Small Business Start-Up Idea – T-Shirt Design

There is always a great demand for custom-made T-shirts, ranging from sports teams in need of new kit to event organisers wanting promotional shirts to give away. Your business could offer a range of t-shirt designs to select from a catalogue as well as making custom shirts to order. Although this is a competitive market, if you are talented and customer focused enough then you can become successful.  

Skills needed: You will need to be very good at graphic design and it will help if you know how to print T-shirts already, although you could learn.  

Business environment and set-up cost: There is not much potential for international business because you will not be able to keep your prices competitive with foreign companies once you factor in shipping costs. The set-up cost for this business is one of the more expensive ones due to all the equipment that will be required. If you have the computer hardware and software already your costs will be significantly lower, but you will need to invest in a T-shirt screening machine to manufacture your product. You may also wish to pay for the development of an offline catalogue to promote your designs. This will need to be designed, printed and distributed – all of which costs money. The estimated cost to start this business varies from £5000 up to around £15,000.  

Marketing Techniques:  

  • Join newsgroups and discussion forums for special interest groups that you think might be interested in custom T-shirts (e.g. local sports teams or clubs)
  • Add your website to the popular pay-per-click search engines
  • Consider using a targeted banner advertisement campaign at relevant websites (e.g. outdoor activity)
  • Establish mutual links with relevant link directories and web rings
  • Use viral marketing to your advantage – allow people to design their T-shirts on-line and then send the finished article to a friend
  • Develop a newsletter showcasing your latest T-shirt designs, which will serve as marketing tool for your website
  • Have regular competitions on your site to win T-shirts as this will encourage repeat visitors
  • Use OnlineOffice to set up web-site, blog and online shop to promote your business online  

Complimentary business ideas: You need not stop at T-shirts and could expand to create a whole line of clothing.  

Notes: Customer retention is the key to success in this industry. If you provide a much better service than expected, your customers will feel you have over-delivered and exceeded their expectations. Pay attention to the reason why your customer is buying your product – if it is for a regular event you should make note of this and contact them again prior to the next time it takes place and offer them a discount.  

Online examples & resources:  

  • Custom Ink – excellent example of a custom T-shirt store
  • T-Shirt Software – some useful links to the software that T-shirt designers use
  • Design By Humans – you may wish to test the waters first by offering some of your designs for sale here
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