The Business of Decorating Apparel – Before you touch go
What does the business of apparel decoration hold for you? What drives you to want to enter this business or continue with this business?
Maybe it’s your love for t-shirts? Maybe you’re just an awesome artist and apparel is your canvas? You might be a little league mom who just wants her kid to have a uniform that lasts or that looks ‘cool’. Then again maybe you have worked or are working at a screen printing shop or a sign shop that does apparel and you want to do it your way.
These are our stories.
The stories that help to compile the business of decorated apparel.
As you may know, I am embarking on a series that focuses on different aspects of the apparel business and in particular starting an apparel business in a recession (read the intro post here).
This article will focus on some considerations that you will have to flesh out before you touch go. This article may help you to establish a direction for your business and to write your business plan.
As an aspiring decorated apparel entrepreneur – you have to have an idea.
This idea needs to include the specifics of the market(s) that will you make your money in. This idea also needs to include the best way to sell and market your apparel into this market. After you establish these two facets of your idea, you can begin to plan. Within this plan is inevitably the specifics of how you will decorate your apparel – this is where things can get complicated.
There are hundreds of decorating options for you to select from. These options all have different parameters, expectations, perceived value, strong points, negatives, etc. etc.
The best way to find out which option is right for you is to ask an expert.
The many technologies can be lowered down significantly when you establish the types of apparel you wish to decorate, the types of designs you wish to use and also the quantity of pieces you wish to produce your apparel in. Usually, shops start out with a few technologies to accomplish what they want to do. Rather than make an exahaustive list of questions and scenarios, I am going to give you an example of how I would go about pointing one company in the proper direction and ask you to reach out to me with specific questions regarding your aspirations.
Here is the example:
MHD: My business is going to be a t-shirt brand called Marching High Designz. I will sell online, offer a few designs and target a very specific niche – my target market is high school band members. What will make me different is that I won’t sell to the band director in a large group, but rather solicit orders online from individual band members at retail prices.
Josh: That’s a great idea – will allow you to earn extra profit and reach a national or even global audience with your offering. My first question is what types of graphics will you be putting onto these t-shirts?
MHD (Marching High Designz): I have some designs created by my daughter that I would like to use and I also want to allow people to customize their shirts a little.
Josh: Customize in what way?
MHD: Well, I want to allow people to either put the name of school on the shirt or even possibly their own name.
Josh: OK, so the designs that your daughter created what do they look like – I need to know how complex, how many colors, how large?
MHD: They are instrument specific – so for instance she has one of a drummer that has the silhouette of the drummer, sticks and drum with birght colored lines and shapes placed in an abstract way around and throughout the design. All of them are similar but different for each instrument – their is small text at the bottom right of each design that says; i-create-music.
Josh: Very cool, so do you intend to do anything other than t-shirts?
MHD: Yes, but I think I will start with T-shirts and Hooded Sweatshirts.
Josh: And when someone orders online, how long until you ship them their order?
MHD: I would like to ship it within a day.
Josh: Even with the customization?
MHD: Yes..well you tell me is not not realistic?
Josh: I think it’s totally doable, just curious. I guess, my last question would be, do you have any set budget to start?
MHD: Well of course as little as possible, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality or the vision that I have. What should I do???
Based on this conversation there are many options for this company.
One is to contract everything out to a company that does fulfillment. However, given her turn times this may not be feasible and she will also eat into her profit plan that her business was built upon, since she will ultimately get charged a higher price than it would cost to produce on her own.
So that’s another option, produce on your own. There are many ways to do this, but on a bit of a tight budget I would recommend a heat transfer system. A heat transfer system also lends itself well to the personalization that she is wanting to do.
Now when you get into heat transfer systems, you open up another whole can of worms. You have probably heard about different heat transfer technologies – plastisol transfers, heat press vinyl, transfer paper, cad-print, sublimation and garment printing are a few – (I have done a write on these if you wish to review). Well this business is in a position to consider 3 of these technologies in my opinion: Direct to Garment Printing, Cad-Print and a combination of Plastisol Transfers and Heat Press Vinyl.
With her application I think Direct to Garment printing would be overkill and potentially pose issues such as clogging if not used daily (daily usage is sometimes tough for a start up). The garment printing may also pose issues with printing on darks with the results she is looking for. The Cad-Print would definitely work as well, but no need to spend 10k on a machine with this specific of a use.
So, the winner and my recommendation in this particular case is the combo of plastisol transfers and heat press vinyl. To get started…
- purchase an industrial grade heat press for roughly $1000. There are many considerations when selecting your heat press – let me make it easy, buy one from a reputable manufacturer and this investment will last 10-15 years and produce accurate results that launder well.
- Make a few phone calls to custom transfer companies and send them your files for the front of the shirts to price and print a sample run. The reason you need to get these designs produced out of transfers is because they are durable and ideal for mid to high quantity runs in instances where you don;t want to commit your inventory and sizes – they are perfect for you. Order 24-48 of each of your designs, you will press them on when a short is ordered.
- Source your blank garment variety. Find a supplier that ships the day you place your order, that is within a 1 day transit time. Now you’ve reduced your inventory – order when you need it to start.
- Purchase a vinyl cutter ($1000-1500) and source a a brand of heat press vinyl that performs well (once again a whole other research process – let me help, try Spectra Eco-Film, I sell it). You will use the vinyl cutter and material to customize each shirt with the school name or person’s name when it is ordered. This size of design should only run about 25-50 cents to cut it yourself and take about 5 minutes per shirt. Note: if you don’t have the start up capital for a vinyl cutter, consider ordering a lettering kit from Stahls or Transfer Express to start.
- That’s it – you just set up the production plan for your business for about $3000.
Pretty cool huh?
I would love to guide you towards the right technology to fit your businesses needs as well – so leave a comment.
Thanks for reading and remember you can START A DECORATED APPAREL BUSINESS TODAY!