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Hello everyone, my wife and I have a business idea we would like some input on.
We are starting screen printing business. Rather than make custom shirts for choirs, churches, and small businesses, we want to make and sell our own designs. We are currently deciding how to sell them.
We are going to sell them via ebay, etsy, amazon.com etc, but we also would like to sell them at a reduced price to vendors who would them resell them for their own profits. Is this a viable idea or should we sell them all through our own resources?
This seems like a great community of supportive people, we don't want to screw this up, we would love some input.
I would likely recommend that you set up an affiliate program. Doing so will allow you to market to Alumni Associations, Booster Organizations and others.
They sell the shirts and you give their organization a cut from the profit. IT quickly places boots on the ground selling your merchandise without you having to hire sales people.
Your business plan is your roadmap. It outlines your product, operations and the various ways you wish to market. The business plan will help you keep on track as you move forward.
I generally recommend that business owners revisit theor business plan often but never less than once annually. It is certainly reasonable to include multiple marketing initiatives in your plan.
If you decide to move forward with a booster/affiliate program let me know. I would be happy to collaborate.
I've been in and around the textile printing business for many years, having designed graments for Hanes, Champion, VF, and others. I've put some of my designs up on CafePress (here's an example: www.cafepress.com/WeRemember911) but that's more of a hobby than work. The difficulty with a screen printing business is that you need lots of volume. Margins on individual shirts are typically low (especially when competing with overseas operations). And places like CafePress have made individual shirts designed by non-professionals affordable and feasible with almost unlimited designs available. So the bottom line is that this is a VERY tough business these days.
As with most things, marketing is key. The t-shirt marketplace is very noisy and it's tough to cut through that noise. You might get lucky and hit with a design (like "Life is Good") in which case you virtually have it made, but otherwise, it's very tough. Specializing in a niche helps (ie: Designs for Moms. Designs for Churches & Churchfolk. Designs for Fitness). A website and Facebook are easy outlets and then you have the same problem as everyone else (driving traffic in). Some people travel to street fairs and shows, selling individual shirts. This can take off but is slow going at first. Lot's of work for little return. But it can get the designs out there and if they're good enough, word of mouth with drive traffic.
eBay is a poor outlet for sales. By definition people think of it as discounted merchandise, so they are willing to pay even less than normal. etsy is good for single items which means you put a lot of work into a very small profit. I don't think people go to Amazon for shirts. These are all tough outlets for sales. Most people buy screen printed garments mail order or from retail outlets.
My bottom line would be do hold off on all overhead and put your designs on CafePress and Zazzle and see if the designs sell. That's a good way to "test market" them for virtually no money. If the take off (the likes of Life is Good) then go into business and work on the marketing and licensing, but otherwise save a lot of money going into a very tough business (made tougher by this economy). Consider writing Dan also for his advice on this (on his podcast). Good luck.
Depending on the niches you are looking at, you might consider Dye Sublimation printing. It's fairly inexpensive to get into now, the technology has really come along, it's not messy and doesn't require much space, and you can do short runs (even 1 shirt) with full color. Look up a trade publication called Printwear and find out where the nearest Printwear show is to you and they'll have lots of dye sub vendors there with the latest equipment. Good luck.
A note on amazon, they currently are not allowing new clothing vendors to sell through their website. I was going to market test a few shirts online there to validate the idea/brand before making a china order and found out they were closed to new vendors in that catagory. However who knows when and if they will change that policy.
I know that on eBay, people do sell to vendors like that and advertise it as a "LOT" in the eBay ad. For example: dog leashes, 50 leashes per LOT - or Wholesale LOT - something like that (you would have to look on there and see). The word LOT is usually capitalized in the title - I guess so it stands out.
When I used to buy dog related products as a vendor, I used to just type in "dog LOT" or even just "Wholesale LOT" in the search feature to see only the reduced price vendor type items. So you may want to consider making sure on eBay you put "LOT or Wholesale LOT" in the headline for search purposes for the vendor items. Many vendors just type in those terms for their search on eBay,