Building a t-shirt business is very profitable with relatively low startup costs. Everybody seems to be spotting a t-shirt with a message these days. The t-shirts can be provocative, insightful, informational or even self-referential. The base material that is used is of less relevance if you are not into expensive t-shirts. Instead, it is the message and the ethos behind the t-shirts that sells. That represents an important reconfiguration of the t-shirt business which you must take into consideration when making your pitch. Given the direct link between the values of the wearer and the product, you need to be passionate about the business before you start. Otherwise you will produce generic t-shirts that will not appeal to the people you want to include on your client list.
To begin with, you need to separate the actual production of the t-shirt and determination of the t-shirt message. For example, you may choose cotton as the most comfortable non-allergenic material. At the same time you may be looking for an inspirational message to appeal to the millennials. Thus the final product is a reflection of hours of work and trial. The production team will consist of many artisans and designers. Some entrepreneurs prefer to do everything on their own in a one-man business model. The problem with that approach is that you effectively close off all the feedback loop pathways.
Make sure you have a comprehensive t-shirt business plan
The failure to plan is the beginning of business failure. The t-shirt business plan must be clear and succinct enough to give your potential partners, clients and investors an overview of what your objectives are. At the same time, it must be detailed enough to explain the nuances of the business that you propose. At the very minimum you need to have the following included:
- The mission, vision and operational strategy
- Market Analysis And Customer Segmentation
- A business case showing that the business is financial viable and sustainable
- A marketing and customer care plan
- An organizational chart and human resource policy
- A three-year expansion outlook
- A risk and rewards Analysis
You will need to make an informed decision about the business type that you will adopt for your t-shirt business. Each of the different business entities requires very specific application processes for permits and registrations. The business type you select will determine who owns, runs and supervises the operations of the company.
Set your budget and follow it
A t-shirt business is a low capital startup business. You can begin with as few as 10 shirts that are sold within a select client group. If your average cost of producing a t-shirt is about $3 then a price tag of $5-10 would not be unreasonable. However, you need to be aware that larger production processes tend to reduce the unit cost. Therefore; in order to benefit from all the economies of scale, you will have to balance your need for a less risky small output and a larger portfolio which is more profitable.
In the beginning you may not actually be involved in the actual production of the material for the t-shirt or even the needlework. Most people begin with just being involved in the logo and design aspects of the process. In the interim you can outsource the t-shirt production to a trusted and reputable company.
The rest of your budget will be spent on marketing and promotional activities. The t-shirt is not just a product that you place in a stall and wait for the customers to come. Instead, you need to actively convince the general public that not only do you have a great product, but that it is also very relevant to them. Use the internet and social media in order to reach a new audience.
Quite often the players in this industry focus on legacy making and nostalgia in order to convince their clients that they should buy a particular t-shirt. Some of the marketing campaigns have actually focused on the production process as a selling point. For example, the fact that the t-shirt was made using green materials and ethical labor procedures may mean that there are some buyers that are more willing to consider it. Set your budget and financials taking into consideration all these nuances that entrepreneurs in the t-shirt business have to navigate.
Decide on the equipment you need
If you are doing the t-shirt production process in its entirety, you will undoubtedly require equipment. This implies that you have no option but to go large scale. Offsetting the initial capital expenditure necessarily implies that you are required to maximize the economies of scale within the t-shirt business. For the material you need a weaver, thread, cutting and coloring. For the logos you will need presses and implanters.
You have to buy high quality equipment in-order to produce high quality t-shirts. However, it is notable that some people have been able to make t-shirts using a cut and dry method with great success. It all depends on whether your potential clients are willing to accept the product that you have put on the market for them. You may need a pressing machine and a packer because the presentation of the product for sale is as important as the innate qualities that it has. Always emphasize the quality of the t-shirts even if you have outsourced parts of the production process. The reason why some people decide to put it all in-house is because many contractors are simply unable to deliver the exact specifications.
Grow your t-shirt business
Although the t-shirt business is lucrative, it cannot be done on a small basis exclusively and indefinitely. You will have to expand at some point. In this case the internet is a very good tool to use. You must have a professionally designed and busy website that you can use to reach your clients. It can be a conduit for getting feedback on your products and making certain adjustments where appropriate. Increase your production volume gradually.
Remember that you must always retain the uniqueness and quality of your t-shirts. This is in order to keep away the larger garment companies which dominate the volume production segment of the market. It is imperative that the production process is kept going even during times of a lull because the operating costs never stop. For example, the cost of maintaining a marketing website can range anywhere between $30 and $150 per month. In order to cover this cost alone you will have to produce a minimum of 50 t-shirts a month.
We wish you the best in your t-shirt business!