped directly to their doorstep by Shopify Fulfillment Network.
Van Putten, against the recommendations of friends and colleagues, also ran an ambitious Christmas Day campaign—“Who the heck is shopping on Christmas!?”—that sold out in eight minutes. These big ideas, which he jokingly says “scare his team,” are where he can spend his time now that fulfillment is handled by Shopify Fulfillment network. These are the ideas that drive growth. And wow, is CISE growing.
In 2022 CISE was invited to their second straight New York Fashion Week. The brand has been featured in TIME magazine, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Bazaar. And Lizzo, the massively-popular singer, rocked a “Protect Black People” purse out to dinner.
Of course, Van Putten has kept his original mission front and center the entire way and believes it has been key to CISE’s success. He’s been able to donate $25,000 in product, 4,000 facemasks, and $15,000 in grants in the last year alone. “I'm super thankful just to be where we are right now and to have that opportunity to give back,” he says. “[Shopify Fulfillment Network] has been one of the most helpful and important pieces to build the platform that we have for the community.”
Ready to hand off fulfillment and focus on growing your business?