How To Start a TShirt Business Online & Sell Your Designs From Home Like a Boss
What if I told you that if you knew how to start a tshirt business from home you could make a living by selling tshirts online?
You could probably look at me like crazy.
The truth is that you don’t even need to know “how to start your tshirt company” since there are websites online that help you sell your tshirts almost free.
For instance Karmaloop and Teespring. All you need is a killer design, a smart promotion or both and you have some pretty good chances to make big bucks!
Also, there is another website called Etsy. Etsy is an online marketplace where you can find lots of arts and crafts products, homemade stuff, unique ornamentals and of course…t shirt designs!
Today, you can start your own tshirt business on Etsy and you don’t even need a brick and mortar shop like some years ago.
And that’s what Austin from Burger and Friends did. He closed his real, brick and mortar t-shirt stop and started selling his t-shirt designs online.
Austin’s designs have become pretty popular. And a huge part of his success in the t-shirt selling business was his choice to sell his designs on Etsy.
As you can see, he has made over 29.000 t shirt sales in the last four years which equals to about 700 sales per month. Do your own math and see how profitable this could be.
And if you are a bit creative you could probably start selling your own stuff or even your own t shirts on Etsy.
Today, I interviewed Austin and he was more than happy to share with us the story behind his t shirt business success.
So let’s get into the nitty-gritty details now!
Damian: Austin, tell me a bit about yourself: What did you do before starting your Etsy shop, how did you decide to start selling on Etsy & build a website, what differentiates Burger And Friends from the rest clothing businesses out there?
Austin: B.E. (before etsy) I opened and operated a Burger And Friends shop in Denton, Texas. Denton is a small college town north of Dallas and it wasn’t the right spot for a specialty shop like mine.
Online sales started to pick up (on karmaloop.com) and I was seeing myself start to make actual money, unlike the brick and mortar shop which was basically losing money.
I closed the shop after about 2 years, in 2011, and decided to move to Austin, Texas and sell solely online.
My own website wasn’t doing that great, but I was making money selling through Karmaloop. I started an etsy shop to get rid of whatever stock was left over from the brick and mortar shop, and a few designs took off.
I started listing more and more new designs (again- so many cat designs) and when the holiday season rolled around I must have been featured in a ton of treasuries on etsy because my sales were insane.
Seriously- thank you cat fanatics. *cat noise*
Damian: Did you face any challenges while you were trying to build your brand? If yes, how did you overcome them?
Austin: Back in 2006 (I think) I was making backpacks with a mock Louis Vuitton print on them. They were these shitty, cheap plastic red backpacks from Hong Kong.
When they went through customs they were flagged and I was sent a bill from U.S. Customs for $260,000.00 (the retail value of a LV backpack x 100 units I was importing). I called my shipping broker to find out if this was a joke- it wasn’t.
So I called customs and they said they’d be willing to drop it to 10% of the fine. This was when I was in college and had just started BAF and had maybe $200 in my bank account. I ended up writing a nice letter and explaining my situation to customs and they ended up dismissing the whole thing.
Later on I framed the sample backpack I’d gotten from Hong Kong along with the cease and desist letter from Louis Vuitton. It reminds me of how different things could have gone.
Damian: You have a pretty successful Etsy Shop with more than 29.000 sales in the last 4 years. This means about 700 sales per month! Wow. What’s the biggest reason for your business’s success and why?
Austin: Cat themed shirts were big in 2011-12 and I was at the right place at the right time. I was making a ton of cat designs and a few caught on. I had one that simply said “I Like Cats” in a woven stitch font.
It was knocked off like crazy after that Christmas season.
Cats definitely aren’t selling for me like they used to in the past- but it’s reassuring to know non-cat designs can still sell. About every 2-3 months I try to add about 20 new designs.
You see what’s selling, what’s not, and make decisions based on that. Like running an actual business or something- sick!
Damian: Let’s say that your best friend wants to start his own shop on Etsy. What advice would you give him to make it work? Which are the most important things that a new Etsy seller should focus on based on your experience?
Austin: My best friend actually did start his own shop (pchbch.com). He was living with me at that time and business was about all we talked about for a few months. Just like I told him then, it takes time for you to find your audience and gain a following.
It doesn’t happen overnight in my experience, and you can’t expect a good shirt design to sell 100 units a day when you first start.
Nowadays everyone has a t shirt company with clever slogans. I think some people hover towards brands they’re more familiar with.
I’d been doing BAF for 5 years before I even started an Etsy for it. Stick with your brand, even while you’re working on other things.
Damian: Let’s say you could go back to 2011 and start your Etsy shop from scratch. What would you have done differently to make it even more successful from the beginning?
Austin: You mean like old Biff who goes back and gives himself the sports almanac?
Honestly I’d be too afraid of jinxing myself. I wouldn’t change anything I did when I started. (Damian- That’s good, it means you took the right decisions)
If running your company is what you’re passionate about it’ll pay off if you stick with it long enough. Take risks, don’t be afraid to lose money, and always be throwing money back into your company.
If you’re sitting back and expecting things to happen because some girl tagged you on instagram, guess again.
So, that was it guys. Austin from Burger and Friends.
And if you are pumped up with Austin’s story and want to start your own online t shirt business, then I have found some incredibly useful resources to help you:
How to Start a T-shirt Company: according to Johnny Earle of Johnny Cupcakes.