My day job is running Threadbird Printing. We work with hundreds of different clothing companies every month. Over the years we have seen lots of people with aspirations of starting their own clothing company have their dreams come crashing down around them, losing thousands of dollars along the way. There are many different reasons why this happens, but oftentimes, it’s a case of unrealistic financial expectations. Here are 5 mistakes I have seen time and time again.
- Not Enough Money
So, you got a $300 tax refund? Why not start your own clothing line and turn $300 into $100,000? While I won’t say it’s impossible, I will say it’s not likely. $300 will barely get you 50 printed t-shirts, which doesn’t leave enough money for a website, marketing, paying designers, etc. Plus, having a single t-shirt design doesn’t make you a clothing company. First, research how much it’s going to cost to launch your brand. How many designs you are going to start with? How many of each design will you print? What other expenses might you have along the way? If you don’t have enough money to do what you want right now, just wait and keep saving. This will give you more time for planning and research.
- Spending too much money to start
I have had new clothing lines approach us ready to drop $20,000 to launch their brand. They release 15 designs out the gate, all with finishing’s and custom packaging. They end up spending more money than any new clothing company will ever be able to make back. You will, most likely, make a lot of mistakes starting out and you want to limit the amount of money you are spending while making those mistakes. You don’t want to print a few thousand shirts and decide your designs are not very good and find out that nobody wants them. Find a reasonable place to start (a few thousand dollars will do the trick) and start slow. Try launching your first line with 3-5 designs.
- Spending money you don’t have
I have seen some great clothing companies crash and burn by spending money they don’t have. They put everything on a credit card, thinking they will make the money back fast. They print lots of product for a music festival, and it doesn’t sell. Take your profits and use that to reinvest into your business for growth. Don’t try to grow too fast or do too much. Know your limits.
- Not spending the money on what matters
This can go two different ways. First, you can go super cheap on everything and put out a bad product that nobody wants. You end up trying to do everything yourself . You design your product instead of hiring a professional. You let your friend screen-print your shirts in his garage. Next thing you know, you’re stuck with a finished product that you aren’t proud of. Presentation is everything, and if you want people to take you seriously as a clothing company, then make sure you do it right.
On the other hand, you can spend too much money. You use the most expensive blank t-shirt on the market for quality. You order hem tags, printed tags, hang tags, poly-bagging and custom mailers. You hire an amazing artist that charges $1000 per design and you build a website/online store from scratch. Next thing you know, you have to sell your shirts for $50 each just to make your money back. When starting out, having a quality product is important, but you don’t need to go over the top. Find a good blank that is well-priced. I’m a fan of the Anvil 980 and Canvas 3001. If you want to do custom printed tags, go for it. But, choose one finishing, not all of them. A customer isn’t going to refuse to buy your product because it doesn’t have a hem tag. Find a good designer in a price range that makes sense and choose the right printer that does quality work. Instead of focusing on the price of the printer, look at the type of work they produce. Most printers will send you a sample of their printing (not of your design). You want to be able to sell your product at a reasonable price and make your money back plus more. Remember, your first line is important, but make sure it’s not also your last.
- Starting a clothing company to get rich quick or trying to turn it into a full time job
Want to make some quick money or quit your job to become your own boss? This is probably not the right business for you. It takes lots of time and effort for companies to make a real profit, and for a while the profits they do make end up going back into growing the business. Very few people I know run their clothing company full time. Most of them work a full time job, and operate their brand on the side for fun. Some have a part time job on the side (like being a freelance designer). Avoid paying yourself with your clothing company for as long as possible. Just like any business, it takes time to build awareness and a following. It’s not likely that you will release your product online and sell out in the first few weeks. But, if you work hard and develop a good product, a few years down the road your dreams could become reality.