Start up of Digital t-shirt printing company

So, you’re entertaining the thought of starting up a St Louis digital t-shirt printing company. There’s a hard way and a smart way to go about doing things and I’m a huge fan of low risk and high reward. There’s also pros and cons, as there’s no guarantees in any business venture that it’s going to be successful. It all comes down to a calculated risk.

That being said, there are many reasons that I like this particular industry. One of the most significant reasons is that everybody wears a shirt or a hat or some type of wearable item that typically has some type of either custom embroidery or screen printing on it representing either a brand or a message of some kind. Another thing I like about it is that here in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest we have something called seasons. This means the same organization that bought short sleeve T-shirts a few months ago is now going to have to change over to long sleeve apparel. The point I’m making here is that you can take the same customer that you’ve already established confidence with and simply call him up and ask if he’s going to need to reorder for the cold weather approaching. More than not, you will already have his logo established as well as archived and it’s just a matter of pulling it and reusing it again as long as it did not change in any way shape or size.

The first time you dealt with that individual you not only had to sell them on your product, but you also had to sell him on your ability to do a good job and get it done in time. The reorder is so much easier because you’re already familiar with each other and that confidence is already been established. That is, in my opinion, what I would call easy money. My custom embroidery company lives and dies by the repeat order. Sure, we still get new bid requests every day from folks with whom we haven’t ever dealt before, but you just love it when that phone rings and it’s a individual whom you’ve dealt with before and they’re just calling you up again because they need some more digital t-shirt printing done. Having your own company is not all wonderful, but it certainly does have its advantages over punching a time clock.

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Establishing a profitable screen printing company

So, you think you might want to start a St Louis screen printing company.

Where do you even begin? There are so many different directions you can go initially, but the first thing that I would recommend doing is to study your competition. Get on a major search engine and put in St. Louis embroidery company or St. Louis digital t-shirt printing and see what kind of results you get. Look for the ones that are on the first page that are natural listings and not the sponsored ones of which are paid. There’s a very good reason that you’re able to view the companies that are there. This is because the search engine gives them favor for many reasons but one of the most important ones is because of the content of their websites.

You sure don’t want to commit plagiarism, but at the same time, you can use a similar format. You do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel. It’s always been my opinion that the most important part of any successful campaign when it comes to business is the marketing aspect. You do not necessarily have to be the smartest guy in the room. You just have to learn from the smartest guy in the room. The St. Louis embroidery and digital t-shirt printing business is very competitive. I would recommend trying to find a way, to separate yourself from the rest of the crowd. Another words, find a way to get an edge. I would recommend for you to reach out to not only a very accomplished web designer, but also even more importantly, someone who really knows how to optimize your site.

Consider this, you can have a multi-million dollar website but if nobody ever sees it, then nobody is going to click on it either. I think it’s much more important to have a modest site but one that everybody sees when doing a relevant search. To sum it up, it could be the best website going, but if nobody sees it, it’s not going to work. I say this to you, and hopes that you won’t go out and rack up a huge monthly overhead before you have the clientele to maintain it. Good luck!

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Working Smart, Not Hard

I’ve heard it said, that knowledge is power. Working hard to achieve one’s goal is certainly admirable but let’s face it, when it comes to the end of the month, and it’s time to pay your bills, nobody cares how hard you actually tried. All your creditors are concerned with is, where’s their money! If you happen to be a young entrepreneur with a lot of energy and ambition, that’s trying to make a name for himself in the St. Louis t-shirt printing industry, then I would certainly recommend you pull up a chair, get comfortable and read this carefully.

There are many different ways that you can go when starting a St. Louis screen printing and custom embroidery company. That being said, there are no for sures in business and every approach you take is going to be a calculated risk. I happen to be a big fan of low risk and high reward. The first thing you need to do is pick your battles. One needs to be very discriminating regarding where he or she is going to direct the lion’s share of their effort, as well as where to allocate their initial investment.

The traditional way of starting a digital t-shirt printing company for most folks has been to go out and buy some very expensive equipment. You are also going to need a place to put it and do your production. If you choose to take this path you are also going to require employees that know what they’re doing and stand behind those presses. We’re talking huge overhead here! As I mentioned earlier, the employees have to know what they’re doing. There’s a lot more to screen printing and embroidery then just owning the machinery. You need to know how to use it and there’s a huge learning curve to it. That being said, the good folks and representatives at the trade shows make it look so effortless. I can assure you that it’s not that way when you’re first starting out. Be expected to ruin a lot of different T-shirts. Relax, it’s all part of the learning process.

My recommendation, would be to start out by just forming a marketing plan. No matter how good you are, at whatever it is you do, nothing happens before the sale and without that, you’ll quickly be out of business. I also recommend not incurring that huge overhead when first starting out. Instead, why don’t you consider finding a good contract embroidery shop to do the work for you? Using this method, you will be able to do a feasibility study and see if you can actually be successful in sales and build a significant clientele before incurring a huge monthly financial responsibility. The fact that we live in the digital environment that we do, this will give you a huge advantage when reaching out to new potential customers compared to the old days when people did mass mailings and just walked around knocking on doors. Instead I would start out by a very targeted social media campaign. Work on building a following on several different social media platforms. I hope this is helpful!

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A Different Approach to Owning A Printing Company

To actually make a huge impact, a St. Louis screen printing and custom embroidery company is going to need the correct equipment. This will at the very least, require a decent press that could be either a manual or an automatic, a decent dryer. I happen to be personally partial to an infrared dryer, and a flash unit, preferably a quartz flash which allows faster production, plus an exposure unit. You will also need at least a manual washout booth for reclaiming screens, inks, the correct chemicals and an entire litany of different types of inks. You will also need the software such as the industry standard, Illustrator or Photoshop and the list goes on and on.

Trying to locate the right products and the right provider for all of the different types of T-shirt applications can be an overwhelming task. Keep in mind that owning the right equipment and having the right tools to do the job is only the beginning. Along with all of that, you have to know how to use it. I can remember when I first got into the t-shirt printing business, I went to a local St.Louis screen printing and embroidery company and asked if I could just stand around and watch them work. The gentleman who owned it said no, but if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, I’ll pay you and you can learn on the job. It impressed me how the guy standing behind the equipment made it look so easy. However, that’s typical for anybody who’s been doing whatever it is they do for 10 years or more and had the right training. 

With all this said, there is a much smarter approach in my opinion, then going out and incurring all this overhead, obtaining all this new expensive machinery and then trying to learn how to use it properly. Instead of doing everything in house, why don’t you entertain learning how to network with the right individuals who specialize in production? I used to run my own production for many years before I got smart. Of course there’s pros and cons to this approach just like anything but in my opinion, the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is you lose a little bit of control. Unlike just working on your own jobs, you have to get in line. This can make Rush jobs very difficult as the typical industry standard for production turn around is approximately 2-1/2 Weeks. As long as your client is not in a huge hurry to receive his custom t-shirts, this can be a very viable option. The same thing can be said for custom embroidery as well as catering to the St.Louis digital t-shirt printing market. When using this approach, this should free you up to concentrate on marketing which in my opinion is the key to any successful company.

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Gaining Your Trust As A Customer

What is it that really sets one St. Louis embroidery and custom screen printing company apart from all the others?

There’s so many different criteria to take into consideration when trying to choose. Who is going to be the right choice for you and your company when shopping for digital t-shirt printing. Let’s start with pricing. We’re all familiar with the cliché, cheaper is not always the best value. Although, this is certainly true but on the other hand there is no victory in overpaying either. For example, what good does it do someone, if they’re saving a few dollars on an order if the order is not processed in time for their event? The quality of the work is also very important. However, what good does it do a client if the customer embroidery on the t-shirts look great but they’re not done on time?

Here’s a little food for thought that you might want to consider. We’re certainly not claiming to be the only St. Louis screen printing company that is competent and good at what they do. I can think of a few others. However with that being said, what we do better than any of our competitors in my opinion is simply communicate. Communication is vital when trying to figure out ways to overcome various challenges that the customer might be dealing with such as very limited budget restraints or an unusually short turnaround time.

One of the keys to our success as a St Louis embroidery company is the fact that we do everything possible in order to try and actually answer our phone. This might not seem like a big deal, but it actually is a huge part of the equation and one that you should take seriously when trying to make up your mind which St. Louis digital t-shirt printing company you decide to work with. Here’s my point. If they don’t answer the phone when they think that you’re potentially going to be a customer, they’re probably not going to answer the phone or get back to you in a timely manner if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed quickly. Another thing we would strongly recommend is to check out their reviews. How many do they have and how favorable are they? Oftentimes, if they seem too good to be true, then there’s a chance that they actually are. Also, how long have they been in business? We take our bid requests very seriously and it’s our goal to not only fulfill your initial order, but to process the job with excellence in hopes that if we do a great job, that the repeat orders would simply take care of themselves at that point. It’s our experience that a repeat customer is so much easier to deal with then a first timer. There are several reasons for this. One is that we have your logo on file and all we have to do is pull it from our archives as long as the image didn’t change in any way shape or size. Another huge reason that it’s easier is that there’s already a history established. We’ve dealt with each other before and we’re comfortable with each other. This is a given because, if we didn’t do a good job on the first order, you probably wouldn’t be calling us back for another.

Give us a chance to prove ourselves initially and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure you’re a long time customer by creating a scenario where you are as comfortable letting us do the job, as we are doing it for you.

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Website development

There are so many different components when trying to build a successful St Louis t-shirt printing company. It comes down to much more than just being proficient and excellent at what you do. For example, you could be the most accomplished digital t-shirt printing source in the entire city. However, if nobody’s aware of that fact, then you’re likely to be out of business before long.

I’ve been in this industry for a very long time and I am convinced that although a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the most important component of any successful startup business is marketing. There certainly are no guarantees when it comes to getting a good return on the money you allocate towards promoting your business. Any move you make is going to be a calculated risk which is going to consider a great deal of thought. That being said, I’ve always been a big fan of low risk and high reward.

I’m of the opinion that one’s first choice should always be in the development and optimization of their website. You can invest up to a million dollars on a website, but if nobody can find it, it’s going to be pretty much worthless. I view it as comparable to building a Super Mall in the middle of the Mojave Desert where hardly anyone travels. It’s much more important that people are able to find you when they do a relevant search than it is for them to stumble upon a site by accident that has a whole bunch of bells and whistles. Let’s face it, people’s attention span is very short. If they don’t see you on that first landing page, there’s a very good chance they’re going to click on one of your St Louis t-shirt printing competitors. If that happens, then you can view it as a bid opportunity lost.

When trying to optimize a site you have to exercise patience. It’s very rare that you’re going to receive instant gratification. This reminds me of an old saying that says, “content is king”. It needs to be not only informative but well written. The use of important keywords is paramount such as St. Louis embroidery company or digital t-shirt printing and Screen Printing. This is the kind of thing that’s going to grab the attention of the spiders when they crawl your site.

I’ve always been in touch with the things that I can do well along with the things that I struggle with. Therefore, I surround myself with experts who can make me accomplish great things that I could never achieve on my own. The reason I bring this up is that you might want to consider hiring a Ghostwriter to establish your content. As I mentioned earlier, this is a process. You might not notice any immediate changes in your rankings but if you keep this up, there’s a chance that eventually your efforts will be rewarded. There’s no guarantees in business as everything is a calculated risk, but here’s to hopefully getting it right sooner than later and without a lot of money out of pocket.

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Content Is King

When it comes to marketing, it’s not uncommon that little things can have a huge impact. It’s not uncommon that there can be a very fine line between mediocrity and overwhelming success and it’s often in the small details that people tend to overlook. Let’s talk about your website. I have seen people spend over $1,000,000 on development and trying to build a site that has all these fancy bells and whistles. However, the most important part of the equation are not the bells and whistles. It’s the ability for people to easily find your company when they’re in the market for obtaining whatever it is you sell. More than not, people have very little patience and they’re looking for instant gratification when doing a search. If you’re not located on the very first landing page then they’re going to call somebody who is. Let’s put it this way. Why would you build a major Shopping Center in the middle of the Mojave Desert where nobody drives by? That would be a really bad idea. Let’s say you’re trying to market a St. Louis t-shirt printing company who offers custom screen-printing & embroidery. I would start out by asking myself, what search term is going to be relevant.

There’s an old saying when it comes to building a site that is easily found – CONTENT IS KING. For example, I would load it full of keywords that I considered to be commonly used by potential customers such as St Louis digital t-shirt printing or St Louis screen printing. When your site is full of this particular content it’s going to have a better shot at showing up when one searches the internet. Another recommendation that I would strongly encourage is to hire and experienced designer who has experience in web optimization. There’s a time to recognize your limitations and not try to do everything yourself. In an attempt to try and save a few dollars it could also cost you a whole lot of business. I’m not saying that you should take this approach with all your marketing needs but this particular requirement should be left up to the professionals who do it everyday.

Understand that you are not a one-man band. There is great power in networking and if you’re doing it with the right personnel, there’s no limit how far they can take you. Also, understand that there’s only so many working hours in a day so you are running your business and the business is not running you.

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Technology advances over the years

Let’s talk about digital t-shirt printing. We live in a world where information as well as money can travel across the globe in a matter of mere seconds. Technology has had a tremendous impact in changing almost every aspect of our lives. It’s not uncommon that what we used to view as impossible 20 years ago is now commonplace. Like anything else though, technology is a two-edged sword that can be used for making our lives a whole lot easier and allow for instant gratification, but it also can offer a vehicle for the bad guys when it comes to defrauding and theft.

When it comes to the St. Louis screen printing and custom embroidery industry, it has really opened up tremendous opportunities. Here are a couple examples. The very first thing that has to happen when a customer requests an order for custom embroidery is there needs to be a piece of software written that will tell the computer how to embroider that logo. After that software has been established, it can be reused over and over again as long as it doesn’t change in any way shape or size. My digitizer used to be located in St Louis, but now the company we use for that when outsourcing this need is actually located in Thailand. I find that amazing that I can send an email to somebody on the other side of the world and typically within that same day, we receive the software. Time and distance seems to be irrelevant regardless of how far away someone is.

When it comes to t-shirt printing, the very most important factor in starting a job is good clean artwork. Typically vector art is created in Illustrator or Photoshop and is considered to be the industry standard. Once this is established, it allows us to increase the size of an image without it breaking up or distorting. It also allows for us to easily color separate the image when dealing with a multi-color design. Most of our customers don’t have that already established so again, we send it off to that same company in Thailand to do all of our vectorizing and normally receive it back within a 24 hour turnaround time. I find that very impressive and it also comes in very handy when dealing with orders that are extremely time sensitive and we’re not given a lot of lead time.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when our sphere of influence was strictly St Louis shirt printing market share. Now we are literally shipping shirts all over the country. This was all made possible by the impacting differences of technology.

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Summer Is A Busy Time

We happen to do a lot of t-shirt printing for folks who work outside for a living, such as landscapers and roofers. Summer is a very busy season for us. Many are going to switch over from long sleeve apparel to short sleeve. There’s an old saying that goes, be careful what you wish for because you might just get it. There is a very fine line sometimes between having enough work to meet our overhead versus having too much work where we can’t seem to fill the orders fast enough.

I remember last year at this time when it was so easy to do business compared to the challenges that we seem to be facing now. It used to only take a couple minutes to research and locate blank screen printing apparel, but now due to the supply chain crisis facing our nation, it can take hours to find something and then shortly after you eventually locate it, it’s gone again. I can’t think of a lot that is more frustrating in business than to have a potential buyer that’s all ready to go and you can’t fill the order because of lack of blank product availability. It’s not as if we’re the only St. Louis Screen Printing and embroidery company out there that is experiencing these challenges as everyone in my industry is in the same predicament. I should really count our blessings though, when I take into consideration that so many other St. Louis digital t-shirt printing companies in the area are experiencing labor shortages as well.

One strategy that we have adopted is to go the route of purchasing the best equipment that is available. Unlike employees, the machines show up everyday for work. They don’t get hurt and they don’t complain. Lesson learned, the better the equipment, the less employees are needed in order to run them.

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2020 – what a year!

I’m constantly reminded of how quickly things can change and what I used to think was simply a given, it’s not taken for granted. Life that we knew has been made radically different since 2020. It has proven itself to be one of the most complicated and difficult years to manage since I’ve been in business.

There has been a significant impact on every different type of industry and the St. Louis screen printing and custom embroidery business is certainly no exception to that. Looking back, I’m just blown away with the obstacles we had to overcome such as labor shortages as well as supply chain problems. What used to take just a few minutes to locate blank t-shirts and other types of apparel now can take hours. Assuming we are eventually able to locate it, we have to purchase it immediately or just a few minutes later it could be gone again. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a customer who is already to pull the trigger and place an order only to find out, we can’t locate the product needed.

These types of challenges have forced many St. Louis t-shirt printing companies to reevaluate their daily operations. It has also forced us to lower our expectations regarding what was considered to be a productive week or not. It wasn’t very long ago when I was trying to set the bar very high in order to recharge monthly goal profits, but now we are considering it a win if we are just able to meet our overhead. The crazy part is that this all has happened in a very short amount of time.

I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention and this necessity has forced our hand to come up with innovative ways of marketing ourselves and doing business. For example, instead of trying to land big fish, such as 1000 or more units at a time, we are now selling a lot more digital t-shirt printing applications and lower quantities. This requires us to not only find the blank product much easier, but it also allows us to have a better profit margin for each individual piece sold. The same goes for custom embroidery. Sometimes bigger is not better and less proves itself to be more.

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