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Start Your Own T-shirt Business!

Starting your own tshirt business can be easy, fun and profitable. One of the most attractive aspects about starting your own custom tshirt business is that you can start small, working from your own home. If you've done your homework and planned well, you can build up a significant client base and get a store front to bring in even more customers.

The printed t-shirt business has been around a long time and continues to grow despite the current economic crisis. The next time you're at the mall or grocery store, look around and see how many people are wearing printed tshirts. This is your potential market share! These people typically own many printed tshirts, and will continue buying more.

Now you understand why starting your own tshirt printing business can be your key to independent success, so what else do you need to know before taking the plunge?

First, identify your budget. DTG printers come in a wide range of prices. Of course you expect better quality for more money, but if you do your homework you can save a lot and still get a great printer. Also, financing is available. Less than perfect credit? You can probably still get financing with a bigger down payment. The SummitDTG is a very modestly priced professional direct to garment printer. You may find another brand for less, but consider that the SummitDTG includes installation, training, service, phone support, and a two year limited warranty. You could pay less, but you would certainly not get the same quality or support. You could pay more, but why?

Get familiar with the technology. All direct to garment printers work on the same principle, which you should be familiar with. A great place to start is the Frequently Asked Questions page. The biggest technological aspect that sets the SummitDTG apart from most printers is the White Ink Management System. Because of the way it is made, by necessity, white ink tends to separate and clog up the printers. This has been a struggle for the dtg industry from the beginning, but with a White Ink Management System you can set this worry aside. The White Ink Management System constantly circulates and filters the white ink to prevent settling and therefore greatly reduces the risk of clogging. Watch out for printers that tell you to shake the white ink cartridges every day - what happens if you forget? It could be costly. The White Ink Management System takes care of this even when you're not printing.

Now, research the REAL costs. Besides the equipment itself, consider the costs of the equipment's consumable items - inks, printheads, etc. Bulk ink printers (with refillable cartridges or containers) will have the most economic ink costs. Be wary of lower cost inks - if they aren't as vibrant, or if they wash out too easily, you could lose customers. MESA sells DTG Inks made by Dupont, the leader in the field, and at wholesale prices you can't beat. Find sources for all of your supplies at wholesale, if possible. Quality tshirts can be bought for as low as $1-2 each if you order in quantity, or can cost as much as $4 - 6 in very small quantities. Don't forget warranty and service - even the best equipment will occasionally need to be serviced. Steer clear of printers sold by foreign companies with no local service and 90 day warranties - you'll quickly spend much more on service and repairs than any amount you saved up front.

Next, identify your strengths and weaknesses. It pays to really be honest here.

  • Are you good with people? If not, this may not be the best business idea for you, unless you have a business partner who enjoys working with people.
  • Are you proficient in a graphics program such as PhotoShop or CorelDraw? If not, you can either take classes or hire someone - you won't excel in the custom tshirt business without some graphic know-how, but you may be able to use stock graphics, depending on your target market. Using stock graphics will still require a bit of comfort with using computer programs, but requires much less graphic knowledge.
  • Can you dedicate enough time to promoting your business and maintaining your equipment? Unfortunately, it's not just about making tshirts. Keep in mind that failure to properly promote the business can cause you to fail even if you have the best printed tshirts at the best price in town. If nobody knows about you, you won't have any customers. Maintenance is also crucial. Tshirt printing equipment requires daily maintenance to keep them in good working order. Failure to properly maintain the printer can put you out of business for days while getting it repaired.

Identify your market or niche. This is what makes starting a dtg tshirt printing business so exciting and the potential for success so high - there are literally thousands of possible niches, depending on your strengths, interests, and the community or market you intend to sell to. Do you like live music? Print custom tshirts for local bands. Do you have children in extracurricular activities? Print custom tshirts for their teams or clubs. Fitness enthusiast? Print tshirts with fitness messages for local gyms. Love flea markets? Set up a booth and print custom shirts on demand for top dollar! Are you a budding web developer? Set up a website to sell your custom designs, or let people send in their own designs to be printed - this is a very hot market right now! The possibilities are literally endless.

Learn from your competitors. Find out who is doing tshirt printing in your area, then learn what you can offer that they can't, or what you can do better than them. If your only competition is traditional screen printers, you can blow them away with lower prices for small quantities (because you won't have setup costs) plus you can print photos and highly detailed images with millions of colors - something screen printers will never be able to achieve. If your competition only prints custom jobs on light colored garments, heavily advertise that you can print on black tshirts. Consumers prefer black tshirts over white by more than 3 to 1.

Be realistic. MESA has customers who actually paid off their printers and started making HUGE profits within a few months, but these are the exception rather than the rule. While some luck may have played a part, these particular entrepreneurs certainly put in long hours every day, possibly 7 days a week. They chose their niche or target market wisely, and used multiple creative methods of advertising. Maybe you can emulate their quick success, but don't expect it. A good average for paying off the printer and starting to make bigger profits is one to two years with the right amount of dedication and hard work. If you are only working at this part time, you can expect it to take even longer. But given the fact that most traditional businesses won't turn a profit for at least seven years, this is actually pretty encouraging - not many other startups can potentially give you financial independence in one to two years.

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