Starting Your Sublimation Business: The Foundation
When starting or building your online sublimation business, it may seem overwhelming with all the small tasks that need to be done before you even think about selling, let alone scaling. And trust me, you want to build a business to scale, that will last, and eventually can run on it's own.
That may seem like a daunting task, but, it doesn't have to be! Here are a few small steps that you can do to start laying the foundation of your business:
Equipment: Choosing The Right Equipment/Model to Get Started
If you do not have the equipment you need to start sublimation, be SURE to do you research first to find what is best for you. For a basic sublimation business, the equipment you will need is: A sublimation printer, a convection oven or mug/tumbler press, a heat press. Expect to spend at least $1,000 on this equipment which does not include other costs such as paper and blanks. In total, the startup cost for a sublimation business from scratch is about $1,500 - $2,000
(If you do not have the money to invest in a printer, you can purchase sublimation prints from a reputable seller until you make enough to buy a sublimation printer)
Decide on A Niche: Be S-P-E-C-I-F-I-C
Sublimation is a great business to start because it can be 100% customized to what you WANT to sell. You can make your own products and either design them yourself or, purchase designs from graphic designers and artists. But, it is important to choose a niche or a specialty. This will help you find "your people" or, your customer base.
Think about it, if you simply start making and trying to sell something generic like "Personalized Gifts", how will your customers know exactly what you sell? A simple "I Make Personalized Gifts" is too generic.
Do not be afraid to be specific. Being specific also helps you define your brand and stand out from everyone who is offering anything and everything just to get the sale. If you are trying to build your BRAND, it is important to niche down.
Example: In 2017, TCB CO started selling "Funny Gifts For Women" however, we soon realized, that was too generic. Women define "funny" in many different ways. "Funny" is too subjective. So, we niched down our customer base to laid-back women who love pretty shit and the word fuck and changed our tagline to "not-so-ugly gag gifts". This has helped us find our audience and they know exactly what to expect when coming to our shop.
Branding: Creating An "Experience"
Speaking of branding, start thinking about your brand. If you already have a logo, does it give off a "vibe" that matches what you offer in your shop? Ask someone who has not seen your logo before what they think of when they see your logo, and determine if it matches what you are going for. If it doesn't, ask someone else for another opinion. If you are finding a trend of your logo not matching your niche or aesthetic, it may be time to start thinking about a re-brand.
We will get into more detail about branding packages in a later blog post but, for now, start thinking about your brand colors. Choose 3 or 4 colors that will be consistent in your branding package and be sure they compliment the products in your shop.
Products You Offer: Start Small
A lot of us get very overwhelmed with choosing which products to offer in our shops at first or, how much inventory to purchase. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, think about a "package" to offer; like a gift basket that a customer can purchase.
I recommend starting with offering the following options for customers:
2 Drinkware Products (like a skinny tumbler or a mug)
2-3 Accessories (like a keychain, luggage tag, or piece of jewelry)
1-2 Bags (Tote bag or cosmetic bag)
Start with perfecting these products before you move into others. Create 4-5 "Collections" with these products or, designs that compliment each other and will look good if paired together in gift boxes.
ALSO: Will there be mistakes while you are learning how to press? YES! It is the cost of doing business. But, if you keep practicing and improving in your skills, documenting mistakes and procedures, you'll master it in no time.
SOPs: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!
Speaking of documentation...DOCUMENT EVERYTHING IN SOPs!
SOPs are "Standard Operating Procedures" and they are WAY more important than you think. Do not delay the implementation of SOPs!
Document each and every repeatable process in your business. If it is a process that occurs more than once, it NEEDS to be documented step-by-step.
This will help in the future with hiring or, even following a process that you do not necessarily do every day (psst - I refer to my SOPs every time I forget a step in my process, which happens more often than you think!)
Example of an SOP to create an Etsy Listing:
- Log into Etsy
- Click "Shop Manager"
- Click "Listings"
- Click "Add A Listing"
- Click the icon that says "Add A Photo" and add photos from (THIS IS WHERE YOUR PHOTOS ARE SAVED WHICH SHOULD BE IN THE SAME LOCATION EVERY TIME)
- Add any videos if videos are available
- Enter the title (it is a good idea to name your folder where your photos are the title of the product)
- About The Listing: Who Made It? = I Did What Is It = A Finished Product etc. etc. (enter all the details about your product)
Enter all the other details and steps that you will use repeatedly to create your Etsy listing
Creating this process will help you hire out the help you need in the future seamlessly. Again, make sure you are documenting EACH process you complete up front.
Additionally, if you ever think about selling your business, this will help make your business more valuable (note: Etsy shops can not be sold or transferred)
Profit Calculator: Know The Numbers
Be sure you are calculating your profits up front. Include costs such as:
Raw Material (your blanks), Paper/Ink, Labor, Shipping Supplies, Postage, and any other costs you think of that go into making your products. Don't forget to take into account that you will be paying taxes on your profits! A good profit margin is 30 - 40%
REVENUE - COSTS = Profit
Also be sure to include any overhead such as rent, utilities, salaries (if you hire out listings, social media, photography, etc)
By starting with these small foundational steps, you will start to be in a business owner's mindset when it comes to building your business to scale. So, start small, stay focused, and start building that empire!
Thank you for starting this blog! I appreciate you!