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How to Start a Successful T-Shirt Business

Posted by Ngan Ton on Jun 23, 2016 11:06:00 PM
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If you're planning to start your own business, then you've made a great decision! This means taking charge of your future, setting your own hours, and working for the world's greatest boss.


It also means owning the costs of buying a franchise or opening a storefront--not to mention the additional expenses for maintenance and renovation. And then there's also the very real possibility that your business won't garner any interest for the first 6 - 12 months while all those costs accrue.

Is there an alternative way to start your own business with minimal monetary risk? The answer is yes! The much more viable option is skipping a physical storefront altogether and taking your business online. The opportunities here are virtually endless. You can offer anything from services to goods, or even accept donations. Also, an online business offers you the opportunity to reach millions of prospective customers instead of whoever happens to wander in.

A popular online business idea, and our personal favorite, is selling t-shirts. It's versatility as both a low and high end item combined with many inspirational stories of successful brands starting as t-shirt businesses has encouraged a spectrum of new and experienced entrepreneurs, marketers, and designers to try their hand.

While you can skip most of this and rely on GearLaunch to make the entire process of opening and running an e-commerce seamless, the challenges of building a brand in a competitive space is still up to you as it would be in any industry, online or offline.

In this guide we'll show you how to start a successful t-shirt business. We'll examine each step of the creation process and the respective keys to success.


Brainstorm ideas for your t-shirts, and write down as many as you can. Do you prefer shirts with text, graphics, or both? Will you make shirts for men or women? What's trending at the moment? Do you want to offer a variety of shirt colors or mostly black and white shirts? Ask yourself as many questions as you can to get the creativity going.

Key to success: Most people buy graphic tees that reflect their opinions and personality in an original way. You don't need to create complex designs, in fact many brands have found success with simple styles.


Who would love this product more than anyone else? Be as specific as possible. Simply targeting “men between the ages of 18 - 55” is not specific enough. A better example would be male tourists in Las Vegas between the ages of 25 - 45. In a highly competitive market like graphic tees, creating a detailed persona will help you market to the right audience without going over budget.

Key to success: Modern marketing is all about personalization. While knowing your audience will ultimately save you marketing dollars (less trial and error for conversions), the real goal here is knowing them to the point where you can craft a message that resonates with them.


Many t-shirt businesses start by purchasing blank t-shirts from manufacturers with low minimums in order to test how sellable different styles are with different niches.

Alternatively, manufacturers can make shirts according to your specifications, but they often require a minimum purchase in the thousands. This may not be a feasible option at the start of your business.

Key to success: Quality is paramount to your reputation and success. It may be tempting to sacrifice quality for higher profit margins, but you need to consider how the quality will affect a customer’s review of your brand and possible repurchase. In the long run, it will cost you less to maintain a repeat customer instead of acquiring new ones.


If you're not one of the few who own the necessary equipment to print your own t-shirts, then search for screenprinters in your local area. Don’t be afraid to meet and interview screenprinters before working with the one that best fits your business.

Key to success: Just like manufacturing, poor quality prints will only help customers distrust you. The success and sustainability of your business will be hard to maintain when your product fades and cracks.


When pricing your t-shirts, make sure to account for the actual price of the shirt, screenprinting costs, shipping costs, costs of hangtags and labels, and other costs such as marketing, storage/warehousing, and labor. Don’t be afraid to price your shirts higher if your costs justify it.

Key to success: Keep your prices competitive and remember that it's easier to lower prices than it is to raise them. It's also important to note that low pricing will lead consumers to doubt the quality of your product.


Without a physical storefront, many e-commerce business owners turn a part of their home into storage. But if you don't have the space or can't afford the time to go to the post office every day, then consider paying a fulfillment house to handle all the storage, packing, and shipping.

Key to success: Since customers already expect their order to ship and arrive on time, some businesses use this opportunity to surprise and delight customers. It may be something as small as offering a code for free or expedited shipping to a more personal touch like custom packaging. Small perks will leave lasting impressions with customers.


If you think the idea of starting your own e-commerce is exciting, but aren't completely thrilled at the thought of dealing with manufacturing, production, fulfillment, and customer service, consider handing those components over to a trusted provider.

Topics: Guides, Research and Development, Features

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