I will start out by saying that the screenshot of income in the graphic is HALF of what ONE of my apparel company sites has done. I moved the site from Big Commerce to Shopify more than half way in to that business. It’s currently approaching the $600k mark.
It wasn’t to long ago that apparel companies were expensive to start and even more expensive to keep operational. Before Cricut, Dye Sublimation and Direct to Garment there was screenprint and huge vinyl cutting machines.
Today you can literally start an apparel brand from your iphone while you’re on a cruise. You don’t need a website, a brand, a logo, equipment to print shirts or even an LLC* if you don’t want. All you need is ideas and inexpensive (or free) tools to create graphics.
If you want to start a print apparel brand today, there’s unlimited resources. In this article I’m going to talk about the four modern ways to create a print apparel brand, ranging from dropshipping (print-on-demand) and free to startup to in-house and expensive to get off the ground.
What’s more is if you don’t want to have assets like a website or even a social media presence, these days, you don’t have to. There are benefits to having these things, which I will get into a little later on, but they aren’t a deciding factor on your success.
YOU NEED SOME DESIGN CAPABILITIES
Before we get into that, I want to caution you that there is SOME level of design capabilities needed. Play around with some design programs and FREESTYLE it. Don’t use just the graphics or typography sets provided. Take the time to figure out if you CAN design something. Better yet, go to Pinterest, find a design you really like and see if you can make it yourself. Now, you can’t reuse it if you copy the word and graphics exactly, so if the design is about how much they love their horse, make it about how much you love your keto diet.
OR YOU CAN BUY DESIGNS
In the PDF I will talk about how you can still launch an apparel brand even if you can’t design. This includes finding vendors that do the design work for you – some on the cheap!
FOUR WAYS TO START AN APPAREL BRAND TODAY
With that said, here’s the four ways you can start an apparel company – from the easiest / least expensive to get started to the hardest / most expensive.
Get a Merch By Amazon Account
Use a print on demand sourcing company.
Create your own products using simple equipment like Cricut.
Create a full-blown DIY printing business.
I’ll go through the details of each in this post. The FREE PDF will go into more detail and will also available for purchase on Amazon (soon).
Without further adieu….
GET A MERCH ACCOUNT
When Merch By Amazon first came onto the scene, it was a well-kept secret. Slowly, entrepreneurs like myself started to realize that it existed and began creating accounts. The problem was, and still remains, that Merch became so popular so fast that some people wait six+ months to be accepted. That isn’t all bad, considering there’s a lot you can do to be prepared for the magical day you get in.
Merch by Amazon has a few things you need to be aware of before you get started. First, if you use a Trademarked phrase, you’ll get your work pulled, possibly your account frozen and maybe even all of your earnings withheld. You’ll need to research trademarks and if the phrase you’re using means a lot to you, you should be prepared to drop cash on getting a trademark for it now.
There is an opportunity to make as little or as much as you want. If you want to grow quickly, you can price yourself low to get ranked high in the sales (Merch shows shirts with the most sales first). If you’re not interested in ranking quickly, you can price your shirts wherever you’d like
- You can build a passive income.
- You can create a brand.
- Popular designers are being invited to have branded shops.
- Your ideas will be copied if you create a winner.
- Your shop can be deleted without warning if someone trademarks a phrase you’re using and notifies Amazon, which happens more than most would like to admit. Even if the phrase is unique to you, anyone can Trademark and therefore own it.
- Unpopular shirts are removed.
Stay organized from the start. If you want to venture outside of Merch, you will want to have your design files organized and ready to upload somewhere else. Have folders for each topic or niche you’re working on, so you can build on those niches in the future if you so choose.
If you want to create a shop on Etsy or your own platform in the future, being organized means you’ll be able to publish quickly.
Preparing while you wait for entry:
- The design size for Merch is 4500×5400. This translates well to other dropshippers, so designing at this size means you’ll be able to upload en-mass elsewhere.
- Make sure you have a high resolution file of 300dpi+.
- Do not include a background on your shirt design. This will translate to a rectangle outline on the print. You want to save your designs as transparent.
With Merch (and other platforms) you can design from your phone. There are several apps available in the app store that will allow you to design and download to your phone at the sizes mentioned above, with no background.
USE A PRINT ON DEMAND COMPANY
There are dozens of print on demand services out there today. Most of them have no cost to get started. This means that you can start selling apparel right away, without a website, logo – nothing. I detail some of my favorite brands in the Apparel Business PDF.
- You can sell today if you want. Design, upload and start taking orders from friends at the soccer field, groups on fb, etc. You can start with nothing and make some money by the end of the day.
- You can connect to your website, blog, etsy shop and a dozen other places and make it hands free. I detail this in the PDF.
- You don’t have to handle products.
- It can be a completely passive income if you choose.
- You can design and print anything with unlimited colors.
- There are products ranging from jewelry and housewares to various types of apparel. In this article we’re highlighting apparel, so the cons are keeping that in mind.
- Profit is minimal – averages around 30%.
- You only have access to the same products everyone else is selling with this method.
CREATE YOUR OWN PRODUCTS WITH SIMPLE TOOLS
Create your own products using simple equipment like Cricut. There’s a chance you’ve seen these products around. Honestly, most of the products you see on Etsy are most likely being made with Cricut. Anything with glitter, Cricut. Anything made with a Hoop Mama design, Cricut.
- You can determine your profit.
- You can make whatever types of products you want.
- You can make products no one else is making.
- You can make samples and sell before you create the product.
- Making the products, especially during seasons like Christmas rush, or when you have a super cute Easter design, sometimes isn’t for the faint of heart.
- You have to work hard to make sure you’re making the products just right. The quality can slip if you don’t.
- You’ll need to stick with minimal designs, you can’t cut out a 200 color design with a Cricut.
- There are some costs involved. You’ll need a Cricut and heat press at minimum.
CREATE A FULL-BLOWN PRINT APPAREL BUSINESS
The last option I am going to talk about here is the full-blown, all-out, take over your garage and drain your savings print apparel business plan. This plan involves deciding which print method(s) work best for you and your situation. For me, printing on demand has offered us the ability to grow faster than if we had to limit our choices/designs. And, I should admit that I tried screenprinting and absolutely hated it – or maybe it was trying to get the goop out of my hair that I hated. Either way, it wasn’t for me. Even with the equipment we bought that was suppose to make it “easier” – nope. Not for me.
We decided to look into direct-to-garment printers and after going to see one at a trade show and spending days researching online, we dove in. At 16k each (probably a low-range printer considering a friend had one that was over the 6 figure mark) these printers more than paid for themselves, allowed us to print-on-demand and gave us the opportunity to design shirts and print them when they were ordered. This solved many problems that others have.
- We didn’t have to have hundreds of shirts pre-made.
- We could design items for people as they requested them and if we only sold 3, oh well.
- It gave us a chance to print the items that sold and move on from designs that didn’t.
- We could control our costs, overhead, pricing, profit and more, much better than any of the other methods.
- You can reach multiple niches because you aren’t limited.
- It’s expensive. There’s no cheap way to get into printing your own apparel with DTG or other equipment (a quality print) that is cheap.
- You’re tethered to your shop.
- Growth can happen fast, but finding and ordering printers that come in on Semi’s can take weeks/months.
Aside from print on demand and screenprinting, there’s also embroidery, dye sublimation and many other methods.
The problem for those of us seeking a laptop life is that having your savings sitting in your garage and spending the day printing shirts isn’t exactly working from your laptop. It’s up to you to figure out which method works best for you and your needs.
I will cover all of this and more in the PDF and courses.
WEBSITES, LOGOS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
I wanted to close this post by circling back around to my statement about assets like websites and a social media presence.
While they are not a deciding factor in your success, they surely CAN help you grow faster than if you just had a website, Merch account, etc. Additionally, if you want to build a following or if people want to be loyal to your brand, you’re going to want to be available to them. You can jump right in by grabbing your domain and social accounts or you can start with just social. I will get more into this in the apparel course, but I wanted to point out that you can do it either way. I am a firm believer that brands that are visible on social are the ones that are going to grow the fastest. Also, if your brand name, whether on Merch, a fb group, etc, becomes popular people WILL go check out the availability of your name so they can capitalize on your success.
*I am not an attorney or accountant, please seek their advice about laws in your state.