Black-owned custom product and service company Sproxte is working to raise the standard in the printing and branding game while helping the Black community at the same time.
Atlanta Public Schools partnered with Sproxte to bring their Fan Upload platform to 2020 graduates in an attempt to remain flexible and lean into technological alternatives to keep their students safe while still celebrating their achievements.
Joseph White and Travis Jones, founder and co-owner of Sproxte, spoke with Atlanta Black Star about their company’s background, the partnership with APS, and how they hope to see their Fan Upload platform used in the future.
The platform was customized for APS as a free virtual graduation-themed photo booth. In three easy steps, seniors were able to upload their favorite picture or selfie, download the still image personalized with their names and logos from their respective high schools, and share it with family, friends, and teachers across social media platforms. Additionally, students and their families were also able to use the special features on the platform to buy customized banners, apparel, memorabilia, and more.
White and Jones partnered to create Sproxte, originally named Athlete Dream, in 2000. The company’s name was changed to Sproxte, the Greek word for “push,” to make it stand out among competitors and better align with what they hope to achieve in the space. Both Joseph and White have backgrounds in graphic design and what began as a sublimation printing operation soon expanded into much more.
“I’ve always been doing graphics, and we started out with sublimation printing,” said White. “We went from sublimation printing on regular shirts to sublimation printing on custom track batons. That really was the beginning of the business, printing on the batons for schools, recreations, corporations, churches, the whole nine. So that developed into more to where we started doing uniforms for teams, youth leagues, using the same sublimation technology.”
Sublimation printing is a technique that involves applying a heat press to a sheet of transfer paper that has been printed with special inks. Once heated, the inks become vaporized into a gas, which then melds with the fibers of the T-shirt materials. The graphic becomes a part of the T-shirt material, as opposed to being printed on top of it, creating higher quality, longer-lasting products.
Sproxte’s partnership with APS came on the heels of the completion of a successful project for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver and Super Bowl LIV champ Mecole Hardman Jr. The company created “a brand experience/fan engagement component” on Hardman’s website that allowed fans to insert images of themselves into a variety of custom frames.
“A lot of people came to the site,” White told us. “We took their picture and the ticket that said, ‘Kansas city is headed to Miami.’ And it was cool. And we did giveaways, gave towels out to a couple of the winners.”
When COVID-19 hit shortly after the big game, it hit Sproxte hard. White used the hurdle as motivation to adapt his product to the rising challenges, however, which led to the partnership with APS. “We were out, we had to shut down,“ he said. “I had time to actually go back and revamp the idea to use it as a bigger platform. … Now we just said, we’ll make Fan Upload its own standalone tool.”
The idea of using Fan Upload as a supplementary virtual graduation tool was successfully pitched to Dr. Dan Sims, an associate superintendent at Atlanta Public Schools, and from there the partnership was born. “When we had the concept, I just picked up the phone and say, ‘Hey man, I have this cool idea that we can give this platform free for the shares.’ And he said, ‘Hey, let me take a look at it.’ And he loved it.”
The reception from students and their families was just as positive, which White hopes leads to more partnerships for Sproxte in the future. “I see a lot of people did it, a lot of kids did it from different schools, and they read, go back and do it. So even just looking at the data, I can tell that they like it; they’re actually using it. … I really think it went over well. We’ve had a school. We actually had three schools to use it for their virtual graduation where they actually had that same template on the screen, flipping with the kids’ pictures.”
“I do see this happening for more schools for the platform,” he projected. “I mean, I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to do it and we’re going to keep building on to it, building more components to it. And we would love to do the same thing we did for APS for other schools, other districts, for other states.”
Beyond virtual graduations, White sees a multitude of possibilities for the Fan Upload platform and Sproxte as his and Jones’ business continues to grow. Marketing opportunities for businesses or ways to add a touch of uniqueness to special events are a couple of ways he sees the platform being beneficial.
“We can get into the advertising, we can get into something to where, if there’s a Gatorade event and Gatorade wants us to do this platform so they can reach the Instagram or Twitter or any of the social media outlets, they could use Fan Upload with their graphics, with their artwork. And we keep that frame or people can keep putting their pictures in there because now you’re getting different impressions from different users, using this platform.
“We can do this for weddings, we could do it for virtual birthday cards,” he continued. “So, there are numerous things that can be done with this tool. And also, the component of adding merchandise makes it even cooler.”
The tangible merchandise portion of the experience is called Fan Shot, which allows users to have their Fan Upload image printed onto products like apparel, shot glasses, banners, and more.
Sproxte has already worked with notable clients, including Killer Mike, Slutty Vegan, Cam Newton, Young Money Football, and the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, to name a few.