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How to Start your own T-Shirt Brand (4 Tips)

October 30, 2017

How to Start your own T-Shirt Brand (4 Tips)

We get to work with a lot of amazing people around the country, printing custom apparel for their businesses and non-profits, but we also have the awesome privilege of helping other people go beyond just apparel for an event or team, to helping them launch their own line of clothing.  

In fact, we get asked to print for so many startup clothing brands, that we wanted to put together a quick cheat sheet of our Top 4 Tips for Starting your own Clothing Brand based on countless conversations over the years.

We hope you find it helpful... and that your own line of t-shirts/apparel blows up if you follow these tips!

1- Keep your Cost Down!
Seriously.  There is absolutely no need to spend a ton of money when you are launching your own line of t-shirts or apparel... and you don't need to purchase 500-1,000 pieces of apparel to be "legit." We suggest starting small and focusing on quality before quantity.  

When we say "quality," we are are referring to shirt quality and the ink quality.  Your brand must be built on consistency, so we suggest going with a nicer t-shirt and minimum # of ink colors (to keep the cost down compared to adding more ink colors).  You'll be able to advertise the fabric blend and how soft it is- and people will actually notice too!

If you'd like to see a few options of our favorite t-shirts and ink processes, get one of our Soft T-Shirt Sample Packs to make the decision process easier. 

And before you decide to buy hundreds or thousands of the apparel, maybe start smaller to see what people actually think (I know, it's crazy to hear us urging you to NOT spend a lot of money, but we wanna see you WIN, not go broke!).  Simply creating a Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest page for your new clothing line, then posting preliminary images can go a long way because you can actually gauge interest and presell inventory before you ever order anything.  

2- Custom, Custom, Custom (Logos, Tags and Bags)
Logo- Get the right logo and design for your new brand.  You can go somewhere like 99Designs.com to help design logos or t-shirt designs, you can use a freelance designer or you can do it yourself, but come up with a great design.  Your first customers might buy the shirts because they are your friends, but beyond your friends, you better have a cool design or mission behind the brand.  

Stories sell, so creating a brand with a story behind it (and mission to aim towards), can go a long way with people.  Again, your family and friends will probably buy a shirt out of obligation to you, but you gotta aim beyond them.  Make something worth caring and sharing about... and make something that people think is cool.  Consider posting a pic of the shirt on Facebook, Instagram or other social media first (and ask if people would actually buy it), then guage the demand and go from there.

Labels & Tags- Don't settle for the Canvas, Next Level, American Apparel or other brand tags on your shirts.  You can easily markup your shirts $5-$10 or more if you have your own tags on the shirts.  A few places you can look at for custom tags include: The Dutch Label Shop, Wunderlabel or ClothingLabels4u

With each of these places you can buy the shirts from us, buy the tags from them, then quick sew the tags on once you receive the shirts.  They might make you buy a few hundred tags up-front, but that's ok... just keep them handy as the orders come in and quick sew them in as the orders come in.

Another great option is doing a heat-press tag.  Here are a few places you can look at for heat press vinyl or screen printed logos that can be cut out, and applied to the inside-neck of your shirts: Heat Press Nation or FM Expressions.

Bags- Consider the presentation of your brand. We actually got our Sample Pack poly bags from StickerMule and LOVE them.  They are inexpensive, but put your best foot forward when you need to ship a shirt.

3- Make it a Party
One of the best ways to show that your brand is relevant and cool is to have people actually touch, feel and see it.  So you gotta figure out a way to get people around your line of clothes... and in the age of social media, doing this will also create opportunities for your first fans to share their experiences through pics and video.

Creating a launch event for your line of clothes can will not only create buzz, but allow you get valuable pics of your apparel being showcased, with people wearing it.  Here are a few of our best ideas for a successful launch party:

- Create an online event and invite friends.
- Charge to attend so you can cover some of the expenses of food/drink.  But don't stop at food, if you are launching a clothing line, wouldn't it be great to have people actually be wearing your stuff, or holding it at the launch?  Including the option to purchase a t-shirt or sweatshirt in the ticket price as an add-on item can drive initial sales and create more photo opportunities with people actually wearing your new merch!
- Create opportunities for the best pics and to make people feel like celebrities for a night.  Feature a Step and Repeat to so everyone can have their pic taken with your brand behind it.  
- Talk about why you decided to start your own clothing line... but don't toot your own horn. Have someone else get the crowds attention, introduce you and encourage people to buy merch... then you just talk about the fun stuff.

From there, get creative and most of all, have fun with it.  If people are enjoying themselves, they are more likely to buy... and if you can create a great first party, you'll be able to create a great second party or future ones as well!

4- Sell them Online
Like we already stated in the first point, before you go crazy trying to make a custom e-commerce site and mortgage your house on inventory, start small and gauge demand.  Try posting some pics of the t-shirt mockups on social and get feedback.  See what people actually think. Then invest in the right amount of t-shirts/apparel that you feel financially comfortable with.

To make selling easier though, you gotta get an e-commerce site.  Our one and only suggestion for this is Shopify.  You can launch your site for free for 14 days to try it out, then sign up for the service at a super-low rate each month.  Seriously!!! Just do this and don't waste time looking any further.  We don't make any money referring Shopify- we just love them and actually built this site on Shopify (with some custom dev).  Make your life easy and focus on selling the shirts... not hosting a website, purchasing an SSL or anything else most web companies require.  

Hope that helps and please let us know if you had any other thoughts/questions. 

In the next couple of weeks we'll probably post the 2nd part of this post- how to market your own line of t-shirts!  Stay tuned!

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