Marjorie Corrow has found that a great way to supplement her custom embroidery business is by traveling to events where she sets up a table or tent and sells a variety of decorated sportswear to the attendees.
Although she is primarily an embroiderer, she has found that custom transfers allow her to offer greater variety and she loves the ability to press designs on demand, which means she is not stuck with a lot of printed inventory at the end of the day.
Her business, Life’s A Stitch Embroidery LLC, Niskayuna, N.Y., returns to many of the same events year after year and she reports, she has customers who can’t wait to see what she will have new each year.
But while the money can be good, there are things to know ahead of time before deciding if this might be a good proposition for your decorated apparel business.
One of the biggest rules is if you are coming back to an event you have done before, while you do want to bring any designs you had leftover from last year, but you do not want to offer them printed exactly the same way on the same style of apparel.
Corrow feels that her efforts at creativity are a big key to her success. “I typically do one or two samples to put on display. I always try to do one that is really cool and not your typical center chest imprint. The goal is to do something attractive and different and give people ideas,” she says.
Because she brings a heat press and designs with her, she also can offer some customization to her clientele. “They can tell me what they want, and I do it right in front of them. I will cut up little bits of the logos and put parts of the logo in one place and another. I’m not afraid to experiment. I’m very low key and happy to do what they want.”
The decorator also makes sure she offers at least one exclusive design each year.
“With permission, I take the conference logo and get creative with it, and I put that on a signature piece. So every year at the conference is a new signature piece from me,” she says.
Ideally, the embroiderer wants to have some extra designs on hand for the inevitable follow-up orders. “Post-event orders happen frequently, and I encourage it,” she says. “Customers will want a sweat shirt in a color or style that I don’t have.”
Ganging designs on a page when ordering transfers also helps keep costs down.
“I try very hard not to overbuy transfers,” she says, “and I may pay a little more as a result. But I’ve become pretty sharp about how to place them on the page to get the most bang for the buck.”
And in some cases, running low on a design can actually be a plus. “Sometimes it creates a perception of ‘hurry up they are running out’ and that enhances sales,” she notes.
Of course, it’s not possible to perfectly guess how much you will need for any given event, and having some leftovers is a cost of doing business. “If I have anything left, I mark it down, bring it the next year, donate it, or give it away. Regardless, I get my money out of every conference.”
Expect to pay a fee for the opportunity to exhibit at a conference, says Corrow, and she also offers a cut of the sales on items with the conference logo or some other arrangement that helps the organization make money. “I do not make megabucks at these, but it is my way of helping non-profit groups in other ways besides a cash donation,” she notes.
You also will need permission to use the conference name and logo on merchandise and if she is going to offer cut up designs, she makes sure she has permission from the conference in advance to do that.