Our Story

iCoStore was founded in 2002, as the internet was starting to change the world.

Industries were popping up and others were dying due to the changes. In 2002, there was no Facebook or YouTube and the first iPhone was still five years from being released. Blockbuster Video was at its peak renting VHS tapes and DVDs and the first iPod had just been released. This was the beginning of a major paradigm shift in business.

The founder of iCoStore, Tom Meissner, a corporate golf products manufacturer, saw a great opportunity in 1999 and started to build online stores for his golf sales reps. The concept took off and he knew he was onto something. It would take years for the promotional products industry to change and adapt to the internet and changing the way they ran their programs. Distributors continued to print company catalogs to sell branded merchandise for many years and even when they put their stores online, they didn’t change their production or distribution model.

The Development Process

In developing ground breaking Just-In Time (JIT) decoration processes and technology, iCoStore quickly realized that nothing like it existed in the marketplace, so it had to architect and build its own platform. Not being constrained by the traditional model of purchasing blank goods, have them decorated with their customer’s logo, putting them into inventory, then shipping them as they were ordered…the sky was the limit. In 2004, Kirk Howell, Tom’s friend from college and a longtime technology consultant, loved the concept and bought into iCoStore and went to work designing and building the first iCoStore platform.

With barely $100K in annual sales, Kirk and Tom took the attitude of “Build it and they will come.” They invested almost $1 million dollars over the next two years building and perfecting their system. Tom started an embroidery company to support JIT decoration, because contract decorators would not support decoration of small orders. They worked closely with suppliers to accept hundreds of small orders and most suppliers didn’t have digital images of their entire product line. Even with numerous challenges, they pushed forward and built the most robust system on the market.

The goals were simple.

  • Build a platform that could grow to $50M+
  • Integrate all facets of the business; webstores, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, decoration, merchandising, and shipping
  • Online orders must flow through production and decoration automatically
  • New stores needed to be online and merchandised in less than 24 hours
  • Offer a large selection of JIT items with no minimums, no risks and no waste
  • Offer multiple payment, shipping, reporting and budgeting options
  • Empower employees to give great service and do the right thing for their customers
  • Focus on small to mid-size companies and give them the selection and service reserved for only Fortune 500 companies

It was a disruptive vision for a very traditional business.

When Tom would explain his idea to industry veterans, many told him he could never make money decorating one shirt at a time. They were correct…if iCoStore didn’t significantly change the model, but with the new philosophy and systems, it was very possible. The original vision is still at the core of the business today and the goals have not changed.

Today, iCoStore runs over 80 corporate programs ranging from $50,000 to $1M. Technology and service are still at the forefront of the company’s business model. The infrastructure continues to be enhanced and systems are being scaled for significant growth. iCoStore is already in the top 1% of promotional products distributors. By offering great service and amazing solutions, iCoStore has set itself up to run your program better than anyone in the market today.


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