Starting a Sign or Print Shop
How to start a screen printing business
read time
3 minute read
tags
apparel decoration
Get your screen printing business started with this quick guide created in response to a reader's question.

If I were starting a shirt / jersey business from scratch right now, here's how I would do it.

How to successfully start your own screen printing business

1) Get your business registered

Legally you have to have a few things before you can buy apparel wholesale from suppliers.

  1. Federal EIN #
  2. Resale Certificate

Websites like LegalZoom allows you to quickly register an LLC or S-Corp for pretty cheap. Or you could contact a local accountant to help you get started.

2) Find customers before anything else

Aside from legal bits, the only thing you need to have a business is paying customers

  • Not business cards. 
  • Not an automatic press, or even a manual press.
  • Not a fancy showroom.

You might be itching to buy equipment, create a logo, rent a space. And those are all good things. 

Try to talk with everyone that fits your target market. 

Which it seems like you've got it narrowed down a bit to sports teams and it looks like you're part of or you run a soccer club. That's a great start.

You should be trying to find out the answers to questions like:.

  • Where do you get your jerseys from?
  • What do you like / dislike about your current vendor?
  • What was the process of buying them like?
  • These answers will help you know where you can improve on someone else's offering and help position your business vs others.

Then you just need to start chasing orders.

Which leads us to point number three...

3) Outsource all the decoration until you have enough steady work to cover the cost of buying equipment.

There are tons of contract decorators out there that will gladly do all the printing, numbering, etc for you.

This is a smart move when you are first starting out because you keep your overhead very low. 

As soon as you buy equipment your overhead goes up, AND...
So does the amount of profit you have to generate to make the business sustainable.

Your margins won't be as high using contract decorators as they would be if you had your own equipment and were effective at using it, BUT this is the safest move when you're starting out. 

Sales are typically not super steady during the first year of any business. You don't want to put yourself into a corner by buying equipment if you don't have enough orders to cover your costs and actually pay yourself.

To find reliable printers, I'd start with Google "contract printers (your state)" and create a short list of ones to speak with.

Once you've got a steady stream of customers and enough work coming through the door, then you could look at potentially bringing production in house.

To help a little further, we've also includes a list of resources below to get you started.

Screen Printing Resources

Blank Apparel Vendors

Sanmar

Alpha Broder

S&S Activewear

Screen Printing Books

Screen Printing: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Business
by Terry Combs

PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business
by Printavo

Made To Make It: A Guide to Business Success in Screen Printing
by Ryan Moor

A History of Screen Printing
by Guido Lengwiler

Screen Printing Forums and Websites

T-Shirt Forums

ScreenPrinting.com

Screen Printing Podcasts

2 Regular Guys

Big Idea

Screen Printing Magazines

Impressions

Printwear

Screen Printing Magazine


Bryant Gillespie

In my 10+ years in this industry, I’ve made all the mistakes they tell you not to. For 5 years, I was second in command at shop that doubled in revenue from $500k to over $1mil in sales. Over the last 3 years, I’ve help 100s of shops streamline their workflow, improve their businesses, and grow sales. My goal is to help you grow your business. To help you spend more time with your family. To make sure you finally get to take that long overdue vacation.