According to an article published in Entrepreneur.com, small business owners will get little to no relief from the economic downturn that has plagued the economy for the past few years. The problems that small business owners face include higher taxes, slow economic growth and an unfavorable credit market. The writer of the article writes that the International Monetary Fund projects U.S growth to reach only 2.1 percent this year.
The same article includes the following hard truth:
“Founders of new high-potential businesses will find access to capital more challenging since higher capital-gains taxes will make investing in start-ups less attractive.”
How can you start a business if you don’t have any capital and have no way to get it?
Luckily, the business of decorated apparel isn’t one that requires thousands of dollars in capital in order to begin. The importance of infusing our field with new blood every so often and are supportive of would-be entrepreneur’s initiatives to get their small business idea going.
Getting down to business: Let’s talk about cost
You can’t shy away from the fact that any business idea is going to require some sort of initial investment. This initial investment could consist of time spent working on the project, financial capital, material or operating costs. Today there are now relatively inexpensive equipment and silkscreen kits that appeal to the entrepreneur with a little capital but a lot of heart and determination.
The first question most people will have when thinking about getting into the business is "what will it cost?" To make things simple, let's examine the production of 100 printed T-shirts and break down the costs involved.
T-shirt: $2.00 per piece - The T-shirt is the base of your T-shirt printing business. This will cost you about 2 dollars or more apiece, depending on the style and size of the shirt that you will choose to work with. Before choosing and ordering a shirt, however, you will need to research about the make-up of the fabric. Silk-screen printing works best on 100% cotton fabric and if you’re working on 50/50 polyester cotton blend, you may need to make adjustments so that the ink won’t bleed.
Ink: $0.10 per design - You spend about $0.10 worth of ink per T-shirt that you print out.
Design program: $10.00-$15.00 - If you want to invest in Corel Draw or Adobe Photoshop, those types of software are much pricier, running to about $300.00-$400.00 each, based on the prices online. However, there are other simple design programs that you can use such as Microsoft Paint (which comes as a basic application in most Microsoft Office programs, ergo free) and others that will cost much less than premium programs like Corel or Photoshop.
When you think about it, if you’re planning to focus mainly on fonts or if you’re talented with freehand sketching, you won’t need the fancy bells and whistles that come with the more high-end design programs. It might even add a little something extra to your business when your clients realize that they’re not just buying a beautiful T-shirt but also original artwork.
Silkscreen frame: $10.00-$25.00 per frame - You can use a silkscreen frame more than a thousand times – you can even change the design on a silkscreen when you’re done with it and use it for a different batch of T-shirts. The cost of a frame depends on the size, type of mesh and type of frame (wood or aluminum) that you will select.
Squeegee - A squeegee can be used multiple times as long as it is cleaned thoroughly after every use.
Taking into account the information on the costs above, we can probably summarize it this way:
Initial Investment: Less than $50.00
Selling Price of the T-shirt: $5.00-$6.00 per shirt
Potential Profit: about $400.00
Now doesn’t that sound like a good trade-off for a minimal investment and a few hours of creative manual labor?
Getting down to Business: How to Sell Your T-shirts
You don’t have to be a savvy marketer to gain clients for your new business. It’s as simple as taking into account the people around you and the existing opportunities that wait for you to recognize and grab them.
1. Market & Sell to your existing network
You need to treat every person in your life like a potential customer – tell them about your new business and most of them will want to help you out by ordering a few or recommending someone else who might be interested. Don’t be shy about your new business – there’s no shame in wanting to make an honest living, after all. Just don’t expect all your business to come from your existing network. They’re a good place to flex your marketing muscle but they shouldn’t be your only bread and butter.
2. Don’t be lazy about picking up the phone
Be proactive! Search the local yellow pages and check out possible prospects for your business. When you go out with family or friends to a restaurant or bar, check to see what their servers are wearing and if you can offer them a similar or better option.
3. Keep in mind when marketing to businesses – you’re going into the business of advertising
You’ll get more orders if you manage to impress upon your business contacts that people wearing their printed T-shirts are like a walking billboard ad for their company. Promotional T-shirts are a great way for customers and employees to show support for local businesses.
Businesses – no matter if it’s good economic times or bad economic times, if they’re not advertising or thinking about it, they’re not going to be around for very long. Entrepreneurs should get to know their product and know the value that it will add to their client’s business.
4. Be on the lookout for unique opportunities
A screenprinter was approached by a man with the idea to print shirts for a high school graduation. He had gathered signatures from each class and used them in his T-shirt design as a souvenir of sorts. The graduating class was composed of about 300 students or more but the seniors were able to sell over a thousand of these shirts due to their own personal networks of aunts, uncles, grandmothers who saw the shirts and wanted to show their support for the new graduates.
Maybe you can do the same for a community in your area or think of another niche you can offer your business to.
5. Offer a unique product
Create your own clothing line! Come up with your concept and create a website for promotion or sell it to a particular business or individuals. You can be as creative as you like with screen printing and people will be attracted to a product that is unique and well-made.
When you’re thinking of putting up a T-shirt printing business, it can be very tempting to make money and profit your bottom line – but it shouldn’t be that way at all. People will buy your product and money will come in IF you understand that the creation of a unique and well-made product comes first. You need to build a reputation of being the best at what you do in order to get repeat orders and always be on the look-out for growth opportunities within and beyond your field.
Screenprinting can be done on T-shirts, yes, but it can also be applied to other apparel and promotional products. You can even print onto transfer paper which you can save for later and apply with a simple heat press. Your business can grow in so many ways if you keep yourself open to the possibilities around you and if you don’t get complacent about the need for marketing and promoting your own business.