Business Advice from Apparel Decorating Entrepreneurs

Successful Custom T-Shirt Businesses Pass On Their Advice To Help YOU Get Started.

Thinking about starting a commercial embroidery business, bling machine based t shirt shop or custom t shirt printing store?

ColDesi has been helping entrepreneurs get started in the apparel decorating business since 1999. A few years ago we started asking our customers to share their start up and success stories with us, and with all of you, and they’ve passed on some great advice.

We’ve distilled their ideas, advice and comments down into the following quotes. Take them to heart, because these are the people that have been where you are, and their advice will give you the best chance at getting where you want to go!

Once you get the equipment, take the time to learn the technology before going “live” with it to your customers. Resist the temptation to advertise the abilities before you have them mastered. Secondly, take any and all training offered. Be it from the distributor or at trade shows in the form of seminars.

If you’re gonna do this, do it! I wish I would have started earlier but no regrets. Also, don’t think you’re a car salesman when you tell people about what you do. Surprisingly as I started to tell my friends and family I was getting an embroidery machine, I had people wanting to order before I had received my equipment so don’t be afraid to tell people what you are doing. One other thing that I really notice now is how much embroidery and printing is used, there is a huge demand and shirts wear out, so there almost always are re-orders.

My biggest hurdle getting started? For me it was cold calling sales. I hated it and it scared me to death. So when I first started I let all my family and friends know I was in the apparel decorating business. Pretty soon the only advertising I did was word of mouth, and for the most part it still is today. If you do quality work and have great customers service that is the best advertisement.

Research and check your pocket book. Are you going retail or wholesale? Most important, what support equipment will you need? Don’t just think of the machine to make the product, remember what it takes to prepare and finish like a heat press, pretreat machine, packaging, etc. If you’re going retail – LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Work with suppliers you can trust. Ask QUESTIONS.

Make sure you know what you are doing! Get educated about the products, understand what the customers want. Getting all the great equipment in the world won’t help you if you don’t know your market and how to do the work. One of the things that I bring to this new business is that I already know how to embroidery caps, set up jobs, work the software. If you don’t already, make sure you get great training!

Embroidery business requires a lot of effort, business skills, management, sales and customer service. As in any new business be prepared to work long and hard. The first order is to sell the product. Develop a business and marketing plan. Know the market you are going after. It will only take you 3-4 weeks to learn the technical side of the embroidery equipment. The rest of it is all business.

My advice would be to know your market and don’t undervalue your work. If you have a ton of lacrosse teams in your area, start there, even if your personal favorite is baseball. Don’t be afraid to charge for your work. Figure out what your hard costs are (supplies, materials) -at retail, add your time and then, add another few bucks. I bet the price is still reasonable. People will pay for quality work and even more for custom work.

Artwork is key. In order to turn out a quality product you have to have quality artwork. If you’re not an artist, go to a local art school or high school and find someone talented. It will make a big difference. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. We don’t get any business from the internet, it’s either word of mouth or we go find it. Go talk to soccer teams, coaches, hair salons, hospitals, cheerleading schools, or anyone else you can. Bring samples of your work. Diversify. That’s what we did when adding a Rhinestone machine to our business and it’s really paid off.

Find the right equipment; we were so fortunate to find ColDesi and the CAMS Rhinestone Machine. The CAMS is faster, more affordable and reliable than the equipment we had before. Without it we could not have grown our business.

Make sure you plan your business well and start out small. Know how you are going to market your product and services. In today’s market you need to know your competition, know how to differentiate your company.

Marketing: You can’t just start printing T-Shirts and expect people to knock on your door. You need a website, business marketing, some SEO. You have to be proactive, and that was tough to learn.