Step 1: Market research
Deciding where you want to sell and who you want to sell to is the first step.
- Local - Figure out who is in your local area and your target demographic. Is community of college kids? Are there a lot of sports leagues and high school clubs that don't have a dedicated shirt supplier? Are you focused on more babies or toddlers?
- Niches to consider: designing for you city/region. If you are design for your town or state with cultural references to your state and city those shirts will be more likely to sell locally.
- Look at local organizations for their T shirt and other heat press needs: schools, churches, clubs, etc. A good place to look to look at facebook group and events section for an idea of what are some local groups around you. Look into groups for T-Shirt needs (spirit wear for schools, sports teams, club wear etc)
- Figure out what items you would want to buy, and figure out if there is a niche of that in your area.
- Online - This is a very saturated market with a lot of competition. To stand out here you would need good branding, marketing, and design. Etsy is a great place to sell your shirts and designs. Personalized shirts with specific font design are really popular.
Step 2: Business name?
Your business name is your brand. In the beginning it will be your social media, domain name, and etc. Brain storm some names the represent you and your work. Now keep in mind that you maybe heat pressing more than Shirts in the future, so name with that in mind.
How to name your business:
Brainstorm some names
Get feedback on the name
After you figure out a couple of names, you next need to check if they are available:
- Get URL domain - even if you aren't planning to have a website, it's good to get the URL.
- Get the social names make sure they are available
- Make a logo
Step 3: Invest in Heat Transfer Equipment
There are a handful of things that you need once you decide to heat press
Get a Heat Press:
- For professional finish you have to invest in a Heat Press. No matter the type of transfer medium you you, the heat press will give you a professional, sellable finish that is even and consistent. No iron can ever give the same results as a heat press.
- Investing in a good heat press is important. When done properly, you will get a product that won't peel, cracked or fade. A low quality heat press can have uneven heat and uneven pressure which can cause problems with your application.
Need help deciding on heat presses here are some articles that will help you decide which heat press is best for you:
- Heat Press Guide: Clamshell Heat Press Vs Swing Away Heat Press
- Heat Press Guide: What Size Heat Press Do I Need?
- Heat Press Guide: Manual, Auto Open, or Air Operated
Heat transfers are usually a paper or vinyl that you cut or print your design on. Each material have their limitations as well as required tools to bring your design to life.
- Heat Transfer Vinyl: You will need a vinyl cutter and a specific vinyl for each type of fabrics and blends. Vinyl is very popular option since you can get super solid colors, however downside is the limit on colors and also the fact you have to weed (remove the cut parts) manually from each design.
- Transfer paper: you can put photos on your shirt or just solid colors depending on the type of paper that you get. If you go with transfer paper you would need to buy a printer (inkjet or laser). Be sure to check with the manufacturer of the transfer paper to see what printer works best.
Finding the right apparel:
Investing in quality apparel makes the difference between a one time sale and repeat customers. Some ideas to consider is a blank garment are the fabric type, price, quality, and sizing. The general rule is test a shirt by heat pressing, washing, and wearing the shirts before committing to buying in bulk.
So what should you look for?
Check out our article Best Shirts to Heat Press On
Common Fabric Types
- Cotton: most popular. It's not always a sign of quality. You want to look into the way the cotton is spun. Ringspun cotton is great because it feels nicer. Ringspun is softer and can result in a better quality print. For a ready to sell quality, do not pre-wash the cotton shirts. Try to buy already pre-washed shirts.
- Cotton Polyester Blend: this also tends to be softer shirts and has less shrinkage than cotton.
- Tri-blend - A popular type of shirt. Tri-blend is very soft and is stretchy. Tri-blends are usually more expensive, but really popular for their fit and style for certain customers.
The fit of the shirt is more important than the materials. If people don't like the way the shirt looks on them, they are less likely to wear the shirt and to buy shirts.
Ideally you want to find the best quality for your budget. Making stock ahead of time is not recommended unless you know you'll sell them. You risk wasting money and shirts/sheets. Making samples of each items as needed and showing a variety of options to customers will really help with custom and personalized items. This is great if you are planning to sell at local events or doing local business. This is especially the case when you are just starting up.
Step 4: Figure out Pricing
Pricing your shirts can be tricky, but here are a couple of things you need to consider so you sell shirts and make a profit. Here are some basic things to keep in mind when pricing your items:
- The price of your final product should cover the cost the cost of all the materials for the item and give you profit.
- If you want to lower your prices you need to lower your material costs.
- Make sure your shirts are priced for your market. Having a shirt that costs a lot of more than your comparable competitors will be a problem.
Step 5: Marketing
- Utilize your local network or put out ads advertising your business and what you offer. It's good to have a list of services and things you can offer to your clients decided.
- Provide excellent and responsive customer service. This will make you stand out and get repeat customers (schools, sports organizations, etc). Prompt and good communication with a quality product insures that you get a good word of mouth out there.