Tee Shirt Guy 1:
Why a Tee Shirt Business?
Someone asked me recently if my tee shirt business was profitable? I answer honestly always …
“Not yet, but its early days”.
Wherever possible l always try to be forever the optimist and not the frowning pessimist!
A year since Classic Eggshell Moments as a business concept launched and l can say that l have only made roughly £90. It’s not a profit, it’s a loss. The designs and the expenditure to start the business cost me £4500. It’s not even just a loss – in business terms it’s a colossal loss. I have been involved in many entrepreneurial business ventures during my life, my first started only when l was 13 years of age and when l packed it up at 15, it had made an incredible profit. From that point onwards till l started Classic l have held down as many as six private ventures and they all made significant profits and yet this one after one years of effective trading has made a horrendous loss.
Because in simple terms l am using a ‘print and demand’ seller who takes all the hassle out of actually having to slog through the ins and outs of launching your own business and brand and for that privilege takes a huge cut of the earnings. Redbubble sellers don’t make a huge amount of earnings via this method of sales. But equally the customers who do purchase are faced with not just a merchandise price, but more importantly they do not wish to then have the hassle of the postage and package costs which can also run quite high.
Don’t misread my writings here – l am not being a grumble bunny. I am happy that Redbubble take all the hassle away from me, when l signed up, l knew exactly what l was getting into – l had a five year strategy.
So, year one not raking in a huge profit didn’t and doesn’t worry me. But there are always those on the side-lines of any new venture watching things and chiding comments in whenever they can..
“If you are not making a profit, then why continue?”
Which in fairness is a perfectly logical question l think. If l was running a business venture of my own from scratch, and after a year one return came back of £90 l would have to seriously question the sanity of continuing, however, because of my five year strategy combined with the fact that l AM using a print and demand seller rather than holding solid stocks – l have to be honest and say “Well, £90 may be low, but it allows me to identify clearly what is selling and what isn’t.”
It allows me good time to source out best sellers, and toss out the designs that are never likely to see a decent sale or return. That is exactly what l am carrying out now – the process to go through 200 designs will probably take me 3 months and l am NOT bothered by the necessary tweaking’s required – for any new venture must tweak, and learn from the figures what works and what does not work.
I learned in the first quarter that one particular range was selling better on Tote Bags and so, l promoted the Tote Bags to the seller, and now l have removed all of that particular range from Tee Shirts as they simply l think look too boring as a design to be worn as a shirt, and yet they perform remarkably well on the likes of Totes, Mugs, Travel Mugs and Stickers. Since making that move l have sold more Tote Bags which is why when l am writing a post and a Tote Bag is used specifically it is that range which was recognised as ONLY selling well on other merchandise. I am now making changes to the many collections which is a sizeable undertaking.
There are many more changes being made in the art of tweaking the business or should l say ‘Online Hobby’ because something l learned by the second quarter was that Classic with its very low sales figures, would have to shift into ‘hobby’ mode rather than business, until such a time that l was able to class it as a business again.
The idea to create a Tee shirt business was sound, but like any business it is not without its fair share of complications and complexity. The main aggressor to any Tee shirt designer seller is always going to be coming from the likes of the commercial giants, and they are fierce competitors in their own rights.
A designer would have to have the most incredibly awesome design at the right price trending at the right moment to actually make a resounding impact on the industry and its’ buying base and that is NOT always possible sadly.
November 2016 – November 2017 l have sold the following: 60 Items
9 Tee Shirts
23 Tote Bags
1 Travel Mug
I Drawstring Bag
I only make 16pence per Sticker gross profit which as you can see, can be quite demotivating, but and this is a big BUT, each time one sells l am still 16pence richer than l was with no sale!
So no, not brilliant, but if as said l have the concept lodged mentally for the time being as a hobby, then l am not overly disappointed. Year 1 of five has been a huge learning curve and for that l am grateful.
When people say how cool it must be, l tend to come across as quite cynical in my response of “Looks can be deceiving!” And if they further press on the fact that they wish to enter this market, l don’t deliberately try and put them off, but do have to step up to the podium and say “It can be fun, but it’s not an easy venture to run, despite what the print and demand sellers will tell you in their literature online. If you believed every word they write, then we should all be very wealthy people …but we are not!”
Of course there are other print on demand sellers in the market, l have the main bulk of my designs with Redbubble, but l also have a few designs over at TeeMill which are printed onto a beautifully soft fabric called Bamboo Organic Cotton which l prefer to wear when not wearing 100% cotton or mixed or tri blend Tee Shirts. But these can be pricey in comparison to Redbubble:
TeeMill – Tee Shirts £19 – £24
Redbubble – Tee Shirts £14.50 – £20.00
What l will be looking into in 2018 is trying to find a print on demand that offers both the artist and the buying customer a fairer deal in so far as monetary profit return as well as lower packing costs for the buyers themselves, but equally more manoeuvrability with toggle options on their merchandise.
One of Redbubble’s biggest flaws and they are not specifically alone in this problem is that whilst a buyer can ‘toggle’ through various colour options on the likes of Tee shirts and other clothing options, they are unable to toggle a different colour on other merchandise which means that should l wish [which l do] to display my design onto a variety of colours then l must attend to this manually, and this is only due to the inability of the print and demand seller to allow for a toggle button which could and would make many people lives more efficient.
Since displaying the designs onto the Tote Bag range in a variety of colours l have sold more various coloured Totes which says a lot to me and more importantly that print and demand sellers need to amend some of their technology. People like colour, they want to buy colour which we will address in Tee Shirt Guy 2 and NOT just Black, white and grey which whilst yes are still prime buyer demands. Over the last five years this has changed to the point where people feel more comfortable about wearing other brighter and bolder colours with their shirts. A significant change from 2012 when l ran a poll trying to establish the best purchased colour.
With both Redbubble designs in comparison to TeeMill designs there are distinctive changes also, the former sells on 100% cotton and cotton mixes and the latter as already discussed prints onto organic cottons and more sustainable fabrics which do appeal to me. So if looking for a new print and demand seller – these are issues l must take into consideration as well. I want to be able to offer my buyer a good price, a good quality fabric and a good design but more importantly an attractive package cost.
However, more pressing and more importantly we come back to competition and not so much specifically High Street competition but much larger commercial operations like the huge super stores who sell their own merchandise ranges, l am simply unable to compete with these giants on a price per item basis. They will win hands down, for they are able to purchase hundreds of thousands of units from their suppliers every year and in so doing are able to display an extremely aggressive and sadly much more attractive price to the buying market.
In many cases it is irrelevant as to the ‘ethics’ or where they are made because we live in a very volatile and tricky climate. Justifiably buyers are looking for a bargain and if a seller is offering two for the price of one tee shirts how can l possibly compete with that – never mind if l have a fancier design – price dominates.
Whilst a recent poll displayed to me that buyers are more conscious of certain elements involved in their buying process – every purchase must be respective of their budget and whilst the likes of designers on print and demand sellers such as myself what goes heavily against us is the overall expenditure of the online shopping basket and wait time in consideration to popping into the local and buying two tee shirts for a fiver!
Buyers will quite happily say in a survey they have no wish to buy from the likes of a sweat shop the reality is that for the majority of buyers, they care not for such things because and only because PRICE dominates their decisions.
I know that many people love the Classic designs, but cannot run to the additional cost of having to add postage and packing on top which can in some cases double the price of their shopping basket pending of course on where about in the world they live.
So, we come back to the question of …
… Why a Tee Shirt Business?
Principally because despite being a realist, l am also an optimist and l am making sales albeit small, but each sale is making me marginally richer than l was before the sale. It’s a hobby, and with the blog attached where upon l can write about the designs and as such broaden my demography by allowing more people to see the designs – this works well with the initial five year strategy. I organically market my wares through Facebook and Twitter and of course this means that my advertising costs are very much reduced down to the cost of my actual internet package, so with that information l have set no higher expectations. I have four years left of my five year plan to tweak the ‘hobby’ to hopefully realise a profit.
My philosophy has always been very similar to the Kevin Costner film 1989 ‘Field of Dreams’ and a quote there that simply says “If you build it, he will come” and l just embellish it slightly to reflect more of a commercial taster of If you build it, they will come! meaning, that l am to build my reputation up and l will over time establish and generate a continued flow of people who will buy my product – well that’s the theory anyway. Of course it doesn’t always work that way, but sometimes all you have got to do is believe in yourself!
The final note is much more raw and basic –
Why a Tee Shirt Business?
Because it’s fun and l enjoy the challenge!
Rory Matier – The Tee Shirt Blogger
I ran a poll recently which asked a straight forwards question:
What Makes Up Your Buying Decision Process On Clothing Purchases?
The top response at 50% was this: Quality/Fabric Colour Design/Ethics/Price
We can clearly see here the buying process of the market buyer:
Quality of the item is foremost in so far as stitching, cut and style, followed then by design, fabric and colour, followed then by ethics as to how it was crafted and by whom, if it has traceability and not produced in a sweat shop and finally bringing up the rear is price itself.