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Topic: Starting costs  (Read 672 times)
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Jejune
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« on: May 15, 2006 01:40:21 PM »

Right now I have a t-shirt shop through Cafepress.  I like many things about Cafepress's format, actually, but I'm feeling like it would be a good idea to strike out on my own soon.  I'd love to either use my current domain name (which forwards to my Cafepress site) and start an online shop, or to try selling to local boutique retailers.  However, I have very little idea how to start, and, more importantly, how much this would cost.  So here's some concerns.

*How many shirts should I make to start off with?
*What's a good t-shirt wholesaler?  I've heard that American Apparel is good.  Anyone else?
*What's the best price on an e-store?  Where should I host my site?
*How should I market my shirts either to retailers or on the web?  I found a good thread about search engine hits, but not about ads, and whether they're worth it.
*Right now, I don't have the capability to do silkscreening.  Are iron ons acceptable?  Should I get a silkscreen set up? 

Right now is not a good time to strike out on my own as I've done an absolutely lousy job of marketing my current site, so my regular customers are not many, and I am not turning a profit.  However, I am currently in the process of redesigning my site and my shirts, and I am thinking that I'd like to get more aggressive after that's done and then think about moving out on my own.  And I figured that you lovely people might be able to give an aspiring entrepreneur some advice and encouragement.  One thing I'm realising, in reading various threads, is that my front page is likely not containing enough of the all important keywords.  So I'm learning something already!

Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: May 15, 2006 03:41:10 PM by Jejune » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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sixonesix
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2006 05:57:06 AM »

Hi there!

I recommend not doing what I originally did and that was creating too much stock. If some doesn't sell, you may never get rid of it and money will be wasted. Only make a few sizes of a few styles or one size of each style. You may even want to post on your website a message about orders will take a certain amount of time to be completed as you might want to create the pieces only upon receiving the order. Many online stores do this, it just depends how long a shirt may take you to make.

I host my online boutique with a company that provides unlimited uploads, downloads and storage etc. Find a good deal out there because you don't want to be stuck with lots of traffic but your website is down because you exceeded your upload/download MB limit.
Alternatively, you could create an eBay store, but if you know how to create a good website, you'll want that kind of customisation your own site offers you.

Definitely submit your website to search engines, maybe even advertise inexpensively on some blogs to begin with and see where that takes you.
I run a consignment boutique and I always find my consigners via anything but advertisements, usually I discover them by word of mouth or following some links. So, don't completely rely on advertisements to get your name out there. Possibly participate in some swaps, hand out flyers or get involved in events such as the Happily Handmade Giveaway etc to promote your name.
Another option is to go find the places online you wish to be stocked in and apply to get stocked there, offer them your product and see if they come back with an order. If they do, you just have to be ready to create your tee's quickly to fulfill the order.

Iron ons could be acceptable, depending on their quality. Some iron ons make the fabric stiff and uncomfortable. Silk screening is obviously going to be better, but more expensive due to set up costs. It really depends what you prefer to use and what you can afford to work with to start out with.

I hope I could help you!
Good luck with your store.
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rebeccaks
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2006 12:14:47 PM »

sixonesix posted some great info. i completly agree with only making a small amount of shirts to start off with. you might think a design is great and not have that many sales, and a design you don't think is great gets all the sales.

as for start up costs, the more money you have- the better! i'm planning to start my own business, seperate from my and my friends already established site, with no lump sum of money. just $20 here or there.

for website hosting i'd check out this thread http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=15995.0 there's lots of reading, but it's good to get an idea of good and bad experiences.

i wholesale with american apparel. all you need is a licensed business and tax id. (it might be different in the states) the price is good, but the quality isn't that great. many of my own personal items have ripped seams and random holes after one or two wears. i would still consign with them, but thouroughly check the items. many people love the made in america, sweatshop free factor.

i do basic silkscreening in my house, but i can't do anything complex. i don't have the room or money for equipment that i had in school. what i'm looking into right now is going with a company that supplies the shirts (or other items) and does heat press or silkscreening for you.
so far one of my favourites is brokenarrowwear.com. the customer support has been great so far, but i have just asked them questions, not placed an order yet. they will do smaller minimum orders, but the price per shirt will be higher, which means you'll make a smaller profit. but that's how businesses usually start out.

the fact that you already have a cafepress site and customers is great for you, so you won't be starting out as an unknown business.

good luck!

p.s. if you go the route of having someone else print your shirts, and you like what you get, can you let me know??? i'm still planning to shop around a little.
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Jejune
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« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2006 12:39:29 PM »

Thanks for the great advice!  I think it sounds like I should stick with Cafepress for a little while longer, get more aggressive, and build up a bit more of a customer base.  I'll look into different screen printing options and report back.  I'm very interested in the American Apparel news - I've never gotten anything from them, but I do like the sweatshop free aspect.  I hate their ads with a passion, though.  I really appreciate all the help.  Thanks much!  Looking at good sites with original creations, it seems like I need to add a blog or something to my site.  Right now - well, right now, I've taken down all my designs and am just starting to put them back up, so there's next to nothing there - but right now, normally, there's just some tee-shirt designs, and no backstory.  Since my market niche is sort of quirky, a blog attached to the page might be a good idea.
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rebeccaks
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2006 04:39:30 PM »

I didn't specifically comment on your designs.
I really do love your prints. I laughed out loud at the trex shirt. I love dinosaurs and it just seems so... unexpected?
Chances are your shop will do well. The thing I like about websites is how you can personalize it even further than places like cafepress let you. I imagine that your website would be fun and quirky and eyecatching. Hopefully you will get one up soon!
 
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Jejune
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2006 09:01:54 PM »

Thanks so much!  I was a painter until I had kids, and I just can't get the time or the space to do it now, so this ends up being my arty outlet.  I use Photoshop...no mess, and you can walk away from it when a child howls.  Funny thing is that I hated Photoshop when I was in art school, and never really learned to use it.  Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

p.s. if you go the route of having someone else print your shirts, and you like what you get, can you let me know??? i'm still planning to shop around a little.

I did a little hunting, and this place seems to have about the best prices for screen printing that I've seen.  I also found this incredibly awesome cheap-ass screenprinting tutorial.  I'm going to try it out in the coming weeks and see what I can do.  I also found a couple of shirt wholesalers who don't require a minimum purchase and seem to have pretty good prices.  Shirt Supplier and Buye Shirts

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