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Starting Your Custom T Shirt Business

Operating a custom t-shirt business with a DTG printer at its heart, requires creativity, good business sense and the desire to make a lot of money!

There are many reasons to enter the custom t-shirt business. You may have a head full of great ideas for funny, high impact or beautiful graphic tees. You might have a built-in market with connections to business logo wear customers, local sports teams or retail outlets that are looking for great t-shirts or custom printed polos to wear or sell. Or you may just be tired of your day job and are looking for a way to take advantage of your design talents.

Regardless of the reasons, here are a few important things to keep in mind while starting your custom tee shirt business and choosing your DTG Printer or t shirt printing machine.

DTG Printer Business Markets

What is the market for your Custom T-shirt Business?

The most successful custom t-shirt shops built on a DTG Printer, or “direct to garment printer”, start with some kind of target market or niche to go after. ColDesi has customers in almost every niche, some retail oriented, some wholesale. Here are examples of some that you might look into to fund your future success.

Online Retail Sites – there are many examples of successful custom t-shirt businesses that operate exclusively online, all based on how easy it is to produce short runs, even 1 or 2, custom t-shirts for customers. Businesses like Gifts for You Now and Zazzle all use direct to garment printers to do 3 things:

1. Respond to custom design requests

2. Sell off the shelf designs

3. Create and sell gift items

The word “hobby” may bring up images of train sets and baseball cards, but we’re using it here to describe some much higher impact markets. We’ll point out some of the more popular hobby niches here that might be worthy of using to launch your custom t-shirt printing business.


Fishing – This is a hobby that is RIPE for a funny tee shirt line, but you can also go for the serious side by offering custom tees to fishing competitions and events or sporting goods stores specializing in the outdoors.

Horsing Around – In many parts of the country equestrian events are a weekly activity and people spend a LOT of money supporting their passion for horses. Think about creating dtg printed t-shirts based around a breed, or setting up shop at a horse show.. or even providing shirts printed with your new custom t-shirt printer machine to a stable or race track.

Music – It doesn’t matter what your preference; country, rap, steam punk, salsa.. music related tees and gift items are ALWAYS popular.

What kind of hobbies interest you? There’s profit potential everywhere when you own a DTG Printer.

ColDesi has many successful dtg printer customers that base their entire business around Events and Shows. Here are some examples to get your imagination going!

Charity Events –Charity events aren’t just a great source for direct business, they give you the opportunity to get your business name and capabilities out into your local market in a big way.

It seems like every month, in every community, there’s a charity run, walk, picnic, swim or something that will motivate people to purchase a “Charity Walk 2013” style t-shirt. Just think of all of those participants wearing your shirts.. and then calling you afterward for corporate work or personal custom tee shirts.

Shows and Trade Shows –Events like a Horse Show mentioned above, gun shows, flower shows, antique shows, car shows and others are a terrific place to sell the output from your custom t-shirt printing machine.

In fact, some companies even set up their DTG Printer on-site to produce custom shirts while the customer waits at these events. Look online or in the news paper for shows and events taking place in your general area and think about the potential for you and your new DTG Printer!.

We define “wholesale” in this case as selling to other custom t-shirt businesses or custom apparel shops. As you’ll find while you do your research on direct to garment printers, one of the main advantages of the machines themselves is their ability to quickly and inexpensively produce small numbers of printed garments.

There are many, many traditional screen printing businesses out there that are set up perfectly to produce 100, or even 1000 t-shirts for large company, but in creating short runs DTG Printers win the “Direct to Garment Printer vs. Screen Printing” contest hands down. This is because there is considerable effort and time that goes into producing screens for a custom job, so screen printing 50 and fewer shirts rarely makes good business sense. That’s where you come in!

You and your new DTG Printer can approach local screen printers and offer to be a subcontractor for all of their small jobs. This allows the Screen Printer to satisfy their customers, and saves you from spending advertising dollars and time to find new retail accounts.

The drawback to wholesale is, of course, that you won’t make retail profits. So while you might makes as much as $20.00 per shirt in gross profit selling direct, you will probably be in the $5-$7 range for wholesale.

Skills You Need to Run a DTG Printer

Before you buy your new dtg printer, you should take an inventory of the people on your team or your own skill set to determine whether you’ll need help to get your business going:

Software Skills to Create Graphics

Are you a designer that knows Corel Draw and or PhotoShop and Illustrator? This is fundamental to producing great images onto a t-shirt with your direct to garment printer. Remember, your customers will bring you corporate logos or just ideas for you to bring to life, so if you don’t have software talent you will need access to someone that does.

There are some great graphics services that know dtg printing that can help. You can start with

Hardware Skills to Maintain your T Shirt Printing Machine

There is some maintenance to any piece of commercial printing equipment, but today’s DTG printers are VERY simple to keep running well. 

If you purchase or lease a t-shirt printing machines from ColDesi, specifically the G4 DTG Printer, you get free training, in person or online, and the best warranty in the industry. 

How Much Money Can You Make?

The short answer is that most people selling DTG printed t-shirts make between $10 and $20 each in profit. 

Some of that depends on your location and your niche market, but whatever you choose you can learn more about your return on investment here

Funding Your Custom T-Shirt Business

Financing and Your New T-Shirt Printing Business

There is plenty of information on this site about leasing options, the cost of the machines and packages, etc., but that’s not the only expense you’ll incur while starting up your custom t-shirt business! Don’t forget about the following: Marketing Expenses – online marketing expenses might include a website, maybe some well placed online advertising and some social media efforts. Whether or not you do these yourself or hire a professional, make sure you assign some monetary value while you price the cost of starting up.

Event Marketing Expenses –just a reminder that if you choose the event or tradeshow marketing niches above, you’ve got to allow for costs like renting a booth, t-shirt inventory, and travel.

Taxes and Accounting –Taxes and Accounting – many people are great at focusing on great designs, or even selling in person, but don’t neglect the paperwork side of your business. Will you need an accountant, bookkeeper, tax pro, or just a copy of QuickBooks?