Custom Apparel Business Opportunities, Production and Sales

Theatre on Ice Skating Team

I’m sitting in a room, writing this article with the sounds of running equipment. When I used to visit trade shows, an ongoing joke was always, “that’s the sounds of money being made.”  It’s true thoughwhen an Avance Embroidery MachineProSpangle machine, or printer are running, they are making money. This article is being written for you, to assist you in understanding the money-making power of customization equipment and how pairing the right equipment sets you apart from the competition.  

How did this project get started?

This project started the same way most of our customers get business, just talking to people. I was speaking with some friends at an ice-skating rink, and they were discussing their Theater on Ice group. The topic of their new logo came up and someone pointed out, “You know about making logos don’t you?!” Of course, I replied asking how I could help advise them with their dilemma. 

They had gone through an online logo making company to produce their design. The logo was nice, but it was out-of-touch from the look the team wanted. Someone described it as “this logo doesn’t say ‘theatre’, it says ‘security personnel.’” (To be honest, she was right. It looked more like a badge than a logo for a young girls’ ice-skating group). 

I explained the power of going to a small business that specializes in logos/design and using their consultive expertise (by the way, that expert is you.) Further, I shared how important it is to have someone who decorates for a living help you build out your designs for custom apparel.  

Part of what I shared was that at ColDesi we have a graphics service that is designed to help small businesses create designs and logos. They (You) are the consultants; we are the graphics art department. They (You) order graphics from us, and re-sell them to customers, the upcharge is for the consulting time.  

In the end, I considered the writing of this article and told them I would help not only create a logo, but custom decorate apparel as well.  

Creation of the logos and designs

Once you get a client, it’s time to create a logo / design. Many times, business owners will attempt to take on the designing for themselves. Sometimes this is an amazing idea, other times it’s not. The question to ask is, what is your area of expertise? If you are an amazing artist, then you should make the design! If you are a great salesperson, or embroiderer or apparel designer, then you can outsource your artwork. That is what I did here, I am not a great artist. I do know good art when I see it though.  

It started by just asking the Theatre on Ice team leaders about their team. The list of questions and answers were like the below:  

A: Dramatic, Waves and Flows, Elegant, “Theatre” 

A: Golds and blues, metallic or bling when possible 

A: Theatre on ice, Tampa Bay Waves, Est. 2021 

A: Tampa Bay, because they travel and want to show off where they are from 

After getting these answers, the rest was simple. I went to ColDesiGraphics.com and put in an order for logo creation. I explained this was going to be a logo for the back of a jacket, that will eventually be embroidered. A summary of the Q&A was put into a short paragraph and I asked for 3 versions so I could show them some choices. The order was put in on a Friday and I had results to share on Monday.  

The options were sent to the team leaders and they made some comments like: 

This feedback when right back to ColDesi Graphics for changes and the final logo was sent back a day later. The team absolutely loved it. All of this was done for about $50 and easily retails for $100.  

Once the final logo was done, I submitted 2 more requests. One to digitize the design for embroidery and the other to design it for use with a ProSpangle machine. Both of these were additional costs from ColDesi graphics but could be charged back to the customer for art services (or even just include it for ‘free’ to the customer, but built into the retail cost of each piece ordered.) 

Embroidery on the back of jackets

The best part about using ColDesi Graphics is that the logo was already sewn out and scanned in. I was able to get a final approval from the team before I even turned on my Avance embroidery machine. The team wanted to use some sporty jackets and settled on a particular style. Tons of blank jackets can be found at colmanandcompany.com/blanks.  

This is a very large embroidery design, so it was explained to the team that they would be pricy jackets. This wasn’t even a problem for them, the team advised that they were used to spending $100-$200 a jacket. It was more important they looked amazing.  

Decorating the jackets wasn’t that hard at all. If you have a good embroidery machine (Like the Avance 1051c) and are using a well-executed digitized design (like from ColDesi Graphics) then its just about putting the jacket on the machine and pressing start. Every once in a while, you change some bobbin thread or re-thread a needle when a piece of the thread breaks, both of these things take less than a minute to do. The total machine run time for each jacket was about 90 minutes. This might seem like a long time, but at $150 a jacket that was costing about $40 in materials, I was happy with an embroidery machine making about $75 per hour while I was doing other work (like writing this article.) 

So, what else did I do with my time? BLING!  

Making BLING shirts

Using a spangle machine like the ProSpangle or the SpangleElite has to be one of my favorite machines. They are super-fast, and people are always blown away with the results. The spangle design for the Theatre on Ice had about 2000 spangles, so they took just a few minutes a piece to run. We needed to make 15 of these designs so they were easily finished in an hour.  

The best part is the profitability of the spangles. They were put on Vapor Apparel shirts that wholesale for about $9, then adding about $1 in spangles take this $10 wholesale item to a shirt that retails for about $40. They all finished in about an hour, then I spend about another hour heat pressing the spangles on, folding, taking pictures, boxing up, etc. In about two hours I was able to create about $450 in profit.  

Decorating sublimation accessories

Since the spangles were done and I had some time, I figured why not see what else they might be interested in. I chatted with the team while the Avancé was humming along, and we decided on keychains and headbands. The keychains could be clipped onto their skate bags and the headbands were a perfect on-ice accessory to use while practicing. 

Sublimation is one of those things that should be in every custom apparel and accessory shop. It fits in such a small spot, the investment is easy to make (Can be ‘ready to sublimate’ for near $1000), and It’s just so easy to decorate these goods.   

The blank keychains and headbands were also from Colman and Company. The cost for these items was just a couple of bucks each and easily could retail for $8-10 (Honestly, even more money if stand-alone. However, these were what I would call an up-sell. They weren’t seeking these out, but we had the logo, the blanks, and the printer so why not?) 

This was another quick finish. All the headbands and keychains were done with a few sheets of sublimation paper and about 5 presses of the Heat Press Machine. Easily this was another $150 worth of profit that took less than a ½ hour. Upselling sublimation accessories is such an easy addition to embroidery orders. Sublimation goods are often inexpensive, and you can generally just use any art, as long as the quality is decent.  

DTF to the rescue

As the embroidery jackets were sewing along, it was time to plan the name drops. The front of the jacket was to have each skater’s first name. This could have absolutely been done with embroidery, but why when we have some new amazing technology at our hands, DTF (Direct to Film.) 

The names had to meet a few standards:  

Embroidery can absolutely check all three of those boxes, but so does DTF printing. DTF or Direct to Film printing is the latest way to produce high-quality transfers. Unlike inkjet or toner-based transfers, DTF doesn’t rely on paper to provide the adhesive. The adhesive that makes it adhere to a garment is put right onto the wet ink. This means the transfers print fast, feel amazing and are incredibly durable.  

Choosing DTF for the name drops give us a few easy advantages:  

Another great thing about the DTF print was that they were so inexpensive to produce, only a couple of cents per name. We offered the same value to the customer, at a low cost and a fast production time. The names were easily all put on in less than 30 minutes. A quick 10-second press and a warm peel, done. I just saved a ton of time and delivered a superior product.  

 

Wrapping up the job

At this point, almost all of the jackets are done, so it’s time to clean up some loose ends. For one, I had to finish this article and then needed to do some other work for the business. This is another great benefit of using an embroidery machine, they work while you work.  

The next remaining couple hours I did the following:  

The job is all done and it’s time to power down the equipment (and conclude this article.) 

Having multiple machines helped to not only create this opportunity for a sale but also create the opportunity for upselling. The embroidery machine ended up being the backbone of the job, this is specifically what they wanted. Having ColDesi Graphics at my fingertips let me consult them on their main problem, creating the graphic they wanted. The Spangles simply sold themselves (I showed them a sample and the answer was basically, “take my money.”) The DTF allowed the job to be more profitable in a shorter period. And finally, the sublimation equipment gave the opportunity for a fast and easy upsell. In the end, the customers were happy, and referrals were thrown my way the same day I delivered. In fact, I was stopped 2x within 10 days asking, “if I’m the guy who made the jackets.” They look great and wanted to discuss a job.  

If you are a new shop, you have a great opportunity because you can strategically invest in equipment that will allow you to offer something your competition cannot, while creating profitable products. Existing shops can take the lesson by seeing new opportunities to grow and embrace the opportunities within their customer base. Whatever your goals are, the ColDesi team has the equipment and the knowledge to help get you the right equipment, and get up and running smoothly.  

Want to know about all the apparel decorating equipment used for this project?

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