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Industry Updates

How Brands can Develop a Sense of Purpose to Gain Greater Marketshare


Ph.D. and CEO Dr. Tina Bacon-DeFrece co-founded Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More with the goal of each store being deeply rooted in the local community.

Dr. Tina Bacon-DeFrece, president and CEO of Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More calls her nationwide business a business-to-people based brand.

A national garment design concept with 100 different locations, Big Frog allows consumers, businesses and community organizations the ability to express themselves creatively. Each individually owned shop utilizes unique technology bringing imagination to life with endless design opportunities on t-shirts, sports shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, hoodies, bandanas, onesies, dog clothes, jackets, mouse pads, sports gear, tote bags and more.

The concept launched in 2008 from the minds of Leeward Bean, Ron DeFrece and Dr. Tina Bacon-DeFrece. Having backgrounds in fiber-optic spectrometry, the three broke away from the corporate day-to-day in search of developing a new venture promoting creativity. The three came up with a concept of selling novelty items, but soon became drawn to the idea of distributing t-shirts bearing “geeky” scientific slogans – i.e. “First rule of chemistry, don’t lick the spoon.” 

However, Leeward knew from his background of running his own business that it would require vast amounts of inventory. Doing what they do best, the team took to experimentation while searching for solutions. In turn, they discovered a machine that printed photographic-quality imaging on t-shirts using green technology, which served as the missing piece of the puzzle that would soon launch their new business. 

Creative Flair and Care for the Community

Ten years later, Big Frog is still going strong in an industry valued at $50 billion. The brand is present in 26 states and just opened its 100th location in the Upper West Side of New York – right in the heart of the city. Big Frog’s secret to success is twofold. In addition to the high-quality tools created by Big Frog’s founders, each store owner is deeply ingrained within their local community.

“Our customers are evenly split between the people looking for one shirt to the businesses and organizations looking to buy several at once,” said Bacon-DeFrece. “It depends on the owner’s strong suit and ear to the community. If a local organization is looking to get a bunch of shirts for their next fundraiser, they can rely on Big Frog to make the creative process easy and convenient with a high-quality and affordable product.”

Local Big Frog owners have worked with schools, marathon promoters, charity foundations, sports teams and other organizations to ensure their business is an integrated part of their community. Very often are Big Frog owners longtime members of the community they operate in, having raised their kids in the local schools or being a member of the place of worship they sponsor for a community event. Having these connections makes not only the Big Frog business concept more lucrative, but more meaningful for everyone involved – owner and client.

Owner Helping Owner

Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More additionally finds success by letting owners support one another within the franchise network. The brand regularly hosts an annual conference involving the entire team of franchise owners. Although this is a great way to integrate the community of local owners, Bacon-DeFrece and her team wanted to create supplemental events that allowed a more intimate, engaging environment while also being cost effective. To do this, Big Frog set up regional meetings with a small gathering of franchisees within a territory along with two to three members of the corporate team.

The regional meetings allowed owners to share their experiences with one another and discuss how each played a role in their respective community. From owners who recently opened to the most seasoned operators, these discussions allow everyone in the network to learn more about each one’s accomplishments, challenges and areas of opportunity.

“Implementing these meetings and letting the owners learn from one another, has allowed our network as a whole to thrive even more,” Bacon-DeFrece states. “As a supplement to our national conference, franchisees are able to give and take best practices from their counterparts and apply them to their own territory. The result was fantastic, as we saw an 18 percent increase in system-wide gross revenue in the first half of 2019.”

Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More opened up regional meetings to store managers to increase their value. As the boots on the ground of each Big Frog location, the brand felt it was important to have its managers come share their experience and to obtain more knowledge on a wide range of topics.

With the emergence of online competition, Big Frog Custom T-Shirts stands out because of the drive and dedication each owner has to their community and franchise network. Moving forward, the brand hopes to expand beyond national lines and into Canada. To keep its environmental roots intact, Big Frog also looks to focus on sustainable material shirts and recycled water bottle shirts as a customizable product. With these new strategies, in addition to adding fashion brands to their apparel selection, Big Frog aims to tap into the younger generation, pushing to buy local, too.

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