I’m Starting a Tshirt Biz. How do I Start With a Small Budget?

startup

Starting a tshirt company can be challenging if you have limited funds, but it’s not impossible. In future writings, I’ll share some other ways you can get started on a limited budget, but today, I want to address the following question I got from Jerome on our TshirtRiches Facebook page.

QUESTION: I figure you get a lot of messages and I’m not sure if you’ll answer, but I have been watching your t-shirt business videos and it inspired me to take a chance. First off, I’m a single father of 5 and I’ve worked as a call center manager for 10 years.

I recently purchased a t shirt heat press to try to start making t-shirts to make just a little extra money. I’m really working with a small budget and I will for the most part have to start where I am until I make enough to upgrade. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me. I’m basically out of pocket trying to make this t-shirt business opportunity happen. Your advice would mean a lot.

MY ANSWER:

hi Jerome. Congrats on starting your t-shirt business. This is a question I get often, and my advice is always the same. Most every new t-shirt startup entrepreneur makes the mistake in believing everyone wants to buy their t-shirts, and as a result, they try to sell their shirts to everybody.

My biggest recommendation would be to identify a niche you wish to go after, and do everything you can to learn everything about that space and be everywhere.

For example, we’re in the ‘Christian’ t-shirt niche and everything we do centers around that space. We’re not trying to sell these religious tees to punk rockers, fitness junkies or race car fanatics. By staying in one t-shirt niche, it allows us to design t-shirts around our market.

Digging this post? Please share with your friends…

We do everything we need to do to get familiar with the conversations and interests happing in that space. We market and advertise in places where Christian folk are likely to be. We wouldn’t advertise in a major newspaper publication like the Atlanta Journal Constitution when there are newspapers exclusively for the Christian market.

When you know your market or niche, you take your tees directly to them. It’s much cheaper and your marketing dollars are very well targeted. Going too broad in the beginning will cost you a fortune and it’s difficult to try and appeal to everybody.

For example, other t-shirt entrepreneurs are making tees exclusively for nurses, teachers, skateboarders, barbers, natural hair, etc… I’m blown away with some of the ideas and concepts people come up with and make money from. For example, there were some college students who made beer t-shirts and earned themselves a small fortune.

So the thing to do is to pick just ONE niche area and go into it and show out. Usually, i’d suggest it be something you’re already  interested in, or have knowledge about. Using your call center job for example,  there’s millions of people working in a call center and I imagine they have inside jokes for the crazy folks they have to deal with on the phone.

Start there and see if you can identify language that appeals to people who work in call centers. I imagine if you focus and research this out, you’d be surprised at what you might be able to come up with. People working in a call center would get and understand the slogans and jokes and this is what niche marketing is all about — you’re already in the space. Turn it upside down and see what you can come up with.

That’s just a suggestion though, but wanted to give you an example of what you could do if you sit down and think this thing through. Making, designing and selling t-shirts is a fun business, so get creative and have fun with it.

If you’ve  come up with some unique t-shirt design ideas or slogans, please share a link in the comments section below — I’d love to see what you’ve come up with (others will also be able to click the link and see your designs too).

launch-tshirt-biz

 

Leave a Comment:

33 comments
Ava says

This was sound advice. Thank you. What is a good, and cost effective beginner heat press you suggest?

Reply
    Cartess Ross says

    I would start with a 15×15 if you’re trying to keep your costs low. Hotronix make a cheaper brand called The Maxx, but it’s still costly. Might try HeatPress Nation and find some of the cheaper ones there. They should last you at least a year with no problems — good enough to get started and their prices are cheap.

    Reply
      Rob says

      Do you have any videos for advantages and disadvantages between 15×15 and 16×20

      Reply
        Kimberly Ross says

        Hi Rob,
        Not sure if there are any videos about that. But I can tell you that the reason we recommend the 16×20 is because if later on you decide that you want larger designs than what the 15×15 can handle then you have the extra wiggle room for the design.
        Thanks
        Amy

        Reply
Terrelle says

I love the feedback you’ve given him. Perfect advice!!! Thanks for caring and sharing!!

Reply
furquanul haque says

What method should i use for printing tshirt?
It should be long lasting, because i want to build a brand and i want myself to be loyal with the customer.

Reply
Lindsay says

Thanks for the information. Hearing your advice made me think about what I have noticed in stores about t-shirts. T-shirt makers stick to one niche and run from there. I get it now, choose who you want to sell to and stick with it; be it dog lovers, Beach goers, etc. This cleared up a major issue I was having in starting … I didn’t know which way to go. Thanks for you valuable information and help.

Reply
    Cartess Ross says

    You got it Lindsay… Sounds like you’re on the way. Thanks for the kind words — I appreciate it. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! Please share and like this page when you get the moment!

    Reply
Delisha says

I love the advice you gave and the fact that It was shared with me via email. I myself am interested in starting up a T-shirt Business and it is with limited funds as well. This was very helpful and informative. Thank You Mr. Ross I am Grateful.

Reply
    Cartess Ross says

    hi Delisha,

    I’m glad you found the information helpful. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

    Reply
Jennifer says

I have been reading all your post and I want to thank you for that. I have one question I am also wanting to start a t shirt line just for plus size women but i am having trouble finding t shirts to fit up to 7x. Does those sizes actually exist?

Reply
DeJohn says

Thanks for the information. I have a few designs that I created myself and a few phases that I heard or saw. My thing is, should I start with plastisol heat transfer or heat transfer vinyl(I have a vinyl cuter).I have a small name for myself because I’m a photographer and I help out with low income families. I need more of a cost effective start up because I’m out of work write now.
Thanks

Reply
    Kimberly Ross says

    I Dejohn,

    Here’s what we recommend. Here’s some more information you may find useful!

    We recommend screen printed transfers. We do not recommend printing from a printer just for the sake of quality. You want to be in business selling products that will allow people to buy from you over and over again; as well as refer others to you. Sadly, printing from a printer will not allow you to do so.

    Once you have your designs created; you can send the digital files of the designs to transfer companies. They can take your design and screen printed directly onto the special release paper. There are no printers involved in this process. All the designs are printed by screen printing equipment. Once the designs have been screen printed onto the special release paper instead of directly on shirts. They’ll send you the transfers; which you’ll press directly onto the shirts using the heat press machine you’ve purchased.

    The cost of having designs printed will vary; it depends on the amount of colors you have in the design. The more colors you have in the design the more it will cost. If you’re starting with a limited budget; we recommend no more than 2.
    Another fact in cost of getting the designs screen printed will be determined by the amount of transfers you have printed. The less you have printed the more you’ll pay. The more you have printed the cost to have the transfers printed, cost drops.

    We have a source list available for purchase. The source list includes various companies to purchase custom, and pre-made transfers from a list of transfer vendors as well as vendors to purchase blank shirts.

    The price for custom transfers will be determined by the amount of colors you have in your design. If you are on a tight budget then I would recommend no more than 2 colors in the design. The more colors in the design the more it will cost to have the designs screen printed onto the release paper.

    If you would, please click the link below to purchase the source list.
    http://www.tshirtriches.com/where-to-get-custom-t-shirt-transfers/

    Or you can locate a local screen printer in your area to screen printed directly onto blank shirts you supply the screen printer to print on. It’s actually cheaper to purchase your own shirts and give to the screen printer. The price once again will be determined by the amount of colors in the design and how many shirts you have printed. You’ll need to locate a local screen printer in your area to determine prices.

    We have created a training course that will walk you through the entire process from beginning to end. There’s no reason in trying to figure all this out on your own, cut your learning curb in half! We’ve done all the hard work for you. All you have to do is take advantage of the blueprint we’ll provide, learn the material and apply it towards your business. This isn’t an easy task, this isn’t some get rich quick scam and it will require a lot of hard work if you expect to receive any type of results. Honestly, your results depend on you.

    Please click the link to check out the program we have created along with the pricing information.

    http://protege300.com

    Reply
SEYI OLANREWAJU says

Thanks for making this information available. I have been nurturing the idea of starting a T-shirt biz for 4 years now. Reading this article and watching virtually all your YouTube videos just simplified the entire process. I’m no longer scared of starting… Thank you for taking the burden off me.
You’ll get to hear from me on the progress am making, please note that you’re affecting a bunch of us out there (from all over the world). I’m saying God bless you real good… from Lagos Nigeria!

Reply
    Kimberly Ross says

    Thank you for the kind words! We are so glad that we could be of help in calming your fears. Starting something new is always scary at first, but look at the adventure.

    Thanks
    Amy

    Reply
eve says

really learned a lot from you. i am a lady about to start up a tshirt business and i hav been really confused, thats how i found you. thanks for all d info. all d way from abuja nigeria.

Reply
Polly Johnson says

I would like to know if you can share the name of companies that I could consider purchasing the pre cut transfers from! I live in a very very small town! No print store .

Reply
Megan says

What design software do i use? I previously had photoshop for picture editing and i didnt like it as it was very confusing to get the hang of. I am wanting to do mostly wording tshirts with a few pictures here and there on them (like vectar). Can i just buy vectar images, logos and font templetes online and open them in an editing software?

Reply
    Cartess Ross says

    Photoshop and Illustrator are the standards. You are correct in saying that you can purchase various font/template software. You can still use photoshop/illustrator to work with the templates.

    Reply
Latasha says

I create my own designs and slogans. What site can I use to make sure that my designs and/or slogans arent being used by someone else? Also as stated in the video regarding hiring a graphic designer overseas, how would I know that they are legit and wont steal my ideas even with them signing an agreement? I work hard for my ideas and slogans and I am coming out of my pocket to bring this vision to life so Im just a little cautious.

Reply
    Cartess Ross says

    hi Latasha,

    There’s no guarantee that no one will steal your design. When you make the decision to get into this space, it’s always a possibility. But even if you made the design yourself, some one else can come knock it off and use it. If that’s what’s holding you back, don’t let it. Keeping it locked up inside your mind does you no good and you make no money. Don’t let that fear keep you from getting your stuff out. As you make money, you can afford to go after copycats, then you can shut them down. I’m very confident in saying that you still can make a ton of money in this space, even if someone is knocking off your designs. Cross that hurdle when you get there, but for now, just start.

    Reply
Shan says

Thank you so much for all this advice. I’m a college student looking to create a small line geared towards black women who do yoga. I already have a printer but no press. I was looking at alibaba and saw that they do the printing and also apply the business logo. I was going towards that route because I have a small apartment and not much space for the press/supply. Would you recommend this route? or suggest me getting the press? is the cost of ink/paper a lot? Please help me!
and again, thank you so much for all you do! you’re amazing and self-less!

blessings to you and your family.

Reply
    Kimberly Ross says

    Hi Shan,
    We really do not recommend using a printer to print designs for quality reasons. The best thing you can do for your business is supply a quality product that is going to keep customers coming back, as well as get you referrals for new customers. Using a printer often results in designs that will quickly deteriorate, fade, and crack. This is not going to bode well for repeat business. We recommend screen printed transfers for their quality and durability. Don’t worry about space or the size of your location…when Cartess began his tshirt business, it was out of a one bedroom apartment. As for using Alibaba, or other printing services, it’s really up to you. Personally, I would like to be able to quality check and have more control over the product, as well as the customer information that comes with a purchase (so that you can use that information for further marketing). One thing we recommend is finding a local screen printer and having them print your designs on tshirts. We do have a vendor list for purchase that includes where to find bulk wholesale tshirts or pre printed screen printed transfers. This list is $27. And of course, there is always the Tshirt Riches course that goes over everything in great detail on how to get your business up and running and where to purchase the supplies that you need to be successful. What route you choose is ultimately up to you, it’s going to be your drive and determination that really sets you apart and how you plan your business model to be successful. Let us know if you’d like more information on the course or vendor list! Good luck with your business! It sounds like an awesome idea!

    Thanks,
    Judy

    Reply
Trent says

I was wondering where I should buy heat transfer paper because transfer express is a little above my price range.

Reply
    Judy Jolley says

    Hi Trent,
    Transfer Express can be on the more expensive side.

    We get a lot of inquiries related to which transfer vendor is the best, and which one to use.

    Each transfer company has their own technique and style. It’s very important you reach out to them and request samples so you can see their work. Many companies will charge for samples, while others will not.

    You should not expect to get reasonable pricing if all you’re ordering is 12 or 15 transfers. It doesn’t make sense for them to spend a bunch of time and resources making low quantities, so expect to pay a high fee if you’re only looking for a handful of transfers.

    We have a great source list available for purchase that lists our preferred vendors. You can purchase this information here: http://www.tshirtriches.com/screen-print-transfers/

    Reply
Ra'Sheia says

Hey what is the best heat press and cut machine for multi use? 100-200 Shirts a month.

Reply
    Judy Jolley says

    Hi Ra’Sheia!
    We do not use a cutting machine. Here’s some more information you may find useful!

    Your biggest expense getting started will be the heat press machine 16×20 in size. The brand of machines we recommend is Hotronix.

    The machine starts at $995 and up.
    http://www.tshirtriches.com/heat-press-machine-101/

    We recommend screen printed transfers. We do not recommend printing from a printer just for the sake of quality. You want to be in business selling products that will allow people to buy from you over and over again; as well as refer others to you. Sadly, printing from a printer will not allow you to do so.

    Once you have your designs created; you can send the digital files of the designs to transfer companies. They can take your design and screen printed directly onto the special release paper. There are no printers involved in this process. All the designs are printed by screen printing equipment. Once the designs have been screen printed onto the special release paper instead of directly on shirts. They’ll send you the transfers; which you’ll press directly onto the shirts using the heat press machine you’ve purchased.

    The cost of having designs printed will vary; it depends on the amount of colors you have in the design. The more colors you have in the design the more it will cost. If you’re starting with a limited budget; we recommend no more than 2.
    Another fact in cost of getting the designs screen printed will be determined by the amount of transfers you have printed. The less you have printed the more you’ll pay. The more you have printed the cost to have the transfers printed, cost drops.

    We have a source list available for purchase. The source list includes various companies to purchase custom, and pre-made transfers from a list of transfer vendors as well as vendors to purchase blank shirts.

    The price for custom transfers will be determined by the amount of colors you have in your design. If you are on a tight budget then I would recommend no more than 2 colors in the design. The more colors in the design the more it will cost to have the designs screen printed onto the release paper.

    If you would, please click the link below to purchase the source list http://www.tshirtriches.com/where-to-get-custom-t-shirt-transfers/.

    Or you can locate a local screen printer in your area to screen printed directly onto blank shirts you supply the screen printer to print on. It’s actually cheaper to purchase your own shirts and give to the screen printer. The price once again will be determined by the amount of colors in the design and how many shirts you have printed. You’ll need to locate a local screen printer in your area to determine prices.

    We have created a training course that will walk you through the entire process from beginning to end. There’s no reason in trying to figure all this out on your own, cut your learning curb in half! We’ve done all the hard work for you. All you have to do is take advantage of the blueprint we’ll provide, learn the material and apply it towards your business. This isn’t an easy task, this isn’t some get rich quick scam and it will require a lot of hard work if you expect to receive any type of results. Honestly, your results depend on you.

    Please click the link to check out the program we have created along with the pricing information.

    http://tshirtriches.com/training

    Reply
Sara Mays says

Hello, I’m just getting started in the business. Can you recommend a good place for blanks? Also, do you buy when a customer orders or do you have blanks on hand. I don’t have a local place to purchase so I would like to save on shipping costs. What do you suggest?

Reply
    Judy Jolley says

    Hi Sara!
    You would want to keep an inventory of blank garments so you can press the particular size as the order comes in. You save money when you buy in bulk, so the more you order at one time, the less the cost per tee is. We have a great source list available for purchase that includes our favorites vendors for both transfers and wholesale blank garments. You can find more information here: http://www.tshirtriches.com/screen-print-transfers/

    Reply
Add Your Reply