How to Start a T-Shirt Business

Getting Started Selling Custom T-shirts with Your Own Small Business

If you have a unique flair for casual fashion and graphic design and love wearable art, then a T-shirt business might be just the ticket. If you've ever dreamed of opening up your own small business as a T-shirt retailer, you're in luck as there are many opportunities for artists to start their own T-shirt stores in a variety of ways. The Small Business Administration released statistics in 2009 that indicate over 65 percent of the net new jobs have been created by small business owners in the last fifteen years. However, before you jump into the T-shirt business, you might want to take a few pointers so that you can be successful.

Make a plan to start your T-shirt store. Get started with a T-shirt store by writing a business plan and doing your research before you get too deeply invested in time, materials and work. Learn how to start a small business, the products needed to create T-shirts, and what it's like to work in the clothing industry. You will want to have a general understanding about how the T shirt business works to create a clear idea how you plan on getting started. You can check out websites such as T-Shirt Magazine ( and the Small Business Administration ( to find information about writing a business plan and research trends in the apparel industry. Also decide what kind of artwork you plan on selling on your T shirts and if you want a particular theme or want to use public domain images to create new and unique designs.
Get to know your target market of T-shirt buyers. Consider where you going to sell your T-shirts and who may be buying them. Get to know your competition in the T shirt business to find out what other T-shirt artists are doing before you start selling your products. You can find many resources in online communities such as T-shirt Magazine ( and Sell Tees ( Be sure to take a look at some of the different designs that are out there in popular retail clothing venues and find some new ideas. You can also keep track of things that other T-shirt businesses are doing and review the types of designs and how competitors promote their products.
Do some test market research for your T-shirt store. Do some easy test market research with your T shirt business before you start designing your T-shirt shop. Check out some popular spots where your target market shops and check out the designs on T shirts and other apparel. You might be surprised at some of the T shirts that people are buying. Designs such as fantasy images and retro artwork from the seventies and eighties are popular with many young people. Also evaluate the quality of the T shirts you are going to be selling by getting honest opinions from others, preferably people that are within your target market .You can do this by creating a couple of test T shirts and wearing them around or getting your friends and family to wear your designs.
Create a promotional campaign for your T shirt store. In order for your business to be successful, you will need to put into action some type of promotional campaign. A promotional campaign generally consists of a combination of print and virtual marketing materials and social media marketing. The T shirt business promotion strategy many T-shirt artists today use is creating colorful, eye-catching websites to sell T shirts virtually and then handing out flyer's and business cards at networking events as well as wearing their T-shirt designs on a regular basis. Other T-shirt store owners set up shop in local markets, clothing shops and gift stores. Test out the market in the above ways to and find out what works best for you and then focus on that moving forward with your T-shirt line.
Get partners to support your dream of running a T shirt store. In order to be successful, you will want to find working partners for your T shirt business. This can prevent you from spending a lot of your own money starting your business. Try to get a couple of people to support you in the beginning, such as friends or family members. Or you can consider partners that are already working within the clothing industry. You can find partners by attending local small business conferences, business networking events or industry online groups found on websites such as T-shirt Magazine. Start out by sharing the commissions earned with your partners and reinvest your share back into your T shirt business. You may even get lucky and get recognized by an international clothing designer who will offer you more money for your work with a major contract.

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Tess C Taylor

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