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eCommerce Case Studies

eCommerce Case Study: How Holstee Built a Successful Brand By Daring to be Different

eCommerce Case Study: How Holstee Built a Successful Brand By Daring to be Different

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

8 years ago

eCommerce Case Study: How Holstee Built a Successful Brand By Daring to be Different

Most eCommerce stores say their motivation is growth. Whether it be by growing their market share, expanding their store size or just gaining larger profit margins. But what if you didn't measure the success of your store in these economic terms? Instead you measure your success by how many people have seen and been influenced by your positive message.

One eCommerce store that has shunned the traditional business motivations is Holstee. They measure their success in an individualistic, alternative and endearing way making them a thought-provoking eCommerce case study that all aspiring merchants should take note of.

The Store

Founded by brothers Michael and Dave along with their friend Fabian, Holstee has evolved as a company since its formation in 2009. Based in Brooklyn, they began making tees with pockets (hence the name) but then progressed to making beautifully deigned cards, posters and prints. 

Their merchandise shares inspirational images and sayings that are aimed to help people and businesses practice being mindful. From the beginning the company set out to be different stating: "Holstee exists to encourage mindful living. We hope to change the way people look at life by designing unique products and sharing meaningful experiences".

The brand also try to exist ethically by having five design principles that include: 

Principle No. 1: Use Less And Do More - We’re always looking for ways to use less and do more. Less material and fewer cuts with more ways to use it, more ways to share it, and more ways to repurpose or recycle it.

Principle No. 5: Look Back And Think Forward - We look to new materials and methods of production to improve quality while reducing our impact. Looking back and thinking forward, always learning from the longest lasting ecosystem: our planet.

With this strong brand ethos and with products that are beautiful and considerately designed, Holstee have gained a considerable following of customers that are dedicated to the brand and it's philosophies.

The Manifesto

In order to spread their message, Holstee have made a manifesto for their company and for their customers to live by. The manifesto is laid out on much of their merchandise and is regularly used as the image representing the company. 

The manifesto contains phrases such as:

  • "If you don't like your job, Quit"
  • "Getting lost will help you find yourself"
  • "Travel Often"
  • ""This is your life"

In addition, they have also created a YouTube video that has received over 1.6 million views that brings to life what the manifesto is all about. It shows images of the brands fans cycling around New York, promoting and living what the brand expounds.

The manifesto is aimed to inspire customers and lead them to mindful living with the brand claiming: “Our big goal is to positively influence 1 billion people on this planet over the next 10 years.”

As well they aim to change business for the modern day, meaning a move away from big business ideologies to a focus on “genuine values”. The purpose of these are to “live these values in every breath of their presence” therefore making a more inspiring and fulfilling work environment and lifestyle.

The Content

In order to bring value and inspiration to their community Holstee have developed a few ways to bring valuable content to customers. The brand are experts at reaching out to their customers and giving them information and news about what they believe they are interested in. The brand also don't focus on one way of communicating with their fans instead they have gone above and beyond what most stores do to make different content that their customers will be inspired by.

Social Media

Holstee like so many other brands utilize social media to connect with their audience and have been wildly successful in doing so. They currently have:

Each of the social media being used offers something different for followers as they company share inspirational quotes, articles containing tips on mindfulness, and images of followers living the brands manifesto. Their social media content is relevant and interesting for its audiences meaning they keep coming back for more. 

The Holstee Magazine

Holstee publish a magazine and blog posts including content that incorporates the brands philosophy. Monthly, the brand release their magazine with informative articles such as “Saying Yes to Life” and “5 Steps to Listening With Presence”. These articles are used to promote the mindfulness message while also serving as guidance, reassurance and inspiration to the brands patrons.

My Life 

Holstee also offer a place for their followers to share their experiences with mindfulness. They call it “My Life” and it encourages people to tell stories, inspire others and generally share whatever they wish to. Holstee describe it as “A collection of stories from our community on ways they face adversity, see the world, and live their dreams”. It works by showing followers how individuals are living by the manifesto and how it has impacted their lives making a valuable asset that the company has made to get customers engaged with the brand.


Holstee have not restricted themselves to the online world either when promoting their message. They regularly hold events that aim to bring together their community, share experiences and help live the lifestyle. From yoga to dinners to talks about aspirational living practices, Holstee have managed to successfully provide their customers with a rounded experience in all aspects of their lives both online and in person. 

Holstee, as a business set out to be different. They set out to be an eCommerce store that would be an example for 21st century business. With their focus on reaching and inspiring people they are a unique yet interesting case study. They have bucked the trend of focusing on purely profits and are demonstrating how having an ethos and principals as a company can lead to a more fulfilling and equally successful method of doing business. 


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