Checklist Basics – Startup Tools and Resources for Launching a T-shirt Business on a Shoestring Budget 

By  Cartess Ross

If your budget is small and you’re looking to build your own t-shirt empire on a shoestring budget, then this checklist will point you to the various tools, tips and resources to get you started – on a shoestring budget!

Hi, my name is Cartess Ross and I’ve made a ton of money printing t-shirts with a t-shirt heat press machine. If you haven’t seen this machine in action, go to my site at: www.TshirtRiches.com It’ll amaze you how this simple machine allows you to make screen print quality shirts in as little as 8 seconds.

Let’s begin with the very basic stuff you’ll need to get started:

  • Heat Press Machine – you can purchase these new or used. If you’re tight for cash, you can find great deals on websites like Craigslist.com, Amazon.com and Ebay. In many cases, you can find machines for as little as $200-$400 on Craigslist.com. I’d recommend you start with a 16×20 if it’s within your budget. If not, a 15×15 machine will work fine for MOST people. If you wish to go larger, let your business pay for it and upgrade to a 16×20 when the money starts coming in.
  • Blank T-shirts – there are a variety of places you can get blank tees and other types of apparel and accessories. TSC Apparel is one such source that sells wholesale tees, golf shirts, caps, hoodies, canvas, totes and messenger bags, aprons and more. You’ll need to have a sales tax id to purchase wholesale from the various vendors, but they’re free to get. You don’t have to start out with 5,000 tees. Start where you’re at. Some of you will have access to more funds than others, but don’t go into debt trying to purchase huge amounts of inventory. Grow into this thing — it may take you longer, but you’ll get there.
  • Getting Your Designs Created – many people think they can’t get into the t-shirt business because they can’t draw… Not true. There are graphic artists who will take your design ideas and create them for you. I use a service where graphic designers from all around the world will bid to do your designs – works similar to an auction. You post a description of what you’re wanting done and the designers will compete to win your project. They’ll post the fee they’ll charge you, along with previous work they’ve done to convince you they can do the job. You’ll be surprised at the costs you can get quality work done for. The site I use is Freelancer at www.Freelancer.com
  • Getting Your Designs Onto Transfer Paper – The transfer paper you purchase at the store and run through your home printer is PURE CRAP. The designs will crack, smear and fade. They will not last long at all. We use screen printed transfers – which give you a screen print quality look and feel. They’ll last many years and the quality is superb. To learn more about how this work, visit our site to watch the free modules outlining the process at www.TshirtRiches.com

Here’s a listing of a few other things you’ll need to get started

  • Business Plan – it’s hard to plan your trip if you don’t know where to go. You can find a bunch of templates online for free. I’m currently putting one together for our members.
  •  Domain Name – Ideally, if you plan on selling on the Internet, you’ll need a dot-com name. Best place to go for that is at www.GoDaddy.com
  • Website – No one will take you serious without a website. In addition, it’s a great way to get exposure for your brand. Our t-shirt start-up course will teach you how to put your own website together without having to pay graphic designers thousands of dollars.
  • Business License – Each city or town may require you to have a business license. You’ll still need one if you’re working from home. They’re fairly inexpensive and worth having. I’d encourage you to get a PO BOX and use that as your mailing address. Once you get a business license, you’ll start receiving a bunch of mail from other businesses soliciting you for their services. If you don’t want excess mail showing up in your mailbox, get a PO BOX.
  • Legal Structure – There are a bunch of benefits to incorporating your business… Protecting your personal assets from liability is one of them. Opening up business checking accounts without your social security number is another (if your credit sucks and you haven’t been able to open up a checking account, you can usually open one up under your ‘corporation’ without any problem). We talk about the different types of legal structures available in our T-shirt Startup Course.
  • Sales Tax ID – If you wish to purchase wholesale tees, bags, apparel, you’ll need a sales tax id number. Many vendors won’t deal with you without one. It’s free and you can generally download a form at your state’s department of revenue website.
  • Choosing a Location – If you’re just getting started, working from the kitchen table is a great option. Before moving into an office/warehouse, I started and worked from both my bedroom night stand and kitchen table. Let the business pay for itself – grow into a location; don’t go into debt trying to get started.
  • Getting Financing – Here’s the hard and cold truth. Banks aren’t going to loan you money unless your business is already making some money. Yea – you’ll hear people talk about the Small Business Administration putting up huge amounts of cash. But for most of you, and I’m talking about brand new start-ups, getting money from these organizations isn’t going to be a reality. You’ll just have to get funding the old fashioned way by saving money, getting a part-time job, putting it on a credit card or borrowing from friends and family (if your business plan is solid, family and friends can be a great source of funding). If your credit is good and you have a great relationship with your local credit union, it’s very likely they’ll loan you money. In fact, if you don’t have an account at a local credit union, go get one NOW. You’ll have far better chances getting money from them than you would from the big ‘corporate’ banks.
  • Marketing & Advertising – If no one knows you exist, you won’t sell any tees. You must market and advertise if you expect to be successful. There’s too much to talk about here, but take a look at our online t-shirt start-up course for more information about marketing and advertising your new t-shirt business.

I have plenty of more, but I’m going to stop here… Feel free to add to the list by posting your comments below…

Take a look at our online course if you’re interested in jumpstarting the growth of your new or existing t-shirt businessclick here!

Cartess Ross

I will guide you through this process and provide you with proven strategies to help you build a t-shirt company. As one of the original pioneers to start selling t-shirts online 20 years ago, I've sold millions of dollars in t shirts to people all over the world. I founded TshirtRiches in 2007 to teach others how to turn their t-shirt ideas into a business. So if you're ready, hop onboard and let's make this money!

Cartess Ross

  • Your fears will be validated if you don’t pay your taxes 🙂

    Taxes and government will be the least of your worries as long as you’re abiding by the law. Once you start generating some income, a local accountant can help you file your taxes — they’re not that expensive.

    As long as you keep decent records, you could do it on your own. Again, nothing to be fearful about as long as you’re not trying to scam the system.

    • Carrie Johnson says:

      Thank you very much for all of your information, that is very very nice of you, very soon I will be starting my Tee shirt business and I will be contacting you before I start

      • Hi Carrie,

        Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. That’s great on making the decision to start your own tshirt business.

  • I’ve added it too the list — it was like 3 a.m. the night before when I wrote the draft for the post and completely overlooked that… Thanks for the heads up!

  • Hi Ralph,

    Thanks for the kind words…

    Having a corporation helps protect your personal assets from being taken in a lawsuit if you’re ever sued. A corporation is like a person — you and the biz are two separate people. If someone sues your business, they sue the biz, not you personally… Thus protecting your personal assets….

    Regarding the sales tax id, start here:

  • Members will be notified through the ‘members only’ email list… coming shortly…

  • What inks do not pollute but give strong lasting colour? Are there printing companies that specialize in these?

    • Yes, there are plenty of companies that are environmental friendly.

      We have a source list available for purchase. The source list includes various companies to purchase custom, and pre-made transfers. As well as blank t-shirts at wholesale cost.

      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.

  • Alex Timotheou says:


    I am really interessted in printing t-shirts but I am unsure of which transfer paper I should buy. I have an inkjet printer at home, however I don’t want that stickyness and the box around it. Would brands would you recommmend or should I get them printed on the paper by a company lke you do? If so, could you recommend some companies that do this at a cheap price, bare in mind I live in the UK.

    thanks you!


  • nelson leonor says:

    I am very intersted to buy your transfer paper for t-shirt printing..i have a low cost heat press machine which i think will work for me as a beginner. could you please send me your qoutation for your paper transfer that will work for both cotton & polyester materials,as what you posted your transfer paper will last long not like on what we normally found in the stores.


  • I have paid for the Protege program but I am still to receive any information. Is there something that I am supposed to do?

  • How does a vinly cutter fit into the equation? Do I need that for flock designs? Guidance please.

    • HI Robert,

      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 colors.
      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.

      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. 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.



  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}