Turning your design talents into a Tee shirt business requires more than artistic flair. You may be a whiz kid at turning out attention-grabbing shirts but that doesn't necessarily mean money in your bank account. You need some business basics and strategies as well. Take some time to prepare and organize your business for success.
Obtain the necessary licenses. A business license is required by nearly every state. Contain your city to see if it requires a license as well. Some cities demand that you have a license to sell within city limits even if your business isn't located there. If you plan on selling T-shirts at craft shows or farmer's markets, check those city requirements as well as where your business is physically located. A sales privilege license is necessary if you sell directly to the end user rather than wholesale. Some arts and crafts shows have a central cashier area. The show's organizers are responsible for collecting and submitting sales tax. Vendors usually require a sales privilege license to buy at wholesale.
Set up the structure of your business. In the beginning, when your sales and expenses are minimal you may want to keep the business as a sole proprietorship. When the business expands, it may make more sense to set it up as a limited liability company or corporation. Ask your accountant which structure is best for your situation.
Research vendors. Your Tee shirt business will require the shirts and materials to decorate the shirts, silk screening products or graphic transfers for hot printing. When selecting a vendor consider not only their prices, but the shipping costs and minimum order levels. Cheaper prices may be offset when you have to order a minimum of 100 shirts at a time.
Determine your market: who will buy your Tee shirts. Alternatives include selling to wholesalers, retailers or directly to customers. Not everyone who buys T-shirts is your customer. Graphic shirts appeal to younger buyers. Grandparents prefer cute shirts as gifts for grandchildren. Select your wholesalers and retailers based on who they market to as well.
Make a list of your competitors. Include the pricing of the Tee shirts, style, where they sell and what marketing strategies they use. List the advantages of your Tee shirts against each competitor. For example, your shirts may be priced higher but are of a better quality. Your shirts are hand painted rather than silk-screened. Emphasize what's different about your T-shirts in your marketing materials.
Implement a marketing strategy. Set up a website that shows off your Tee shirts even if you sell mostly in person. Develop a hard copy brochure with prices and styles to give to potential customers and when you sell a shirt. Schedule a calendar of shows with their entry deadlines clearly marked.