How to Start a Personalization Business | Small Business

Elroy Mariano

A personalization business for custom T-shirts, mugs, hats and other items requires an investment in equipment, supplies, training and marketing. Personalization, also called decorating in the trade, primarily uses the dye sublimation process which is capable of producing single orders and small quantities of personalized goods. You may run the […]

A personalization business for custom T-shirts, mugs, hats and other items requires an investment in equipment, supplies, training and marketing. Personalization, also called decorating in the trade, primarily uses the dye sublimation process which is capable of producing single orders and small quantities of personalized goods. You may run the business from your home and take orders for goods, or set up a small retail storefront or mall kiosk to increase your exposure. Personalized goods are strong sellers in shopping, tourist and special event environments, and include items personalized with names, slogans or designs of the customer’s choice.

Create a business plan outlining every detail of the business. Include business and customer type, equipment and stock needed, facility specifications, start-up and operating costs, marketing and advertising plans, pricing and other details. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers free small business planner with useful advice as well as instructions to create a business plan.

Go to your county clerk’s office and obtain a business permit. If operating a retail store, inquire as to whether you need zoning, planning and inspection clearances.

Go to your state’s department of revenue or taxation and apply for state tax registration and a retail sales tax license.

Locate a suitable rental space or mall kiosk in a high-traffic area, or you may run the business from a spare room in your home. No special store features are needed except adequate electricity to run your equipment. The imprinting equipment used is quiet and clean, and gives off very little odor.

Purchase a dedicated work computer with graphic design program, scanner and printer. Some decorating suppliers offer equipment package deals that include software and turn-key computer systems designed for decorating.

Research different imprinting machines and methods from decorating machine suppliers and purchase heat presses and packages of sublimation paper. Generally, you will require three presses. One for mugs, one for shirts and other clothing, and one for and hats and caps.

Contact suppliers of goods you wish to sell and request catalogs and price sheets. Wholesale suppliers of imprintable clothing, mugs, key chains, magnets, mugs and other goods may be found online or in decorating trade magazines. Many larger decorating machine suppliers also sell imprintable goods.

Choose the items you wish to carry and place a small initial order. As your business begins to gain momentum, you will be better able to determine what product sizes, colors and types are strong sellers.

Buy printed marketing aids from a local printer, including fliers, brochures, business cards and signs. Try to buy locally whenever possible to support your local businesses and economy, and you may be rewarded with referrals and reciprocal business.

Set up your store or work space and pass or mail brochures and fliers to local businesses and homes. Place a small advertisement in your local newspaper, and contact the editor of the business section about your new business. Some newspapers will give you an “advertorial” spot, which will provide readers with detailed information on your new business.

Continually market and advertise your business, and strive for excellent work and customer service.

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