Starting Your New Business In The New Year, Part 2

Last week we started a series of blog posts regarding starting your new t-shirt business in the new year! This series is based off our popular webinar from 2013, “Start Your Home T-Shirt Business”. We covered our first three topics Legal Details, Location, and Business Name last week. So we’ll pick up this week with Websites and Equipment.

#4 – Equipment

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: our industry is incredibly diverse. There are a myriad of different decoration methods out there. And each decoration method requires different types of equipment… even multiple pieces of equipment. And beyond just the equipment in question, there’s learning the operation and process of the decorating method that you’re interested in.

When you start to focus in on each decorating method you discover that there’s quite a bit of investment needed. Embroidery equipment, screen printing equipment, DTG printers, even sublimation printers – all have large price tags on them. In the end you can spend upwards of $7,000 for commercial embroidery equipment, $3,000+ for all the bits and pieces to screen print, or $1,200 for a Hotronix Auto Clam heat press. And in each case there are subtle in’s and out’s you need to learn about each process. Heat printing comes in as one of the most economical investments and has a very gentle learning curve. In addition, heat printing gives you access to SO many options – screen printed transfers, cad cut films, digital media, rhinestones, and more. All options using your heat press. An embroidery machine or screen print equipment only serves their one function. Not that these other methods aren’t good options down the road. But when you’re just starting out they can be intimidating to you AND your wallet.

Stahls Hotronix Auto Clam

The 16″ x 16″ Auto Clam offers you an automatic open feature AND the most comprehensive warranty for $1,200.00.

All of that being said, a heat press with a good warranty is a great starting point for your new business. The warranty part is important though – don’t overlook it. When you’re starting out and using your heat press to drive your business it is essentially the cornerstone that you’re based around. You want to be sure that it’s not going to fizzle out on you randomly someday in the middle of an important order. Make sure your warranty is all-encompassing and that the manufacturer offers support in case something goes wrong. Consider the extra options the press has as well: Do you want a press that opens on its own? Do you want a machine whose heating element swings out of the way? Do you want a machine with a digital control or touch-screen control? And what accessories are available for the machine you’re looking at? And here’s a better question, if all of those options are overwhelming, will the company help you decide which one is best? Because we certainly will.

(Bonus! Our sister company Stahls Hotronix has a great resource here for choosing the right heat press!)

#5 – Website

Welcome to the 21st century. Times, they are a-changing! There was a point in time, when my father was starting his first business, in which having a website was decadent and unnecessary. After all, how many people were really going to see it… out there on the ‘net? That time is gone my friends. We’re living in a time of smart phones, tablets, and computers small enough to go in a wristwatch or a pair of glasses. This means your business must have a presence on the internet. Because we’ve reached a point where if you DON’T have a website, some consumers will assume there’s something wrong – you’re not professional, you’re not a valid business, or they’ll pass over you all together for someone who DOES have a website.

Keep in mind we’re not saying that you should go learn how to code in HTML and start making your own website. But there are plenty of free services out there that will help you do this. Simply perform an internet search for “free website service” and you’ll find more options than you could imagine. These services will help you build your site and its content. I’m not going to lie – it’ll take a little work. But it’ll be worth it in the end. Now you have a website to add to your business card. And your social media pages! That’s right – social media too. The human is a social animal, and we gravitate towards a social experience (some more than others, sure). That’s why getting your business on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is so important. Not only does it expose your business to an audience, but it allows them to get social with you by leaving you messages, commenting on your page, or “liking” the things you’ve done. Again, this takes a little work and a little learning. But if you’re dedicated to the success of your business, then it’s part of the experience.

One more point here – and this is the most important point on the topic: Stay relevant. When you have a website or a social media page, the worst thing you can do is let it go unattended. People leave comments, send emails, ask questions… and you don’t respond back. You’re telling them that you don’t have time for them and don’t want their business. Of course that’s not your intention. But that’s the message you send no less. Social media like those mentioned above are largely visual experiences as well as social. That means taking pictures of shirts you’ve made or designs you’ve done – the flashier and more attention grabbing the better. Updates should be made, at the very least, once a week. And for the skeptics in the crowd, here’s something to think about: Our 20th President, James A. Garfield, has a Facebook page for his Historic Site here in Mentor, OH. It is updated daily and has just over 1,800 fans who see their posts daily. So this begs the question, “If our 20th President can accumulate that kind of crowd… what can I accomplish?”