How to start a T-shirt business

DETAILS

Venerated from young people and considered as one of the most successful e-commerce of our time from The Wall Street Journal, the popularity of T-shirt business is growing day by day and there are several examples of entrepreneurs who became popular after launching a new T-shirt brand.
The starting point is always the same. Take a slogan, a joke, an icon or a logo and put it on the T-shirt. The idea behind the product is fundamental to communicate a concept and to catch the attention of people, whether they feel amused or surprised.
The next step is selecting the quality of cotton. There is a great variety of T-shirts made of cotton, and the price is also very different, from 1 $ to 50 $ each, depending if you want the fabric to be thicker or sheerer: the thicker the cotton the higher the price. Customers don’t really get a good impression of your product if it is damaged after just a couple of washes only because you are using a cheap fabric to save money.
When you have the idea and the cotton, you can start producing your T-shirts, deciding among four main procedures. Heat transfer makes the image adhere to the T-shirt by using a heat press machine and it is perfect if you have to produce less than 200 items. It offers good performances, the colors are intense and bright and production time are quite short. The main drawbacks are the use of certain colors and that the image tend to flak off anyway after several washes. Producing a 10 cm logo on a T-shirt using heat transfer costs you around 3,6 $.
The second technique is called screen printing (also known as serigraphy), which uses ink-blocking stencils supported by a woven mesh and a drying oven. This method is suitable for large numbers and colors lasts a long time but it is not recommendable for small details or shading. A 10 cm screen printing will cost you around 3,3 $.
Digital printing is another way to personalize your T-shirts. It relies on a specific printer and a drying oven and it is generally used when you have to print 100-1000 pieces. Digital printing also allows you to print photos and complex images with a good quality even for a long time. Of course, it’s not immune to drawbacks, for instance, this kind of printing technique is not ideal for large numbers and in case you want to print soft colors onto dark cotton. You will pay about 3,5 $ for a 10 cm image digitally printed.
The fourth method is embroidery. It is the most sophisticated technique, perfect for small-medium sized logo but also the most expensive one as it should be manufactured by highly-skilled professionals in order to have good results. A 10 cm embroidered logo can cost 5 $.
Of course, how you chose the printing method is personal and it depends on several reasons but no matter the technique you are going to use, it’s better to keep in mind that if you manage to spend 2,3 $ or less for printing costs per T-shirt, capital recovery occurs faster.
Once the T-shirt is ready, it’s time to sell it. It might seem odd but retail strategy is the most important stage. The market is full of examples of clothing that, despite poor quality, successfully breaks into the market just because of a good communication and product distribution.
Since breaking into a new market can be very slow and retailing has to be carefully planned, it could be considered as a part-time business at first. You can expect to invest about 6.500 $ in marketing and advertising such as stickers, banner and exhibitors.
Selling at street markets usually works with small numbers and for market testing, even if it is quite profitable because you avoid retail costs, which can reach 70% of the T-shirt final price. An alternative could be to find stores in strategic locations that sell your T-shirts: they put them up on sale for you at an agreed-price and you get paid only when they are sold.
Last but not least, protect your product from plagiarism, a phenomenon that is quite common in this field. To register a trademark (national or international registration depending on your budget) not only can help you avoiding stealing of good ideas but it allows you to sell a brand that has become popular.

INVESTMENTS

Description Cost
Marketing and advertising 6.500 $
Total 6.500 $

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