NewBie or Not NewBie? That is the question by Pat Fresener


Hey, the good news is that this article is really for those who are thinking of joining the revered group called “newbies” so “experts” don’t have to grab their reading glasses for this one! If you are considering starting a small screen printing business then this blog’s goal is to either spur you into action (making you a newbie) or send you back to the cold-blooded arena of the employed ranks or perhaps I might say even the “unemployed ranks.”

I know someone who, for the last 20 years, has always “been looking for a business to start.” While I have no doubt that she was perfectly capable of starting and running a business it just never happened. Oh there was a lot of research, a lot of demographics, a lot of studying on how to put a mission statement together and of course the business plan. Now you really do need all of this if you’re going to try to secure outside funding. But as I saw it, the main reasons she never got anything off the ground was: 1: The businesses she chose were terrible for her. 2: She was not realistic about what that particular business required. 3: Fear.

That brings me to our industry – the glorious world of printing T-Shirts from which hope and customers spring eternal. Customers for printed goods are everywhere. Scott & I will never forget the words of a Dutch airline captain following his warning about not wearing seat belts – ”Eef yew geht hurt eet vill be yuhr own fauhlt!” (The snickers could be heard throughout the plane after that one.) Well, if you can’t get customers in this industry then it really is your own fault because they are everywhere.

So What’s Stopping You?

So let’s take a look at some of the factors regarding starting a T-Shirt printing business.

1. You can start inexpensively.

Low $1,200 to $3,000; Mid or Average $6,000 – $20,000; Big with commercial, production oriented equipment – $25,000 – $50,000; Biggest with automatic presses, auto screen reclaim, DTG, etc. – $50,000 – $125,000.

The low price range means that you either build some of the equipment or buy used machinery. You will need a scanner, computer, software such as PhotoShop and CorelDraw and an inkjet or laser printer to produce the art films (for screen burning) and these items are not included in the “Low” pricing estimate above but the higher “low” (oxymoron?) range of $3K could include some of these items.

2. You can start in a small space at home or begin with a retail, commercial or industrial space.

Many small shops start off in a garage. A friend recently said that they started off in a “2 car” shop and always felt they had plenty of room. Any other small room could also be used. Unless the retail location is in a high traffic area and you are gearing up for a high retail volume you should go with the commercial or industrial space because they are less expensive. Unless you have a big bank roll don’t start out spending lots on overhead. Moving to a building can come later and perhaps never unless you really feel the need to get dressed and leave the house every day.

3. You can learn how to print through classes, books and DVD’s.

Unlike the old days where screen printers valued technical information more than their firstborn child you can get the information you need pretty easily. The best start for every screen printer is to purchase the book “How to Print T-Shirts for Fun and Profit” written by yours truly and husband and unabashedly promoted here – because you really, really need it! The shop floor plans, pricing guides and plans to build your own equipment are very informative and of course, the complete step-by-step instruction of garment printing is as good as it gets. Get it at the T-Biz Network STORE. While you are there be sure to check out the DVD “Starting a T-Shirt Printing Business” by Scott & Mike Fresener. Another must for you.

Learning how to print is not difficult but you do need to learn commercial methods as opposed to hobbyist level techniques (unless this is only going to actually be a hobby of course!)

4. Your Most Difficult Challenges

A. Learning how to convert artwork to quality artwork for T-Shirts.

Since knowledgeable T-Shirt artists can be hard to find you will want to learn some of the techniques yourself. Some jobs may require the skill of an artist but much of it will be done in the computer with various software programs. There is lots of training online and at trade shows. 

B. Taking Action.

Lots of people talk about starting a business. It really isn’t a big step for you to start printing T-Shirts. You could just start by printing heat transfers and applying them to garments. “Heat Transfers – is she out of her mind?” Sometimes. But here’s the bottom line on this: With a dirt-bottom investment you can print heat transfers. You build a little vacuum table out of the book “How to Print T-Shirts for Fun and Profit.” You buy a screen printing frame stretched with fabric, a scoop coater, emulsion, transfer paper, ink and a heat press. You have someone else provide the art films. Did you know that there is no limit to the colors you can print with a heat transfer? Only have a 4-Color press and the job requires 9 colors? – No problem with a heat transfer.

OK, I was just proving a point. If you want to get into this business then hopefully, you will invest in more than just the ability to print heat transfers.

It would be hard to find a business that provides as much satisfaction as a screen printing business. It’s a great family business that has room for everyone. Any talent that you possess can be used whether it’s mechanical, artistic, financial, sales and marketing oriented, production – You’ll find skills you didn’t even know you had.

So Newbie or Not Newbie. That is the question that only you can answer.

Pat Fresener

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