How to start a tshirt business by Story tshirt business startup

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You came here because you want to know how to start a tshirt business and you’re passionate about it. Starting a tshirt business is an amazing experience and you are going to have lot of personal growth as well as business and financial growth if you stay with it. The following are 10 tips to help you succeed in starting a tshirt business.

1. How to start a tshirt business: Passion

Without passion you aren’t going to get through the tough times and continue on. There is an awesome video done by Ben of Fright Rags and he talks a lot about how passion is necessary for your success, click here to check out that video. It’ going to be hard in the beginning. This isn’t like a 9 to 5 where you get paid for the time you put in. You are going to put in hours upon hours of work without seeing any return in the beginning. You are going to do this because you are passionate and you’re following your dream and you will do anything to make your tshirt business a success.

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

In the beginning of my first tshirt business I didn’t know anything. I made a tshirt press out of wood and figured out how to screen print. Screen printing is hard, especially if you don’t have all the right equipment. I was making screens in my shower, bought a pressure washer to wash out the design, and made tons of errors in the process. I got better and have printed hundreds of my first design called Missing Turtle. If I could do it again I would just pay a professional to print my shirts. I didn’t start a tshirt business so I could print shirts. I just wanted to design them and sell them. Check out this article written by Jimmy of Heartcore clothing about his story and why you should hire a professional instead of printing your own shirts.

So I finally figured out how to make the tshirts, I put them online, and nothing happens. No sales for a while. What is going on! I thought if I built it they would come. This is completely untrue on the internet. I spent hours researching on t-shirt forums for advice. Most of the information was terrible. I slowly figured out how to market my clothing line by getting my shirts on some of the biggest t-shirt blogs. Read the articles how I became a top clothing company by being a nice guy and how to get your cool shirt on tshirt blogs.

I started getting on these t-shirt blogs and started seeing orders come in. Yippee!! I printed my second shirt live every week like it’s shark week and the print was terrible. Nothing like the design I sent them. I had spent hundreds of dollars on tshirts that were awful. I talked to the company and they agreed to reprint the tshirts. It was better and I felt comfortable to sell the product now but it wasn’t perfect. I went through two other printers before I found the one that I loved ( you read more about my recommended printer by clicking here)

The moral of this whole story is giving up was never an option for me because I was so passionate about what I was doing. I couldn’t screen print so I figured out how. I didn’t get any sales so I figured it out. I had problems with screen printers so I kept on looking for better ones. It’s your passion that is going to carry you through everything and if you are just in it for the money you won’t last.

2. Have a professional website

Your website is very important to your long term success. You need to have a professional website or else no one will take you seriously. No one wants to buy from a website that they don’t trust.

Luckily for you there are some great options to get a professional e-commerce website up and running and not break the bank. With as little as $30 a month you can get a professional site up and start selling your products. Read my article here about the best e-commerce website for clothing companies and check out shopify.

3. How to start a tshirt business: Find an awesome screen printer

Lucky for you you don’t have to go through what I did and try multiple screen printers before finding a great one. Check out our recommended printer and they will help you make some awesome shirts. I started using them on my second clothing company Shred and they blew me away. I had 8 colors on some designs and they printed them so you could barely feel the ink. For me this was huge and the shirts I was getting made were just as good if not better then any of the shirts I saw in big retail stores. When your confident about your product you are going to be able to sell them better. If you have a product that is just okay your salesmanship is going to suffer. You really need to believe in your product. Also this company does an awesome job of sending you a mockup of the final product so there isn’t any grey area on what to expect.

4. How to start a tshirt business: Plan everything and do your research

Your doing that right now! Planning and researching is such a crucial part to starting a clothing company. Check out your competitors, see if anyone is doing what you want to do.

  • Is there enough of a market to sell your shirts?
  • What shirts are you going to print on?
  • What is your demographic?
  • How are going going to get traffic?
  • Are you going to sell at craft shows or events?

There are a lot of questions that need answered and planning and researching your tshirt company is necessary for success. Also if you don’t make plans and goals it’s like leaving on a trip without a map. It’s going to be very hard to get to the destination if you don’t know how to get there.

5. How to start a tshirt business: Know your market and customer

Knowing your market and your customer is a must. I feel like a lot of people believe they have a brilliant idea but they don’t connect with their market. No matter how much you want to go and do your own thing you need to remember you need a customer to sell to. You can’t be a walmart. What I mean is you can’t sell products to everyone. There already is a walmart and they are going to beat you on prices every time and you need to compete on something different. You need to define your market and go after your niche in the market place. You need to produce products that are unique. If you know your customer and can reach them and get them what they want you will be successful, simple as that.

6. How to start a tshirt business: Know your finances

Taxes and keeping my books for my tshirt business wasn’t my strongest area. When tax season came I felt helpless because I was unprepared. Keep all of your business expenses on the same bank account and credit card. Use Quick Books to help manage your books. Quick books online is great because it automatically updates your books with the data from your bank accounts. If you are already running Mint it will import all of those accounts to.

You need to stay on top of this or else it is going to be a huge source of stress in your life.

7. How to start a tshirt business: Follow the Golden Rule

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. A really simple rule that everyone starting a tshirt business should follow. Think about how you would want to be treated if you were in the customers shoes. If you follow this rule you will have a lot more happy customers and your tshirt business will thrive because of that.

8. How to start a tshirt business: Stop Trying to do it all and Delegate

I wrote an article about delegating and its a real important part in making your tshirt business be more professional. I’m not an amazing screen printer, or even an amazing artist. I’m good at making websites managing people and marketing. Everything else I find people that are the best at that field. I use the best designers, the best screen printers, and find people that are better then me to help me out. In the end I look a lot more professional and I end up not spending as much time doing the things I am not that great at.

9. How to start a tshirt business: Never give up

I hit on this a little bit in the beginning but it needs to be said again. Don’t give up! Your failures aren’t just there to humble you, they are learning opportunities. Everyone who has succeeded with a tshirt business has taken their mistakes, learned from them, and fixed the problems. I wrote an article called Fail Fast that hits on this more.

10. How to start a tshirt business: Advertise and Market your tshirt business

My best successes have come from word of mouth advertising. The best part about this advertising is it’s free. I would get in touch with the t-shirt blogs, these are the talkers on the internet. You connect to them and they will let all of their followers know. I’ve gotten on some big blogs, and websites, and gotten thousands of orders this way. Read the articles how I became a top clothing company by being a nice guy and how to get your cool shirt on tshirt blogs.

You can also connect diretly with your customer through facebook, pinterest, twitter, instagram, and email lists.

Create a blog and write about what your customers are interested in. Fine tune your website with search engine optimization and get some google traffic to your site.

With all of this free advertising where you can spend no money and build your audience it just makes sense to focus on it.

11. How to start a tshirt business: Have Fun!

Yeah it might be stressful sometimes but you decided to start a tshirt business because you wanted to make a living off doing something fun. Be passionate about your work and remember to have fun. Have fun on your journey, it’s not about the destination.

Leave a comment if you have any more advice.

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Checklist Basics – Startup Tools and Resources for Launching a T-shirt Business on a Shoestring Budget in t shirt business startup checklist

t shirt business startup checklist begin

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: 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, and Ebay. In many cases, you can find machines for as little as $200-$400 on 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
  • 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

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
  • 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 business

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