3 Things to Know Before Starting Your Own Custom Apparel Business

With the prominence of graphic tees and streetwear in high fashion, custom apparel has seen an uptick in volume—especially among Millennials. In 2017, 34 percent of Millennials bought custom pieces, and 42 percent said they’re willing to pay more for customized items (as opposed to non-custom clothing). Considering that the global custom t-shirt printing industry is projected to exceed $10 billion by 2025, it’s a business with high-profit potential and a comparatively low initial investment.

Before taking the leap to start your own custom apparel business, we’ve listed three important things you should know.

Your Niche Target Audience

With an increasing number of competitors on the market, it’s important to home in on your target audience and find your niche.

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A niche target audience is a smaller subset of a much larger market with its own specific needs or wants. By appealing to the needs of a much smaller, specific market you’ll be able to cut through the industry clutter and generate better value for your customers. Attempting to sell a t-shirt to 100 people with varying interests who may like what you’re offering is more difficult (and less cost-effective) than selling a shirt to 50 people with similar interests who you know will like what you provide. The key, however, is to find a need that’s not currently being met or a way to improve an already-existing need. Some questions you should ask to begin identifying the niche for your business include:

  • What types of custom apparel will you be offering?
  • Who would be interested in your company?
  • What are your unique selling points?
  • Within your larger target market, what are some common interests a smaller group of people share?
  • Within this smaller group, what are their psychographics (likes, dislikes, personalities), demographics (gender, race, education level, income), and where are they located?

After you’ve taken the time to answer these questions, see how many people fit the description. Having a niche that’s too narrow is just as ineffective as a broad target audience, as there won’t be enough buyers to provide a return on your investment.

What Printing Equipment You Should Invest In

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In the custom apparel industry, there’s no shortage of equipment offerings for printing—from manual presses to automatic presses to DTG printers. Deciding which one is best for you will really come down to budget, space and volume. We’ve briefly broken down these three options to give you an idea of the direction you should consider:

  1. Manual Press

 A manual press is generally what beginning screen printers choose. This press is ideal for tighter spaces because it doesn’t require extra electrical equipment, it’s cheaper than an automatic press, and it’s made for smaller production. However, with a manual press, you would be doing everything by hand. This means more physical labor, longer production times, and increased possibility for unclean prints.

  1. Automatic Press  

An automatic press for screen printing is great for large volume orders, steady business and more detailed designs. The reduction in physical labor can speed up production times from days to hours. If you’ve already made a name for yourself, this could be a better option for you. However, automatic presses require more space, special electrical equipment and have more upfront costs.

  1. Direct-to-Garment Printer

Unlike traditional printing methods, a direct-to-garment (DTG) printer is a digital printing technique. The DTG method uses a custom inkjet printer to apply water-based inks directly to the substrate, after which the garment’s fibers absorb the ink. This printer is ideal for small batch orders, and vibrant, highly-detailed designs. It also takes up minimal space and has lower upfront costs.

Note: This is only concerning popular printer/press purchasing decisions, and does not include an exhaustive list of what you’ll need to run your shop.

There Will Be A Learning Curve

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One of the biggest mistakes any new printer can make is underestimating the amount of knowledge and skill required to run a custom apparel business. Learning the ins and outs of the industry simply cannot be done overnight—there will be a learning curve. You’ll need to be extremely dedicated, passionate and patient.

A few things you should be prepared to learn are:

  • The difference in fabrics and how that determines what printing method you should use
  • The different inks available and the various outcomes they produce
  • The right mesh size for the artwork
  • How to burn a screen for print
  • How to price your business for profit

These are just a few of the many important things you’ll need to consider before launching into the industry. With a small investment, unwavering motivation, and a creative mind you can launch your own successful custom apparel business!

What printing equipment are you leaning toward for your business? Let us know in the comments!

5 Steps to an Effective SEO Strategy for Your Small Business

Most businesses have heard the term “SEO” and have a basic understanding of why it’s important. However, when it comes to truly understanding, planning and implementing a sound SEO strategy of their own—they don’t always follow through. Too often small business owners get wrapped up in the day-to-day operational needs, and see a list of marketing to dos as daunting tasks. The truth is, search engine optimization is part of the long game, but is integral in determining digital visibility and success. In simpler terms, it’s Google’s world, and we’re just living in it.

In order to achieve brand awareness, organic traffic growth, and ultimately, product purchases—you need to cultivate an SEO strategy.
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4 Ways to Improve Your Website’s Google Search Ranking

You’ve worked hard to create a meaningful business—from your company’s values to your reputable customer service. So, why aren’t more people trickling into your online doorstep? If you haven’t updated your website in a while (or ever), your online visibility could be suffering. 

Google’s search engine utilizes an algorithm to rank web pages. A variety of methods are taken into account when determining which pages are displayed first, including whether a website is outdated. The exact formula is unknown, however, there are search engine optimization (SEO) tactics and tools that can improve your website’s ranking. With 75 percent of people never scrolling past the first search engine result page, it’s extremely important
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HOW TO SCREENPRINT using DISCHARGE INK as a BASE w/ PLASTISOL (feat. ComfortWash by Hanes)

Ever think about printing with both plastisol and discharge inks together? In this video, Geno shows us just how to do that, using Matsui High Mesh Discharge White Ink and GSG Vortex plastisol inks on the ComfortWash GDH100 Garment Dyed Tee.

Why would you want to print this way? Sometimes, using discharge ink as a base, allows the plastisol colors on top to pop and look more vibrant, as you’ll see in the video.

If your going for a vintage look, discharging on garment dyed apparel is the perfect option for printing, since the ink will be set into the fabric, rather than be set on the surface of it. This gives you that “worn-in” look that makes the design look aged.

 

From Skate Shop to Fashion Powerhouse: Business Lessons From Supreme’s Rise

Supreme, often referred to as “the Chanel of streetwear”, has inched its way to the top as one of the most influential brands in the industry. A-list celebs, skaters, cool kids, hip-hop legends and hypebeasts alike can be seen donning the infamous red-and-white logo. So, how did a small skate shop on Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan turn into a complete fashion powerhouse? Ask savvy entrepreneur, James Jebbiathe founder of Supreme.  

Jebbia was a teen in the ‘80s growing up in Crawley, West Sussex, England. He used his spare money to travel to London and shop at a hidden store, which would eventually mold Supreme’s business model. By age 19, he moved to the United States and started working as a sales assistant at a store in SoHo, before eventually opening Supreme in New York.

While you probably won’t be able to replicate Jebbia’s secret business sauce, we’ve listed some valuable lessons in Supreme’s rise that can be used to help shape your company:

Do Your Research

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James Jebbia learned about the retail industry when working at Parachute in SoHo. Before opening Supreme in 1994, he actually opened a different streetwear brand, Union NYC (now closed), in 1989. All this to say, he had a bit of experience in the retail industry before starting a wildly successful company.

Wanting to start your own brand can be exciting, but always make sure you research the industry before diving head first into the unknown. Some basic things you should know:

  • Where to find quality, wholesale apparel and products  
  • How to price your products competitively  
  • Ways to sell your items

Beyond just researching how the industry works, know your target audience and what matters to them. By 2020, Millennials will make up 30 percent of total retail sales in the U.S., and Gen Z will make up 40 percent of all consumers. Studies have shown that both Millennials and Gen Z consider environmental issues in their purchasing decisions. So, if you’re looking to sell graphic tees, considering water-based, eco-friendly ink choices may be a unique selling point.

Get Scrappy With Your Hustle (And Build Street Cred)

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Supreme is infamous for giving fashion the middle finger—proven by several cease-and-desist letters. It’s also known for encouraging its employees and consumers to add their red-and-white logo stickers on posters and products as a “stamp of approval”. For example, they slapped their logo sticker on the front of a Kate Moss Calvin Klein poster in 1994, and printed Louis Vuitton’s double monogram on their skateboards in 2000 (though they eventually collaborated). Jebbia’s willingness to ruffle a few feathers in the name of creativity built credibility with niche, influential cool kids and it payed off.

Now, we’re not saying to start copyrighting a bunch of artwork, but there is something to be said about Supreme’s hustle and scrappiness. Some ways you can spread the word about your company on a smaller budget include:

  • Partnering with micro-influencers who are willing to promote your brand for a small cost, or exchange promoted posts for free swag
  • Creating short promo videos to post across social media
  • Reaching out to small businesses (relevant to your target audience) to see if you can leave promo cards at the counter

Realize that Culture Shapes Trends, Especially Youth Culture

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Almost every piece from a Supreme drop has ties to art or culture. They have a way of partnering with brands like Nike and infusing their vibe to create a totally unique outfit for the young fashion consumer.

Art and culture always find their way into what we wear and how we represent ourselves, leading to a shared sense of influence. By continually having a pulse on what’s going on in the community, Supreme is able to present apparel and products that are desirable.

When thinking of new designs, look to what’s going on in your community for creative inspiration. However, always remember to remain authentic to your brand.

Know the Power of Supply-and-Demand

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Supreme is good at many things, and utilizing basic economics to its advantage is no exception. James Jebbia was once quoted saying, “…if we can sell 600, I make 400.” The demand for product always exceeds the supply, thus driving up the value. Though, in Supreme’s case, they take it a step further by almost never restocking a dropped collection once it’s sold out (hence the huge resell market).

If you’re just starting out, your demand for product is likely low so this may not be a tactic you can use right away. However, educating yourself on supply-and-demand economics will ultimately help you make strategic business decisions in the long run, particularly as your business grows and competition rises.

Which business lesson from Supreme was the most helpful or interesting? Let us know in the comments!

 

4 Things to Consider to Hire the Right Employees

Behind every good business are good people; the focused, passionate, reliable people representing your company along every step of the customer journey. 

However, profitability and time savings aside, putting the success of your business in the hands of others isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Regardless of how skilled an employee might be
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5 Benefits of Direct-to-Garment Printing

With several, quality methods available to create impressive, custom apparel garments, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is a newer technique gaining recognition among printers – especially small-business owners. Created in the late ’90s, DTG printing uses a custom inkjet printer to apply water-based inks directly to the textile. The garment’s fibers then absorb the liquid. The process is likened to printing a document at home — replace paper with garments. The outcome is some seriously impressive designs customers go crazy for.

Whether you’re considering contemporary tactics to add to your business services or just getting started and marinating on a customization method, direct-to-garment printing can be a lucrative option.

Below are just five, key benefits of what DTG printing has to offer: Continue reading “5 Benefits of Direct-to-Garment Printing”

5 Tips for Successful Custom Embroidery

Often when the term “custom apparel” is heard, our minds jump to the ubiquitous methods of screen printing and sublimation. However, the art of embroidery should not be forgotten. Embroidery creates an added level of detail and lends a sophisticated, high-end look to any garment. From adding decoration to jeans to logos on company shirts to fun designs on casual wear – the options are endless.   Continue reading “5 Tips for Successful Custom Embroidery”

Specialty Ink Basics: Setting Your Screenprinting Business Apart From Competitors

In a competitive screenprinting market, it’s vital for your print shop to continually find areas where niche skills can be added to help set your business apart. One way to catch the eyes of potential customers is by dazzling them with specialty inks. Before you cringe (we know, special inks can be hard to work with), specialty inks can bring a lot of value to your business, create awesome designs, and you can (and should!) charge premium pricing for the services. To help get you started, we’ve listed three Continue reading “Specialty Ink Basics: Setting Your Screenprinting Business Apart From Competitors”

Beginner’s Guide to Screenprinting Children’s Apparel

Research has shown that the children’s apparel industry is booming, and honestly, we’re not surprised. Custom bibs and hats are adorable gifts for baby showers, and thanks to social media, matching “parent-child” tees have become extremely popular. In 2016, global sales for children’s apparel and footwear outperformed adult fashion sales by experiencing a total value growth of 5% to reach $203.4 billion! Last year, childrenswear outpaced womenswear and menswear in retail value growth again. In simpler terms – children’s apparel is on the rise.  

However, before you dive head first into adding custom childrenswear to your screenprinting services, there are important regulations and best practices your business should follow.  Continue reading “Beginner’s Guide to Screenprinting Children’s Apparel”