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Transforming Your T Shirts Into A Movement

There is so much buzz around starting a t shirt business right now.  Everyone seems to be selling you the dream of a Done For You, Fully Automated T Shirt company that will print you money, as well as t shirts. Hi, my name is Cari and I am the owner of Livnfresh.  My husband and I have been in the t shirt printing and design business for over 20 years. I want to share a bit that we have learned along the way with the hopes that it will help you with your endeavor.

While T Spring and other places offer amazing platforms that allow you to scale and add designs quickly, it is often hard to develop a brand and long lasting influence with your customers if you are building on someone else’s platform. What I mean by that is, start off by building your brand on your website.  We launched on our website selling Michigan T Shirts, and then we leveraged highly trafficked platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and other social media platforms to engage our customer base as well as gain high quality links that would help us rank and gain traffic for our desired search phrases. By building a web presence on your own platform, nothing happens if t spring or other third party- non self hosted site goes down. By owning your domain and platform, you then maintain control.

When we put out a design, we do so to tell a story. We have a goal and a story line that we tell our clients with every design we do. Our message of State Pride has grown beyond Michigan to other states. We did not intend to expand our product offering. It simply happened naturally. A few of our friends that lived out of state, saw our Michigan designs and then wanted to use the same type of t shirt design and simply swap out the Michigan Mitten with their state design or mascot. We had actually never thought of expanding to other states. But we listened to what our fans said.

  1. Create meaningful designs. You need to connect with your future clients in a meaningful way. We design state pride wear. That doesn’t mean you need to go into state pride clothing. You can make niche related shirts like boogie boarding t shirts as an example. But you need to create designs for your clothing that tells the potential buyer, “hey we get what you are about”. The design and story behind this shirt should elicit an emotion which makes them want to “buy in” to your brand and story.
  2. Use High Quality Material. Some companies opt for less than premium materials. I would advise against that if you are trying to establish yourself as a brand that is worth paying more than $9.99 for a t shirt. When you are selling by the lowest denominator, ie price point, then buyers will only value the shirt as a commodity instead of being part of a story being told by your brand.
  3. Create Raving Fans. This sounds pretty obvious. But everything from the first two bullet points goes into here. You want interactions with your customer at every point to “wow” them. Designs, material, and customer interaction. When you are dealing with your customers either on the phone, or on your website- deliver an over the top experience. Even if it costs you more money and time, they will tell their friends and come back to you because you took care of them.
  4. Listen To Your Fans. If we had not listened we would have never had the idea to take Livnfresh beyond being a Michigan Clothing company. They will give you feedback, advice and sometimes will help you create a new design that can make them feel like part of the company. When you foster a sense of community, you create long term customers and fans.
  5. Do Social. Do It Amazing. Just about everyone is on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.  When you post, do it with a consistent voice. Hiring an outside firm to handle social media can be tough as that person hired to handle your accounts often does not live and breathe your brand as they do not handle your account exclusively. Instead do it yourself, or have a trusted employee be the voice of your social media. This is a chance to produce amazing content, talk to your customers and engage with potential new customers. Don’t simply post pictures of your products all the time. Become a voice, an authority in your niche and customers and potential customers will look to your for information as well as products.

If you do these things you stand a much better chance of taking your t shirt company, from merely a place that sells t shirts into a brand that has raving fans and can tell a story. I don’t know about you, but telling a story is a whole lot more fun than selling. And I know that people enjoy listening to stories rather than being sold. So take the extra steps, create your brand and engage your fans.

For those of you who have not started a t shirt company yet here is a general work flow to go by-

The mass producing of screen printed shirts entails many steps, as the shirts arrive from the distributor they are then counted and sorted, the artist then proofs the design and creates the mock up to be exposed onto a mesh screen treated with emulsion. After the mesh type is chosen, dependent upon the fine details in the artwork to be screen printed, the image is then placed on the light table and exposed onto the mesh. The screen is then registered to the machine and the magic begins.

Imagine countless possibilities of fine tuning, tension, pressure, balance, ink type and the list goes on. Now we aren’t going to give away all of our secrets but watching the printers fine tune their machines to get the perfect print is like watching an artist. Each shirt is then slid over a pallet where, you guessed it, more finesse is used to make sure the shirt doesn’t move during printing and that the design is placed in the exact same spot on each shirt. The shirts are then printed and removed very carefully as they are still wet onto a belt dryer set to a variable temperature dependent on the makeup of the product. The shirts are then labeled and tagged and boxed for shipment to the consumer.

The Creator of the shirts takes the time to tweek the artwork details, the screens, the printing machines, the ink, many companies even tag and label their products by hand. Doing all of these things with human touch allows them to see that each shirt is perfect. We, along with countless others take pride in this process. Doing it right isn’t always easy but its always right! Providing the highest quality products With finesse and fine tuning the perfect image is printed on the trendiest shirts.

Be passionate about what you do guys and gals. The passion will bleed into everything that you touch, from Web Design to shirt design. We want to encourage you to keep going, growing your t shirt company. There is plenty of room in the market place for innovation and amazing companies and people.