How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Picking a Niche

When you are starting a t-shirt business, the best thing you can do for yourself is to first have a plan in place. There is a saying: “prior planning prevents poor performance”.

There’s also another saying: “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – Ben Franklin.

The point is this –

the more you plan, the better off you’ll be in the long run. If you don’t have a plan in place, you’ll be circling back around to correct the mistakes you made.

You’ll also be making decisions on the fly, which may not always be the best way to run a business. Your decisions will probably not be cohesive with one another, and your business will fall apart quickly.

Obviously you won’t be able to foresee everything, but having a plan will give you a better foundation for your t-shirt business.

There are many statistics out there on how many small businesses survive their first year in business, 2nd year, 5th year, and so forth. After 5 years, it’s less than 50%.

With proper planning, you can avoid most of the mistakes which cause entrepreneurs to fail.

Question: What is one of the top reasons entrepreneurs fail?

Answer: 42% fail because there’s no market need for their services or products. (source)

There is no need for their product or service. One of the top reasons entrepreneurs fail could have been prevented with a little planning and research.

Plan and Research Your T-Shirt Business

Before you even start your t-shirt business, before you pick a name, or any of that fun stuff, you need to research your t-shirt ideas. You need to validate the market. Is it there?

What kind of shirts do you want to print? Do you want to print custom shirts for groups of people, such as sport teams, school groups, family reunions, class trips, etc.?

The other option is to print your own line of t-shirts. Most likely, this would consist of stock designs that you either buy or designs that you create yourself.

Whichever path you choose to go down, make sure there is a market to sell to. You may even want to specialize in a specific way.

Choose a Niche for Your T-Shirt Business

Narrow down to a group of people. This is called choosing a niche. A niche is a segment of people who are interested in or fall into a particular category. For example, a niche market might be motorcycle riders.

In picking a niche, start by choosing something you may be interested in. For example, we’ll stick with the biker theme. If you are a biker, you may want to think about selling biker apparel, whether it is custom or if you want to create your own biker apparel line.

custom biker apparel

By choosing something that you are interested in, you may already have contacts in this arena. Also, since you are interested in it, you’ll have a better idea of what t-shirt designs would sell better and what this niche likes to wear.

You’ll know how to sell to this group and where they currently buy from. Understanding your customers and their needs are keys to success.

Another benefit is that you will be able to relate very well with the crowd you choose. They’ll see that you are an expert in this area, and want to buy from someone of this nature.

You’ll also have a stronger passion for something you like to do. Because of this, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing much more and have more success.

t-shirt design inspiration

Running a t-shirt business is fun, especially if you like what you’re doing. Why did you want to start a t-shirt business in the first place? Was it to quit your day job and be your own boss? Was it to earn an extra income? Whatever the reason was, you’ll have a better chance of success if you are willing to devote yourself to it.

That goes for the niche as well. A t-shirt business is something you will be working with a lot. You don’t want to run out of steam after you have started.

Another reason entrepreneurs failed is because they lacked passion.

If you choose a niche that you know nothing about or have no interest in, you’ll have a harder time selling apparel. For one thing, you’ll lose excitement for the apparel you are selling and after a while, you simply won’t care anymore. People will be able to see that. Who wants to buy something from someone in which they don’t even care about their own product?

Picking a niche is especially important if you want to sell your own line of apparel. Being all things to all people is very difficult and rarely works. Choose something you’re good at and stick with it.

Some t-shirt businesses find success in creating custom apparel for groups in their city. Essentially, their niche is their geographical region. Even then, they may work with more businesses than they do anyone else. Or maybe they have a lot of schools they work with.

[Related Content: Niche Sales – Math and Science T-Shirts]

No matter which niche or market you want to sell to, your next step is to do a little research in that particular area.

As we mentioned above, make sure this niche is buying apparel. If there is not much demand for it, it doesn’t matter how good your shirts are or how well you know them. It could be a dead end.

Further explore who is already selling apparel to this market. Is it saturated, or does it look like there is a potential for you to sell, too?

Look at your potential competitors and their products. How will your products and services differ from theirs?

By choosing a niche, you are better able to focus your efforts. You would be selling to a smaller group, but that group would be more interested in your apparel.

Finally, share your ideas with people you know and see what they say. It would be best if they were in the niche you want to sell to. Ask people you know who will give you honest feedback.

Once you have validated your idea and niche and are ready to move forward, it’s time for some more fun – picking a name for your t-shirt business! Make sure your name reflects the niche you are choosing to sell to.

[Related Content: Starting a T-Shirt Business: Picking a Name]

Don’t forget to have fun!