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The Origins of Awesome

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Badges will always hold a special place in the heart of Awesome Merchandise. It’s how we started out and to this day they’ve remained one of our most popular pieces of merch.


Awesome Merchandise began life back in 2005 in our founder Luke’s bedroom with a handheld badge machine, with the aim of creating badges for his friends in bands who wanted to make merch. With no experience of badge making, Luke bought a handheld machine from eBay for £350, along with a few badge parts.  

Awesome Merchandise, badge machine, badges

Seeing an opportunity, he created a website (Awesome Badges) and started posting adverts on Punktastic music forum. Soon the first order for a ska band Schoolbuy Error came in, word spread and there were more orders from the music community. For two years Awesome Merchandise ran from Luke’s student house. In this time half a million badges were made by hand and there were daily 5 pm trips to the post office to catch the last delivery for the day.


“When we started in my bedroom, it was a complete DIY operation,” explains Luke.


“I was going to be happy to earn £50 – £100 a week. I was about to start university and my only real intention with Awesome Badges (as we were called then) was to do something interesting, that meant I didn’t need to get a job for a little while.


“2005 was a different time in many respects. The internet and startup culture was way less developed and starting out in a student bedroom with just £350, I was always thinking about where our next order might come from. I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend that Awesome could turn into what it is today.”

Luke Hodson, Awesome Merchandise,

As Luke got further into his university course and orders were getting bigger, it was clear that a handheld badge machine just wouldn’t cut it and, in a bid to be able to manage his workload as well as finish university, Luke decided to invest.


It started to feel like a ‘thing’ when I could no longer make all the badges that were being ordered by hand in my second year of university. I was trying to go to class and balance my work with making between 2000 – 3000 badges a day by hand. This took up to 10 hours of labour a day!  


“So, I took out a credit card and bought a machine for £5k. It was a huge deal as I was still at university but I figured I’d be able to make badges a lot quicker and that would allow me to actually complete my studies. I was wrong. Pretty soon after this, we started getting orders for 5k and 10k badges and so I got a tiny industrial unit and hired some part-time staff.”


One day an order for 80,000 badges landed in the inbox – orders were escalating and Luke quit university to concentrate on making more stuff and Awesome Merchandise as we know it was born.

Awesome Merchandise, badges

14 years, two factories and 650+ customisable products later our badges are still as popular as ever. We’ve now made over 20 million badges for people across the globe from bands to breweries, creatives to corporate companies!


“I’d argue a badge is the most cost-effective piece of merchandise that has any real value.  By that I mean it is not throw away, people wear a badge on their jacket or bag and it sticks around for a long time – showing affinity with a band, brand or design in the same way as a t-shirt.  They’re really cheap so are awesome for giveaways and if you’re selling them, the price point is great on a merch stand or counter.”


But you don’t have to just take Luke’s word for it, last year we asked our Awesome customers love a good badge, how they use them and why they make the perfect promotional tool. Find out what they had to say here.


Or, if all this has you feeling inspired to get creative with our custom badge options, head over to our website to discover over 30 badge options.

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