- Start thinking about it and treating it like a business
- Evaluate your profitability
- Look at your equipment
- Define and Amplify your Niche… who do you sell to now? DO more of that.. Shirts for sales teams. Dance and Cheer. no effort into anything else
- Dig deeper into current customers … call to ask for more business, ask what else they do/order
- Then expand product lines to match where you can…. koozies, bags, promotional items
- Create a solid referral plan – find a way for customers to refer you, ask for referrals, give out coupon codes, etc
- Live Social – BNI, Chamber of commerce, charity groups, church groups, sports clubs, car clubs
- Go online – build a web store and get your customers visiting. pick products your “niche” might buy and push to them via email / flyers / word of mouth
- Partner with other businesses – you don’t sell signs? partner with a sign company. award company, paper printer
- Hire freelancers – get people to write for your website, send emails for you, do accounting, do art (even work with your kids, spouse, etc)
- Expand your niche to a second market… repeat first steps
Mark S: Hey everyone, and welcome to episode 85 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.
Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, with Colman and Company. Today, we’re here to talk about the steps to growing your home-based business.
Mark S: Yeah, and this one is really exciting, because you know, we don’t do many episodes that are meant for you guys, specifically.
Marc V: Yes.
Mark S: We have tons of customers, lots of listeners who have hobby, or maybe a craft, an enthusiasm for a particular kind of craft.
Marc V: Yep.
Mark S: That want to take that extra thing they do nights and weekends, and make some real money with it. It happens all of the time, and what we’ve done is we’ve kind of broken down the steps.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: That we’ve seen people take, and that we recommend you take, to go from sitting in your sewing room or in the corner of your garage, working with a Cricut, to actually making some real money.
Marc V: Yeah. And this is not just information that we’ve put together from our own knowledge, but these are things that our customers who have made it, this is what they do. We talk to them all of the time. We talk to them in our Facebook group and on the phone. You know, we’ll call them up and do interviews. We have success stories, all of these things.
These are all of the different pieces that go into it. We’ve put them into a list of 12 things, and if you follow these 12 steps, you’re going to make it.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: Depending how much time you have to spend on each step is going to be different, but these are the steps to actually do it.
Mark S: And I just want to say there’s no particular reason that we chose 12 steps.
Marc V: Okay!
Mark S: It just happened that way. We’re thinking of – we’re imagining that we’re you, and we’re thinking about what it takes.
Before I go any further, I want to say that there are some companion podcast episodes that we would like you to listen to after this one.
Marc V: Okay, good thought.
Mark S: Episodes 29 through 31. You can find them at CustomApparelStartups.com, and they are all about how to make more money next month.
Marc V: Yep.
Mark S: So, there’s a lot of great additional planning that you can do, and additional steps that you can take, separate from what we’re talking about here. Those podcasts are meant for everybody. This podcast is meant just for you.
Marc V: Yeah, exactly. So, continue listening if any of these fall into it, alright? This is the break point right here. And still continue listening if you don’t fit into this, because there’s great information.
But I think it is really important for you to listen to this podcast; one, if you’ve got a dream of taking a home-based business, making money with it, and doing something great with it, whatever that might be for you.
Whether it’s making more money, getting a second income, replacing your full-time job.
Mark S: Spending more time with the kids.
Marc V: Yeah. Being your own boss, having something to pass down to the kids.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: Having something to do with your spouse or your best friend. Whatever it might be, you’ve got this dream. So, if you’ve got this dream, this is one of the steps right here. This is a breaking point for you, is that you can take less than an hour of all of the time that you’ve got in your life, and put it toward that dream.
Mark S: Right. And I love it. So if you are, for example, specifically like a Cricut or Silhouette owner – if you are part of the tribe of people that their free time revolves around using the Cricut to produce promotional products or t-shirts, or something like that.
Usually, what happens is somebody notices what you’re doing, because you make a shirt for your kids or something.
Marc V: Yep.
Mark S: They offer you a few bucks for it, and that’s when it all starts.
Marc V: It rolls off. If you’ve got a heat press machine, maybe you bought something used online, or something cheap off of Amazon or something like that, or eBay, you’ve got a really inexpensive starter heat press. You’ve seen the beautiful ones out there, maybe online, but you’ve got this inexpensive one. And maybe you’re buying transfers online, or you’re buying them locally from somebody, and you’re making shirts or apparel that way. This is for you, as well.
Mark S: Or maybe you didn’t just spend a few hundred dollars, but you spent thousands of dollars on a really beautiful consumer embroidery machine, like a Viking or a Brother PE1000, or anything like that. And you’re doing embroidery for holidays, for friends and family, and people are coming to you to start a job.
Or you’re making that connection. You embroider at home, you do really nice work, and you look on Etsy. And then you embroider, and you look on Etsy, and you can kind of see that there is profit to be made.
Marc V: And I think the last bit is if it’s anything in between that. So, maybe you hand-paint Christmas ornaments, and you’re trying to start into something.
Mark S: Or antique signs.
Marc V: Antique signs, and you’re trying to figure out a way to take this business and amplify it, and maybe automate it with equipment or with something, with a better technique that’s more than just how you do it now.
A brief story was one woman who had purchased one of our rhinestone systems was making rhinestone transfers by hand. That’s her. That’s her story, is that she was making them by hand. She turned around, she invested a little bit of money in equipment, to take the steps to no longer take 15, 20 minutes to make a shirt, and turned it into less than five minutes to make a shirt.
Mark S: For those of you who are not in the rhinestone world, and think what you do is detailed, the rhinestones that we’re talking about are anywhere from 1.5 millimeter to 4 millimeter diameter. So, that’s tweezers and a magnifying glass, to get this stuff done, at least in my -.
Marc V: Yeah. There are so many people like you out there, and there’s a difference between one step and another step. I think there’s three, right? One are the folks that you’re having with it now. You think you’re going to make some money. You get frustrated, it takes too long to do things, you give up, and then it collects dust, and you’ve got this thing in the corner.
You don’t want to be that person, because you’ve already gotten this far into the podcast.
Mark S: Yep, true.
Marc V: The second is you do what you do, you don’t do anything different. You continue to make that little bit of money and spend a lot of time, and it never really goes anywhere, until just infinitely on.
Mark S: Yeah.
Marc V: If you made it this far, you probably don’t want to be there, either.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: The third one is the people who take steps, who become business owners. What’s amazing about it is all of the people that are our customers, people we talk to, these are just regular people who do it. They’re not super geniuses. They don’t have great connections in the business world.
These are regular people, and these are the steps they do. So, I think we should get into them.
Mark S: I think so, too.
Marc V: Okay, alright.
Mark S: So, let’s do number one, which I think is really important. And that is to start thinking about what you do as a business, and treating it like a business.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Because there’s a big difference there, right? If you have a hobby that you really enjoy, then you’re going to do it, whether or not you’re making money. And the point of a business, I have to hammer home here, is for you to make a profit.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: It’s not just to pay yourself, but it’s so you can make money, and you have a little left over, to put in the bank. So, you’ve got to take this hobby that you’re devoted to, and you’ve got to think about it now, like a business.
And there are some things involved in thinking about it like a business.
Marc V: Yeah. And for resources on how to do that, there’s definitely a bunch of our podcasts. There’s the Profit First podcast.
Mark S: That’s a great one.
Marc V: That’s one about talking about the profit. But I give you all of the credit, because I skipped this step, completely, when I wrote this list about treating it like a business. But that’s what you’ve got to do, which means that orders are for profit, that there is no guilt in making profit from a business. That’s how our world works.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: The grocery store does not feel guilty for charging you, that they make a lot of money on, say potatoes.
Mark S: Yeah, yeah. Here’s the scenario, is you do – I’m just going to pick embroidery – you embroider Christmas stockings. You do that for your family, and somebody sees it. They love it, and they want to pay you for it. You’re like “That’s amazing! Let’s see. The Christmas stockings cost me $3. I’ll charge them $5.”
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Most people that are in that craft or home-based business to real business, are reticent. They’re shy. They’re embarrassed about charging too much. Part of thinking about it like a business is realizing that the goal is not to sell it for the smallest money possible.
Marc V: Yeah, that’s true.
Mark S: You’re not strategizing here, saying “Okay, I guess I could get by if I just made $2.” That’s not the idea. The idea is, how much money can you make from doing this activity? That’s a business.
Marc V: And thinking of it like a business would be, if you were going to do those stockings, how much would it cost for somebody to go to a local store, take a stocking, and get it embroidered? Or order it online? What would that cost them? That might cost them $20 or $25. I don’t know the number. I have improperly researched Christmas stocking embroidery.
Mark S: That’s okay.
Marc V: But how much would it cost them? You should charge something like that. And you’re going to get “Oh, what’s the family discount,” and things like that. “What’s the friends and family discount?”
Do you know what the friends and family discount is? “You’re really doing me a huge favor by being one of my customers, and I’m going to make sure that it is awesome-looking!” That’s the discount.
Mark S: If you are going to charge a retail price, and somebody does ask for a friends and family discount, you might have a little bit that you can put in there for them.
Marc V: There you go.
Mark S: But not if you’ve spent the day trying to figure out “Okay, how little can I charge everybody?” Because it doesn’t matter what you charge. Everyone is going to ask for more of a discount.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: We found that out the hard way.
Marc V: That’s true. So, you charge a fair amount, and then you can offer a discount, maybe.
Mark S: That’s one thing, and we’re going to talk more about profitability next. But one of the other parts of treating it like a business is getting your paperwork straight. You’re going to want to be able to create an invoice. You’re going to try to figure out how to track orders. You’re going to have to have an order form, that somebody is going to fill out.
You’ve got to make decisions, based around your business, like are you going to allow people to bring you stuff to embroider or to put a vinyl design on, or are you going to only sell things that you create from scratch? You’ve got to make all of those choices with a business in mind, not a hobby.
Marc V: Yeah. And part of treating it like a business is making it a business, literally. So, you go to your state, you file like sole proprietor paperwork or an LLC.
Mark S: Get a business license.
Marc V: Get a business license, get a resale certificate. Your state is going to be different. Go to your state website. We’ve actually got -.
Mark S: We’ve got an episode somewhere.
Marc V: We’ve got an episode about that, if you look on it, where we interview someone from like a small business association.
Mark S: By the way, I just want to interject here, if you’re looking for one of our podcasts, I’ve discovered recently that the best way to find a specific podcast on a topic is to type “Custom Apparel Startups podcast,” and then what the episode is about, in Google.
Marc V: Oh, okay. Great!
Mark S: That will lead you most easily toward what you’re looking for.
Marc V: Great tip! So, treat it like a business, which means make it a business. You want to look into actually making money. You want to do invoices and sales orders. Treat it like a business. If you do an order for a family member, you write up a little sales order, and you give it to them, and they give you the money. Then, you give them a receipt, when it’s done.
You treat it like a business. It’s going to feel funny, maybe a little bit at first, when you first start doing this, especially if you’re mostly doing business for people that you know. But it’s really going to make you feel great, because now it’s a business.
Mark S: It’s such a great feeling, because I’ve done this. Like I’ve presented somebody – I’ve had a few different businesses over the years – I’ve presented somebody with a bill and collected a check. And you know, here’s this amount of money that might be more than you thought was possible, that someone is giving you for what you’ve accomplished.
Marc V: Yeah, there you go. That’s so cool!
Mark S: It’s a great feeling. So, number two.
Marc V: Number two, evaluate your profitability.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: We kind of dove into that already.
Mark S: We did.
Marc V: But it’s important. It’s part of one, but it’s so important, it has to be number two.
Mark S: I’ve found even people that already have ongoing businesses are frequently terrible at this. Right? So, you’ve got to look at how profitable your business is. And if you’re just getting into business, how profitable that you can make it.
For example, you would take the things that you’ve been selling so far, and you would write down, let’s say you did a vinyl shirt. How much did that cost me in vinyl? How much did that cost me in time?
Marc V: Yeah. Time is important.
Mark S: How much did that cost me in other things? Like how many times did I use the heat press? Because there’s wear and tear on that. What was design time like? If it took you 20 minutes to do the design, and then it took you 20 minutes to make the shirt, and how much did you charge for it?
You’re going to do all of that for what you’re doing now. Then, you’re going to set that all aside, and you’re going to go out and find out what people actually pay for the end result. Somewhere in between those two things, you’re going to find the profitability in your business.
Marc V: Yeah, and there’s no wrong way of starting to do this, I think. What you need to do is just writing the little things down. Like “shirt is this much, the vinyl is this much.” Really think about how much, if you’re using vinyl, how much did you cut? Not how much did you use individually? No.
Mark S: Is it a 10 by 10 piece of vinyl?
Marc V: Yeah. Did you use a foot of vinyl? How much does that one foot cost? Do some basic math. Just kind of get it going. How much time did it really take? And the time is from the moment that you sat down and said “I’m started,” until the moment you stop what you’re doing, to go eat dinner. That’s the time.
Mark S: Listen. You think that’s important for the Cricut and the Silhouette users, and if you’ve got even one of the bigger cutters that you bought used, or maybe low quality. That time thing is so much more important for my embroiderers out there.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Because you know what it’s like. You digitize or you buy a design, or you’re typing on the screen, putting the lettering in. Then, 15 minutes later, you have a completed project. Or if you’re using one of these $10,000 single needle machines, if you’ve got two colors or three colors, you’re stopping and switching out threads.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: It’s really time-consuming. So, you can’t look back on doing a four shirt order or a four pillowcase order, and say “Okay, it took me two hours, but I made $11.” That doesn’t work.
Marc V: Yeah, that’s not good. And I think one of the best things you can do to evaluate your profitability on a very basic level, because you’re home business that’s just getting going, you’re just trying to launch it off, is you take the profit you make – I want to say the amount of money that you subtract from your costs versus what you charge, so that definition of profit. Because if you go into the profit first thing, -.
Mark S: It’s different.
Marc V: It’s a whole other thing. But just that money, right? It cost $5, you charged $15. The profit, that number is $10. How much time did it take you to do it? Then, you divide that up. How much did you make an hour?
If you made less than minimum wage -.
Mark S: That’s not good.
Marc V: You’ve got to figure out a way to do it better.
Mark S: Right.
Marc V: Alright. Now, of course it gets complicated. When we’re talking about a one-shirt order, that number is really rarely going to work out well. But really, but if you’ve made ten of something or 20 of something, that’s a really great way to evaluate it, because that’s a number that you should be profitable in.
Mark S: You know, both number one, start thinking about it and treating it like a business, and evaluating your profitability, in these first steps is where a lot of small business dreams die.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: And they die because – and if you are in this situation, you know what I’m talking about, obviously. But let’s say you’ve got your Cricut cutter or something like that, and you get an order in for 40 shirts or 50 shirts. And in the 87th hour of you cutting, waiting for the Cricut to finish, you look at it and say “I really don’t want to do this anymore.” It takes too long. It’s really hard work.
It’s because you have actually made that transition from a hobby to a real business, but you haven’t made any changes to the way you do things.
Marc V: Yes!
Mark S: You haven’t evaluated your profitability. You haven’t started thinking about it like a business, and taking a look at this order and how much money you’re going to make, and going like “Meh, yeah, that’s not going to work.”
Marc V: Yeah. So, at this point in time, if you’re starting to do some of this math in your head, or you’re getting depressed, because you’re realizing something – because that’s going to happen with a bunch of you listening, is that you’re just like “I spent 12 hours on Saturday, doing something, wasting my whole -.”
I promise you, the next things answered, fix all of that. So, keep going, okay?
Mark S: Right. We’re only on number two.
Marc V: Yeah. We’re only on number two. The next things fix that, okay? Number three, number four; we’ve gone back and forth on which one to say first – in my head, at least. But I think we should just go with equipment, okay?
Mark S: Yeah. Because this is the point. The situation we just talked about is usually the point where someone calls us. Right? Or they go online, and they start searching for an answer of this problem. “I’m spending too much time doing this. My customers are asking me for things that I can’t do.”
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: This would be a time where you evaluate your equipment.
Marc V: Yeah. “I had to do 25 shirts, and it took me a day and a half to do it.” Alright? So, why upgrade your equipment? Okay? Let’s just talk about – and I don’t think right now, this is a – this isn’t a sales pitch of go buy something, yet. This is an evaluation you have to make, right?
Mark S: You may go through it and decide that that’s not what you should do, you know.
Marc V: Yeah. But you’ve got to look at it, because I don’t know what you own. Right? I have no clue what you own. But I’ll say a couple of things to mention. These are warning signs, alright?
One is if the equipment is what’s slowing you down. Alright? I think that’s like one of the number one things, because we talked about time, just a few minutes ago. Right? So, a Cricut, a very common piece of equipment out there -.
Mark S: Which is why we mention it a lot.
Marc V: Or Silhouette, any of these little hobby cutters. There’s a few other brands out there that you might own, and you’re listening to this and you have one of those. If you make a design, just imagine this. What if it was ten times faster at moving that blade? Okay?
You have to imagine that in your head, when you’re looking at a design, as it moves along. If it was ten times faster, how long would it take to cut your design? So, that’s one right there, is the actual speed of what your equipment can do.
Mark S: And we’re talking about differences in cutters, so this is a good, I mean it’s good specifically to talk about the cutter, because it’s a really common piece of equipment, but it’s also an example. The same kinds of things will happen, no matter where you upgrade to a business-oriented machine.
So, it’s not just the speed of the cut, because we’ve done those speed tests. It’s what if you didn’t have to feed individual sheets in, to do one design, and then the next design? But you could have a five-yard roll of vinyl, and if you needed to do 25 of the same designs, you could just lay it out and hit Cut, and go and do something else.
Marc V: Yeah, like the 24-inch cutter that we carry. It can track 16-1/2 feet long. So, you can put 16-1/2 feet in a row, without touching it. And this is true of an embroidery machine. If you’ve a single-needle machine that you’re changing threads out on, you can run the machines faster, you can do automatic color change.
It’s true of heat presses. If you’ve got a really inexpensive heat press, and you find that you put a design down on a shirt, you push it, you lift it up and you go to peel it, and it’s not stuck all the way, or there’s pieces missing, it’s signs of an inexpensive heat press.
So, if you’re noticing in your business that your equipment is slowing you down, your equipment is causing you to waste money, your equipment is not equal to commercial equipment. If you paid $100 for a heat press, it is not the same as a heat press that costs $1,000.
Mark S: That’s true. And by the way, this also applies if your equipment is your hand.
Marc V: Oh, yeah!
Mark S: So, if you are hand painting, hand sewing, hand placing rhinestones, these are all things that you can be proud that you can do that. But once you start trying to produce volume, or you start really valuing your time, you’re going to look at that, and look for better ways to do that.
Marc V: Yeah. People buy sticker vinyl, draw on it, and cut it out. And it works! It does, but imagine a machine can do it – so much time spent, and you can add more detail. That’s where it becomes a business.
So, one thing to really evaluate is can you invest in a piece of equipment that will actually let you grow your business?
Mark S: I want to say two more things about that. The first thing is this conversation only works if you value your time.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Because a lot of folks that are in your situation assign no value to their time. They think if they make $10 on a shirt, great, that’s profit. No! You spent all of this time doing it, and it’s time that you could have spent with your kids, watching TV, doing something else.
If you’re making less than you would on a regular job, the fact that you can do it in a lounge chair is not that big of an advantage. So, that’s one thing, that you have to be in a place where your time matters.
And you also have to really go back to that thinking about it as a business, because you’re going to look at – let’s say you look at a piece of equipment that’s available for lease, and it’s $200 a month. The hobby person is going to look at that and say “Are you kidding? I could buy a car! I could lease a car!”
A businessperson is going to look at that and say “Well, if I’m making $10 a shirt, I sell ten shirts, and I’m going to save 30 hours a week, not having to cut out individual stickers.”
Marc V: Yeah. If it’s $200, you make $10 a shirt, that’s 20 shirts. Simple math, right? “Well, I can sell 20 shirts. That means I’m in a position where I can afford to finance or lease equipment.”
Mark S: Or 20 signs, or 20 whatever you do on Etsy. 20 of those. That’s really it.
Marc V: And then, one last bit on that, since we’re mentioning the financing. I almost said it wrong, too. I think I did say it wrong, about affording the equipment. Because that’s the way people look at it. You look at it as a bill, like “Can I buy this car? Can I get this loan on my house, so I can put in a pool?” You think of these things, and these are bills.
When you’re looking at equipment, and you’re trying to make that jump, that’s not a liability to you. That’s something that is going to help you grow your business.
Mark S: It’s an investment. That’s the difference.
Marc V: It’s an investment, and that investment means it’s not just about – it’s great to spend time with the kids, and it’s great to go to bed earlier. Those are all great things, but if we’re talking about growing a home-based business, part of what you can do is that extra two hours you saved are somewhere you can go, and you can attend a luncheon for a small business group, and meet people.
These are all little things you could do with that time. You could email and thank all of your customers; things that you don’t do now, or you don’t consider doing. Imagine your business as when you do business with anybody else, or anything else. What are little things that they do, that you could do?
Start envisioning those things. But the reason you don’t do them now could be time. Equipment can save you time. It’s a big deal, and it’s the difference between those folks who really skyrocket high in their business.
Mark S: Yeah. Or honestly, you know what your limitations are. If it takes you three hours to do a ten shirt order or a 15 shirt order, you can look into the future and say “I’m not willing to do more than 40 hours a week, so this is all the number of shirts I’m ever going to sell.”
Marc V: That’s a good point, is doing that math over time.
Mark S: “And that’s not what I want. That’s not my goal.” If your goal is replacement income, if your goal is $1,000 a month, you can start that math, and work backwards.
But really, one, two and three kind of sit by themselves, versus the rest of the list.
Marc V: One, two and three, I think, is a mindset. It’s a mindset of thinking about a business, thinking about making money, and start thinking about equipment, whether it’s cutters or a heat press, or an embroidery machine, or t-shirt printing or transfer printers. Whatever it is, all of that is a mindset of a business.
A business has certain things. If you’re going to open up a mechanic’s shop, part of what you own is maybe like a press, certain tools. You know, they invest in certain things. Mechanics will, if you know anybody; mechanics or plumbers or electricians, those tools they have are very good. They’re very expensive, and they look at them as something that they’re proud to own.
If they have the wrong wrench, and they go to take a pipe on or off, it’s going to take them forever. My neighbor has got a tool for everything. He’s a facilities guy. He’s a great guy, and every once in a while, I’m doing something, and he’s got 20 years on me, so he’s got 20 years’ worth of tool collection on me.
He comes in all of the time and goes “What are you doing there? I’ve got a tool for that.” And I think I have a lot of tools, compared to my other neighbor that I’ve got ten years on. So, think about your equipment like that.
Now, let’s get into the actual physical things that you’re going to do, okay?
Mark S: Yeah. You’ve decided that yes, this is it. I’m thinking about it as a business. I’ve taken a look at my profitability and figured what I need to charge. I’ve taken a look at whether or not I’m going to need equipment, or when I’m going to need new equipment, or more commercial equipment.
The next is kind of defining and amplifying your niche.
Marc V: Okay. This one is a focus type of a thing.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: What it is, is when you think about your business, oftentimes what happens is you say “What do you do?” “I make t-shirts.” “Who do you make them for?” “I want to make them for everybody.”
I love that idea. That’s fun. However, that doesn’t focus you to drive toward somewhere. Picking a niche means picking one market, one type of customer that you want to try to replicate over and over again, and find that type of customer over and over again.
Mark S: And just as a side note, we’ve got tons of podcasts about this process. Lots of articles. It’s easy.
Marc V: Oh, yeah. So, listen to those. It might be some very simple and obvious ones. Youth sports. You do work for a Little League. Okay, well there’s also five other sports that they do at that park. Can you meet any other people? There’s also ten more parks in your area.
Mark S: Yeah. So first, define your niche. If I looked at your store or your craft room, or whatever it is, and I see one toy, one t-shirt, one pillow, one Christmas, one sports, one -. You know, if you are kind of scattered like that, because you’ve been taking in orders from anyone that will ask, then this is the time.
What are you good at? What do you want to do? What kind of people do you know? Make that your niche market, and that’s your specific kind of tagline market.
Marc V: Yeah. You might make apparel for small businesses, like uniforms or polo shirts that salespeople wear, or whatever it might be. You might do youth sports. You might do schools.
Mark S: You could do bling shirts for moms.
Marc V: Yeah. Bling also goes along with dance and cheer. It could be for motorcycles. It could be for cars and car racing clubs. It could be for boat enthusiasts.
Mark S: You could also start with like an ideal person. Like “Everything that I make is for 16-year-old boys,” or “Everything I do is for girls between seven and 12, and what they do.”
Marc V: New moms.
Mark S: New moms, or it’s bikers. We’ve got tons of customers who make a living doing patches and things like that for bikers. Whatever that is, this is kind of define your niche. And then, just like Marc said, you’re going to try to amplify that.
“Oh, wow! I’ve got four or five girls at dance teams and cheer organizations that I do stuff for. So, let me go to other dance teams and cheer. Let me make sure that all of their friends know where they got their shirts. Let me talk to other people that are in the dance and cheer business, about whether or not I can do shirts for them.”
Marc V: And the purpose of this niche is so you can focus everything that you’re going to do with your business on that. It doesn’t mean that if you do sports, and a plumbing company comes to you and says “Hey, can you make uniform shirts?”, you turn it away. That’s not defining that specifically. That’s a different part of your business.
It’s about focusing everything on it. So, if you’re going to do things for small businesses in your area, that means that the way that you sell is going to be going to those businesses. You’re probably going to want to dress appropriately for a small business.
The marketing materials you’re going to hand out, your flyers and brochures are going to kind of have that corporate look.
Mark S: And here’s why that’s good. Here’s why it’s a good thing to actually do that. It’s because in any one of those examples, you want someone that is your ideal customer to come to your Facebook page, or come to your website, or talk to your other customers, and see themselves.
Marc V: Yeah, exactly.
Mark S: Right? So, if your market is stay-at-home moms, then you want, if they go to your Etsy page, you want it to be full of stay-at-home mom stuff. You don’t want to have like the college athlete-oriented clothing right with the stay-at-home mom stuff. It’s just a little disjointed. You’re wasting your space.
Marc V: And it will confuse customers, as they come in to wherever they are looking at. And you don’t want to hand your business card, that’s got footballs and baseballs and bats on it, to somebody who is a Director at the electric company.
Mark S: I’ve just got to say, if you’re listening to the podcast, as opposed to watching the video, Marc Vila and I are both doing all kinds of very informative pantomimes. We’re holding out fictitious business cards, and making squares of a computer screen. It’s really entertaining.
Marc V: I think watching it is good, because it’s interactive. But if you’re listening to it, that’s fantastic, too. One thing, just to kind of pitch in the middle; if you’re watching and listening to this, definitely share. Give us some good ratings online, through whoever you’re listening to, iTunes. I just think about that. I like to mention it.
The next is dig deeper into your current customers, okay?
Mark S: One more thing on amplifying it.
Marc V: Oh, sure. Okay.
Mark S: That is do more of that. Right? If you have that kind of scattered business presence, the stuff that you’ve made, pick your niche. And then, do more of those things. Make more of those shirts, paint more of those signs.
Marc V: Oh, yeah.
Mark S: Whatever it is, you’re going to amplify it, because you want to do more of that, for more people. So, it’s not just offering the same shirt design to more people. It’s doing more designs related to that topic, and getting them in front of more people. That’s where kind of digging deeper into your current customers might go.
Marc V: Yeah. In my head, it transitioned there, but I’m glad you said it out loud. As you define your niche, whatever this might be – you’ve said “Okay, I’m going to go ahead, and I’m going to sell to local small business owners. I’m going to sell to new moms. What could I do, when I dig deeper into my current customers?
So, you’re a small business owner now, and you’ve got a handful of these customers that are in your niche, already. Hopefully, you’re there. You might not be there yet, but this is going to be your next step.
Mark S: But even if it’s friends and family, even if you’re just making stuff for friends for Christmas gifts, and they’re selling it. Whatever you’re doing, ask those people what else they buy, what else they do.
Marc V: It’s great. You’ve got to. What you’re going to do is, your first step is you’re going to find what your niche is, and you’re going to start to get customers from that niche. You’re going to go out and sell, listen to other podcasts that talk about doing that. 29, 30 and 31 get into that, as well.
Mark S: Well, let me take away the S word, because you are going to be selling, but you’re going to do that just by letting people know what you do, and asking what other stuff.
Marc V: Oh, yeah. In the beginning of it, it’s almost the easiest time, because you just start throwing things out there, and you’re automatically going to find all of that low-hanging fruit of your neighbor, “I didn’t know you did that!” type of stuff.
Mark S: Those are great.
Marc V: So, what you’re going to do is you’ve got a niche market, and you’re going to start to sell to these customers, eventually. You’re going to start to make money from certain customers, so you’ve got to dig deeper into those customers. Ask them what else do they buy, is there anything else that you can provide to them.
“I make shirts for you. Do you ever buy hats? Do you buy bags? Do you buy cases for laptops? Do you buy pens?” Whatever else you’re going into, try to go deeper into that customer. Don’t just assume that because they only buy tote bags from you, that there’s nothing else that you could bring in, to help them.
Mark S: And you can use your own shopping in your own life, as an example. You rarely just go in and buy a dress shirt or a dress, or a new handbag. Right? You’re going to end up in a store that has all of these other things, and they have those other things. They’ve got jewelry, they’ve got hats, they’ve got shoes.
They’ve got all of those other things, because they know that even though you’re walking into a business suit store or a dress store, they know that you also buy these other things. So, you’re going to do the same thing.
Like “I know I sell you mom fan shirts, for kids that play t-ball on Saturdays.” What else do your kids do? What else are you wearing? Do you use the seats for the stadium? Do you wear a sun hat? Do you keep a reusable bottle of water? What else around this, do you buy?
Marc V: A bag that you bring. There are so many things that you could do. I like to think of it like this. Your customer is, if you’ve had a fruit tree or a garden or anything like that at your home, what do you do? You go and, if you’ve got a tomato plant, you pick a tomato off, and you eat it. Right?
Now, more tomatoes are going to grow from that tree. Not tree! Whatever.
Mark S: The tomato tree! Okay.
Marc V: It’s like 20 feet tall, it’s a canopy.
Mark S: I’m going to make a list of your examples someday.
Marc V: Yeah. So, what you’ve got is you’ve got a tree in your yard. It’s an apple tree. I’m switching.
Mark S: Apples, okay.
Marc V: Yeah. It’s an apple tree. So, go back to that tree, and you will pick more apples. You will find apples. Sometimes, you’re going to go to that tree, and there’s not any good apples to eat. Other times, you’re going to go, and there’s going to be a lot. Other times, you’re going to go, and you’re going to see that your tree is sick. Right?
That’s where your customers are going to be. So, when you find a customer, you’ve got to go back to them often. Just ask them. Shoot them an email, stop by their office, see them at the ballpark, whatever it is. Keep going back. “Do you need anything else? Can I help you with anything else?”
That’s the equivalent of walking into your yard, checking your apple tree, and seeing if there’s any fruit there. And you never know when you’re going to go out there, and you’re going to get a piece of fruit.
So, you’ve got to go to your customers, and go back to them and back to them. That’s part of digging deeper into your customers, too.
Mark S: I like that, unless it’s like December, and you’re in Quebec. Then, you’re pretty sure there’s not going to be apples.
Marc V: There we go! If your niche is seasonal, like Pop Warner football, you know you’re not going to get anything out of them, when they’re off-season. So, during that time, we can actually get into what you can do during that time, later. But we’re not at that number, yet.
Mark S: But I like that. You’re defining and amplifying your niche. You’re picking the market that you are most comfortable with, get the most business from. You’re doing more of that. And then, you are contacting customers that buy from you, and you’re looking for what else they buy.
So you can, again, maybe go back to number three, and see if you want to evaluate the equipment that you use or the products that you produce, to sell more to people that are already buying from you.
Marc V: Yeah. Should you use an embroidery machine now? But you’re finding that your customers also buy t-shirts. Maybe in all of that, in the equipment side, it’s “I should get a t-shirt transfer [inaudible 00:40:09].”
Mark S: And that’s actually number six, because you should expand your product lines, to match what your customers want. Or maybe it’s not your product lines. Maybe you outsource it for a little while. But be the person that, that same customer that you already make money from, be the person that they can go to for everything around what you normally sell them.
Then, that will add to your business. It will grow your business.
Marc V: And when you’re expanding your product lines, it falls a little bit into that digging deeper into customers, and expanding your product lines. Really, they go back and forth between each other. Right?
Because sometimes digging deeper into your customers is not just going there and asking them for more business. But you’re asking them for something, and they say they want hats. You don’t offer hats, because you don’t have any way of making hats.
So, you do this circle. You’re always going back to those top three. “Okay, I want to make hats. Is that good for my business? Is it going to be profitable for me? What equipment do I need?” So, you go back.
Oftentimes, as you’re going down this line, you go back to number one, two and three, and think of it like a business.
Mark S: That’s a great [inaudible 00:41:20]. I like that a lot.
Marc V: So, expand where you can. The typical path of expansion is to start with the easiest things. So, if you do heat transfer vinyl, or you do digital transfers, and you put them on shirts, you can use that same heat press to put them on tote bags, to put them on koozies.
Mark S: Flat things.
Marc V: Flat things. You could put them on all types of flat things, so what are other flat things you could sell your customers, that you could use your same thing? So, go back to your customers and dig deeper, by offering more.
Mark S: Right. So, do you buy anything flat? That’s really the question that you want to ask.
Marc V: Yeah, okay.
Mark S: Is there anything flat?
Marc V: “Is there anything flat you buy?”
Mark S: “I specialize. That’s my niche, flat things.”
Marc V: Or things I can make flat, for a temporary period of time.
So, that’s good with that. Next, another one that’s important, and it’s more of a tip, I think, but it’s really important.
Mark S: Number seven.
Marc V: Number seven is to create a referral plan.
Mark S: What do you mean by that?
Marc V: Okay. You’ve got a niche market. You’re digging deep into those customers. You are expanding other things you could sell to these same customers, probably with the same equipment you own now. But you want to get more customers.
Mark S: Yes.
Marc V: The people who are your current customers, who buy from you again and again, they like you. They continue to give you money, which means that they like you. They enjoy doing business with you.
The act of giving you money and getting something is probably a pleasurable experience for them, so they are likely to tell other people. So, what you want to do is you want to make a plan of how to get referrals from your customers.
Mark S: Okay. And a referral is when someone recommends you.
Marc V: Someone recommends you, exactly. There’s a couple of ways to do it. You can have active referrals, where you can ask your customers in one way or another, to tell other people. This is, you sometimes see this with “Hey, here’s a few of my business cards. Pass these to your friends who might also be interested.” That could be a simple version of the plan.
You could have “Give these to some friends of yours, and I will make them a free hat with their first order” type of stuff.
Mark S: I like that, a little bribery.
Marc V: It could be like a coupon. “I will give you something for free, if you refer.” Plans like that. The way to think of these plans are really just go out into the real world, and look at how other businesses do it, any time. You’ve been there, where a store asks you for a referral. Or an AC company asks you for a referral, if they just fixed your AC. They might ask you to refer friends.
Mark S: You know, I’m going to add something to this, and that’s kind of the digital referrals, as well.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Maybe what you can do is ask somebody to, “If you liked what I did, please review me on Facebook. Please share a picture of your shirt. Review me on Yelp. Give me a shout-out on Google Plus.” I think there are still people that use that.
Marc V: I think they’re closing it down.
Mark S: I think they are, so get in while you can!
Marc V: Yeah. Instagram, you can ask them to post on Instagram. Those are other ways. How can you ask your customers to refer people?
Another way is where you do the action on the referral. If you have a small business owner that you do work with, and you say “Thank you so much for your order. By the way, I’m trying to grow my business, just like you are. Do you know anybody else? Do you have any business cards? Can you email me with somebody else, and let them know that I’m your new t-shirt person?”
Just ask them for that. Things like that, where they give you somebody’s name or phone number, or they might just passively say “Yeah. Go down five doors, down to that shop. Ask for Eddie in there, and tell him that I said that you’re the new t-shirt lady,” or “You’re the new t-shirt guy.”
Mark S: That is the best thing. If your niche market happens to be in a strip mall, that’s just gold. You go into a hair care place, where you do the aprons, and ask them “Who else should I be doing this kind of thing for?” Honestly, they’ll give you three or four more people, just off the top of their head.
Marc V: Yeah. For developing a plan that’s simple, – it doesn’t have to be complicated – write down a few things you’ll ask customers for. Will you ask them to email people? Will you ask them to pass out business cards? Will you ask them to call somebody for you? Will you ask them just to tell me names of people, and I’ll go talk to them?
Mark S: Yeah, so think about this, too, and maybe write it down. Make a few notes in advance, so you’re not trying to figure it out on the spot. If you are going to deliver a product to somebody; a friend, family member, a neighbor or a business, what are you going to do?
A, the first thing I’m going to do, I’m going to ask them if they know anybody that’s looking for something like this right now. The second thing I’m going to do is, who else should I be talking to? The third thing I’m going to do is just “Hey, here’s my Facebook page address. Do you mind doing a review for me, on Facebook?”
Just know exactly what you’re going to do, so you don’t get tied up and get nervous, and forget. Because I know for a lot of you, this is a new thing. You’re at home, you’re having fun doing a craft. You’ve recognized that there’s some money that can be made, and this taking it to the business level might be a little out of your comfort zone.
But honestly, if you do a little preparation, it will be easy. I promise.
Marc V: It can be simple stuff. Someone will say “Thank you! These look awesome!” “One of the best ways to thank me is to take a picture of it and put it on Facebook, and tag me or my business page,” or “Take a picture on Instagram and use this hashtag, and tag me in it,” whatever it might be, because their friends will see it.
So, there’s lots of ways to little ways to do it. Some of it’s literally “Here’s my friend’s phone number. Call her. She’s going to want Christmas stockings, too.” It could be that, to just a Facebook post.
Mark S: I love that.
Marc V: So, think of some ways that you’re going to do it, ahead of time.
Mark S: Make a plan. I promise, it will make you more money.
Marc V: Yep. What’s our next one?
Mark S: Number eight is – I like the way you put this. It’s “Live social.”
Marc V: Yeah, live social.
Mark S: Everybody already does this, but it’s living social, with business in mind. The vast majority of the people that buy equipment, both starter sets of equipment and the big stuff, the vast majority of them, most of their business is local.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Like 80 or 90% of their business is within ten miles of their house or their business. I’m pretty confident the same is going to be true for you, when you get started. So, you have a great opportunity to do things like join the Chamber of Commerce, to go to charity events, to go to networking functions, to go to church with a stack of cards, to be out in your community and be social, with your business in mind.
Marc V: Yeah. And what’s really cool about it is it doesn’t have to be in your niche, necessarily. It’s just got to be a place where you can meet people, and get to tell them what you do. Right?
Your niche could be new moms. However, you’re a car enthusiast. Or here’s a scenario. Wife is into making new mom apparel. The husband is a huge car guy, goes to the car events every weekend, to the shows. So, go with him to there. Meet some people. “Oh, by the way,” at any time you hear anything about “Oh, you just got married?”
Talk about what you do. You’ll meet people. They could be completely unrelated, and you’ll meet people. But when you go to these events, you’re going to meet people. You’re going to get to say what you do.
Almost every time you attend an event where you’re going to meet other people, new people, and you say what you do. If you’re in the custom apparel industry -.
Mark S: Wear your work!
Marc V: Yeah. Wear your work, and 100% of the time, you’re going to run into somebody that says “Oh, yeah, I need –“ or “I know a guy who needs” or “I know a business owner who needs.” You’re going to see that.
Mark S: I know one of our customers that has a ProSpangle. That’s a kind of bling machine. She does amazing designs. She prospects at the grocery store.
Marc V: Oh, yeah!
Mark S: She goes to the grocery store wearing one of her shirts, and 100% of the time, some woman will walk up to her and say “Where did you get that shirt?”
Now, this living social thing works particularly well if you are your customer. In other words, if you are a new mom, it’s easy to be social, because whenever you go to a new mom activity, baby yoga, you know? Or you go to the toddler park, if that’s a thing now.
Wherever you go and you are your customer, definitely you should be wearing your work, and letting the other people that are just like you, know what you do.
Marc V: Yeah. Think about it creatively, in your own world. If you do apparel for pets, go to the dog park. Go to pet events, whatever it can be. Anywhere where you’re allowed to bring pets, that people do, go to those places and wear your work. People will run into you.
Mark S: Somebody is going to ask you what you do.
Marc V: If you’re a business type of a person, and your plan is to sell to businesses, then you do the same thing. You join the Chamber of Commerce, you wear your work, you shake hands with businesspeople, and you tell them what you do.
No matter what it is, there is a place you can go to, to meet people and socialize with it. If it’s new to you, and you’re not really an extrovert, to go out and do this, and it’s reserved for you, just wear your work. Be prepared, with maybe some cards in your pocket, and walk around, and you’ll accidentally stumble on somebody you can [inaudible 00:51:27].
Mark S: You will.
Marc V: And you’ll get better at it.
Mark S: I’m going to say that this applies not just to the real world. It also applies to the online world, and that kind of bridges into number nine, that we’re going to talk about in a second. But living social could also be, if you are a new mom, and you’re part of a Facebook group. Or if you’ve got a circle of people on Instagram that you follow, that are you, that are basically you.
If you do anything social at all with social media, if you participate in Nextdoor for your neighborhood, then you can start doing the same thing that you would do in a group. You start sharing your business card, by sharing a web page or a Facebook page. You can talk about the latest project that you’ve worked on.
If you’re on the Shih Tzu Fun Facebook page, then you can say “Hey, check out this shirt I made. I’ve got a Shih Tzu. I do shirts like this.”
Marc V: Yeah, absolutely.
Mark S: You can do that, and it is a great way to be social, and to be productive for your business at the same time.
Marc V: Yeah. So, we transition into the next one, which is go online. Now, this one, this is a danger for you and I, because we can fall into a trap and talk about it for a half hour.
Mark S: We’ll be careful.
Marc V: Yeah, we’ll be careful. But one way to go online is you build a web store. This is a simple way to do it. You build a web store that your customers that currently buy from you can go online, and buy additional things. Okay?
This can be an eBay store, an Etsy store, your own custom-made Shopify ecommerce type of a site. You can do this on Facebook. You can take payments on Facebook, on your business page.
You find a place where you can sell. If you do only custom things, like for your businesses, you just do custom logos for them, think of things that you can sell to these customers, that are more generic made, like designs.
Mark S: Give me an example.
Marc V: I would say if you sell to, like in the cheer world or in the dance world, or in any type of a sport, and normally, what you’re doing is you’re making jerseys and all stuff like that, right?
Mark S: With team logos.
Marc V: With team logos. You’re doing names and logos, and very, very specific things. What you do is you find in that niche, you say “Okay, I’m going to make basketball mom shirts, basketball dad shirts, football mom shirts. I’m going to come up with like six designs, because I do a bunch of youth sports stuff. They’re all going to be generic, and I’m going to put them in my online store. Then, I’m going to share this with all of my customers.”
Emailing them links, putting it on your business card, posting it on your Facebook page, posting pictures of the stuff on Instagram. You give your customers an opportunity to buy things that are almost pre-made, and ready to go.
This is a simple way to get into the online business. We have customers who do this, where they mostly do custom work, but they’ve got four or five designs that they’ve made for themselves sometimes, that look great. So, they put it on their online store.
Mark S: As an example.
Marc V: As an example. And they’ve got – you can have five products. You could start small on this. You could have one shirt, that’s like you’re favorite one, that every time you wear this, you get a compliment. If you think your customers might like it, then it’s fantastic.
A harder one is business, if you do corporate logos.
Mark S: You’ve got to do some real examples.
Marc V: Yeah, but a corporate logo, if you’re doing corporate logos, what you can actually do is you can take a golf shirt, and you can embroider maybe like a simple little golf logo. Just two golf clubs in a thing.
Mark S: Kind of demonstrating the possibilities.
Marc V: Yeah. You could embroider a little football. Get a really nice shirt, with that embroidered on it, and put it up for sale. The folks that are business owners that you sell to, that golf, might see that, and a couple of them might buy this $20 shirt.
Mark S: I’ll take another route, because ecommerce, shopping carts, web stores, can be a little scary for some people. It’s not hard. I promise that if you spend some time to learn it a little bit, you can definitely do it. Because I’ve got friends that started out with a small store that just kept getting bigger, and they still say that they don’t know what they’re doing, but they’re making tons of money.
So, there’s that. But at the very least, you should be online, because everyone is going to ask. It doesn’t 100% have to be an ecommerce store or an Etsy store. It can be a Facebook page or a one or two-page website that just tells people about your business, and how to get in touch.
It can be that. If that’s all you can do, then at least do that, because it’s important for you to be online.
Marc V: Yeah. And I think that in the growing your home-based business plan, when you’ve got that online presence, if you can really push yourself out, to get the ability to sell things online to your current customers, it’s going to be a separate growth path for you. So, it should be something you should look for in the future, even if you don’t start there.
Mark S: And this is not the answer to your business. We talk to so many people that have bought a piece of equipment, and they do their own logo and they do t-shirts, and they do a website, and nothing ever sells. Just having a website is not sales. Right?
Marc V: That’s true.
Mark S: Just when you put up a website, people aren’t just going to magically find you. I’m saying this now, because you’re in that spot where you’re going from a hobby to a real business, and you might shop online all of the time yourself. Your friends might say “Oh, you’ve got to have a website,” things like that.
That’s all great, but that’s not where you’re going to make your money. 98% of the time, you are not going to be the one that all of a sudden, 10,000 people find you and buy stuff. Right?
Marc V: Yeah. And that’s why I think it’s important that it’s down further on the list, because you should be doing all of the other things first.
Mark S: Before you do this.
Marc V: Before you do this. This is one way of doing it. This is a plan that we know works for a lot of people, which is why we’re putting it in this order. Just going out and talking to people, and getting business that way is the fastest way to get into it. Then, the online part, and getting social and getting viral and all of that stuff, is a different way.
That doesn’t mean that these can’t be flipped around in different orders, but we’re telling you a plan that, follow this plan, and -.
Mark S: You’ll do okay.
Marc V: You’ll do good, yeah.
Mark S: Number ten is actually one of those ones – I’m glad you brought it up – that you could put in a couple of different places on this list. I think partnering with other businesses, and by that we’re talking about kind of outsourcing, right?
Marc V: I think it’s two things. It’s outsourcing, or it’s referrals.
Mark S: Okay.
Marc V: It depends on how you guys want to build the relationship. You do sports apparel. Sports typically have awards and trophies.
Mark S: Good example. Good example.
Marc V: You do not do awards and trophies. Find an award and trophy company who does not make shirts, and partner with them. You can partner with them by offering the awards and trophies, and selling it through using that you’re the conduit, by outsourcing it, and maybe make a commission.
You could do it where you guys just promise to refer each other business. “When I get a new customer, I’m going to give them your card. When you get a new customer, you’re going to give them mine,” and you can refer it.
Mark S: Let’s restate that, because I think it’s an important distinction. In one type of partnership, what you’re doing is just agreeing to refer customers to each other. So, I do embroidery. I don’t do printed t-shirts. There’s a screen printer that I know in the same neighborhood. If somebody asks me for screen-printed t-shirts, I’m going to send it to them.
Vice versa. Someone comes in and orders 12 screen-printed t-shirts, but they also want an embroidered logo on a polo, they’re going to send it to you.
The other way is kind of more outsourcing, where you have a customer, and they want to order 24 shirts. You don’t send them anywhere. You buy the shirts from somebody, and resell it to your customer.
Marc V: Yes. You go to that local t-shirt shop. You say “Here’s the logo that I have. I need these shirts. Here are the sizes. How much are you going to charge me for it?” By the way, you’ve established that you’re building a relationship with them.
Mark S: Yeah. You do that in advance.
Marc V: You tell them that you’re going to resell these, and they typically will offer you a price below retail. Then, you take that, you mark it up to retail, and you make that 20% or whatever it might be that you make in that markup. Then, they’re buying the shirts from you, and you’re outsourcing it to a business that you’re partnered with.
Mark S: And you keep that great relationship with the customer. They start looking at you, to buy more and more things.
Marc V: And you’re going to find that as you go out, because you should be actively going out and doing this, no matter what niche you’re in, you can find related ones. Is there a company who makes signs? Is there a company who prints flyers and business cards, that I can partner with? Is there a company who makes t-shirts? Is there a company who makes whatever it is?
Find all of these. Find local business people that you can be friendly with, that you’re going to want to do business with. Some of them might say “No, I don’t do any wholesale stuff, but I love referrals.” Go with that one.
Others say “Nah, the referral thing, I would prefer you just to make the sale, and bring it to me.”
Mark S: Yeah. They don’t want to deal with the customer.
Marc V: So, you’re going to find out which ones, and partner with those. Both relationships are great.
Mark S: And the other side of that is you’re going to go to those same businesses and say “Hey, this is what I do. Which one of those relationships would you like?” If you would prefer to provide goods that they can sell to their customers, that’s a good business.
Or if you’d just rather have the referral, you can go to embroiderers in your area and say “Hey, I do vinyl Ts. I will sell them to you for a discount, and you can turn it over to your customers.” Or “Hey, I do vinyl Ts. I’m glad to exchange customers with you.”
Marc V: Yeah, right, because you want to offer the service back. So, offer a wholesale to these people, so they can mark it up, and they will sell for you. And again, think about – go back to one, two and three, there. Because you’ve got to have enough profit in the shirts, where you can afford to take a little bit off, so someone else can get a piece of it. And you didn’t have to make any of the sale.
Mark S: I’ll also say you don’t want to do this too early, in my opinion.
Marc V: Yeah. That’s why it’s all the way down there.
Mark S: If you’re just getting started, you don’t want to go out to these businesses, because you want to make sure that you’ve got your own little customer base going.
Marc V: You want to make sure you have an online presence, before you do this.
Mark S: That you’ve got an online presence. You really want to – there’s a little exposure, when you do this, because you’re giving other vendors ideas. You want to make sure that you’re secure in your business.
Marc V: And I don’t know if we said it, I don’t think I said it, but to me, when I put this down and I wrote this – we wrote this together, but when the idea first came out, this is to be done in order, I think. That’s why it’s like don’t go to try to get a referral partner, if you don’t have an online presence, yet.
Mark S: Or if you don’t have equipment to handle that order.
Marc V: Or if you don’t have equipment, yeah. If you’re still working off of a hobby-sized machine and an inexpensive GP press, and you try to go get referral business from somebody, you can get yourself into some hot water, really meaning that you’re going to take an order you can’t fulfill, and you’re going to burn a relationship.
The next one -.
Mark S: I like number 11 a lot.
Marc V: Yeah. This is your opportunity to grow your business by taking back some time, by hiring freelancers, or really just outsourcing any of your work that you don’t want to do, or you’re not proficient at it.
Mark S: When we say hire freelancers, we just really mean pay somebody else to do the work.
Marc V: Pay someone else to do some of the work.
Mark S: That you don’t have time to, you don’t want to, or you’re not capable of doing.
Marc V: Yeah. This could be, if you’re embroidery, doing your digitizing. If you do vinyl cutting, it could be to get somebody to do your artwork for you, to prepare for cutting. It could be somebody doing accounting, working for you. It could be somebody for that online presence.
Mark S: Working on your website.
Marc V: Yeah. Writing the things that are on your website, writing the product descriptions.
Mark S: It’s a big deal.
Marc V: Writing the About Us page.
Mark S: A salesperson.
Marc V: A salesperson. It could be somebody who helps you sell. But hire somebody that is not a full-time employee. This is somebody you are paying for gigs. You’re paying, “I want you to do this artwork for me. How much are you going to charge me? It’s $20? Okay, I’ll give you $20, you give me the artwork.” The deal is done, and it’s over.
Mark S: We’ve got a good article on when to outsource, and hiring freelancers. Maybe we’ll link to that, in the show notes. I think that would be a good one.
Marc V: Cool, yeah. This is the next step, I think in this, is begin to outsource anything that you can’t do. Hire some freelancers to do some work for you. It can be anything. It could be delivering the final product. It could be just taking the box, and driving it somewhere.
Mark S: And this is one of those things that you should do, if you possibly can, in advance of you absolutely needing them in the next 30 minutes. Because we’ve got the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group. We’re in there all of the time. One of the most common things is “Hey, I need this digitized in the next 30 minutes,” or “Can somebody do this graphic for me in the next two hours?” That’s not the time that you want to establish a new relationship.
You know what? You’ve got something come up, or maybe you realize that you’re going to need somebody to do digitizing, or to do graphics work for your t-shirt transfer business, someday. Hire them to do a couple of small things now, so you have a relationship. You know what the quality and the turnaround time is.
Marc V: That is a great one, that even though you’re going to do mostly all of your own work, for this one particularly thing, find somebody to give a job every once in a while. “Okay, once a month, I’m going to pay somebody to do my artwork. I know I can do it. I hate to give up that $20.”
But remember, that $20 you’re going to give them is going to be 30 minutes or an hour worth of time for you.
Mark S: Yeah, so it’s worth it.
Marc V: You’re going to do something with it, hopefully. So, you should hire some people to do freelance, outsource some things. Start small, when you don’t necessarily need it, so it’s ready to go later. That’s the best plan, rather than needing it, you’re rushed into it, you make a rush decision, you find a bad person.
Mark S: It’s like kind of finding a CPA in February of the following year. Really, that’s not what you want to do. Maybe you look for a bookkeeper, if you don’t find yourself doing really well with invoicing and things like that. Maybe you look for a CPA.
All of these people, you can talk about them as freelancers or outsourcing. What you’re going to put together is kind of this virtual team of people that you can rely on to fill the holes that you need dug for your business.
Marc V: And I’m not opposed to this being friends, family or your kids.
Mark S: Okay.
Marc V: Especially as you’re getting into getting used to doing this type of stuff. So, if you’ve got a teenage kid, they’re pretty good with graphic arts, they like having fun, “I’m going to give you $10, if you do this art for me.” So, it’s fine to do that.
If you have a friend who does bookkeeping for a living, then you can go ahead and say “Hey, can I pay you for like two hours a month, to just make sure my books are clean?”
Mark S: That’s a great idea.
Marc V: “What can I give you for that?” And you just start, because these little things will put you on the right track. If it’s a friend of yours, they’re going to look at it, and maybe it’s as simple as “Take me out to dinner that night, and I’ll look at it for you over dinner.”
Mark S: Yeah, there you go.
Marc V: And then, they look at it and they tell you “You’re doing all of this wrong!”
Mark S: Hey, hey. Just dinner! Just dinner!
Marc V: Yeah, just dinner. So, there’s one more step, and I think this is the key, the biggest key right here.
Mark S: This is where you level up.
Marc V: This is where you level up.
Mark S: What you’re talking about is you’ve gone through all of these steps, so you’re running an actual business. You’re running a profitable business. You either have purchased or you’re looking at that expanded equipment. You’ve got a web presence. You do referrals. You’re going through steps one through 11, already.
Step 12 is when you start looking at more markets.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: Because what you’ve done is you’ve built a little – maybe it’s not little – you’ve built a model that works. You know how to create the products. You know how to fill an order. You know how to get the customers. You know how to take care of those customers.
You’ve got people in place, that can do the things that you can’t. You’ve got partnerships, to fill orders that you can’t fill.
Now, you’ve got this working bubble, and it’s time to take that and do it again.
Marc V: Yeah.
Mark S: And you do it again, by finding that second market. What are some good examples of that?
Marc V: Okay. First, before an example, I’ll just go ahead and metaphor it out, because if you decide that you want to build a really big garden in your yard -.
Mark S: I was hoping you would get back to tomatoes!
Marc V: You want to build a really big garden. You’ve never done it before, right? This is your dream. This is your dream for your business, is you have this giant garden that you want to build. You’ve got it all planned out in your head. You know where it’s going to be; tomatoes and zucchinis and peppers, and all of this stuff.
Mark S: Italian food.
Marc V: Italian food. If you try to build the whole thing at once, which is the equivalent of “I’m going to make shirts for everybody,” you’re going to make mistakes all over the place. The pH for the soil on the tomatoes, you didn’t even know needed to be different. There’s all of these things that get mixed up, and your whole garden fails.
So, what you do is you start with zucchini. This is your first niche.
Mark S: I was going to say, because anybody can grow zucchini! Throw seeds out into the sand on the beach, and they’ll be fine.
Marc V: Yeah. So, you learn how to tend to them. “Oh, my gosh, there’s insects! I didn’t even know these insects were in my area!” “Oh, I have deer that live in the area. They’re going to eat it. I’ll put up a little fence.”
Start thinking. This is your business. These are the steps. Your one niche, you start doing everything for that niche. You develop a model. And once this garden has flourished, once your business is profitable and making money, and you gain customers, and you kind of realize “Alright, this is the max space. This is the max amount of zucchini I can eat,” or I’m willing to grow, or whatever it would be. That’s kind of the equivalent of this business.
“I don’t know if I’ve tapped out this niche market that I’m in, in my area, but I do car t-shirts, I go to every event, every person knows me. I’m still growing, but I’ve lost that momentum of growth. Now, I’m going to go ahead, and I’m going to get into bikes.”
Mark S: Right. Because all of those things scale. By the way, I just want to publicly say thank you for not using the “You see the girl on a bike” talk. I appreciate that. But you’re right!
Marc V: You spoiled it!
Mark S: But it’s kind of just like the kind of things that we do with Colman and Company and ColDesi. We started decades ago, as a company that sold embroidery machines. We got really good at that. We’re still really good at that.
But we realized that people that do commercial embroidery, they also get requests for printed shirts all of the time. So, we started carrying direct to garment printers. And we took all of those skills we learned for finding customers, for teaching customers, for training and supporting. We applied it to the next product, and then we applied it to the next product.
You’re going to do the same thing. You’ve already got those zucchini growing, and you’re good at it. So, you’re going to look, “Well, what else could I grow? What other markets? I’m in the cheer market. I do business with all of the local high school cheerleaders. How about the private cheer clubs?”
How about the dance clubs? How about anybody that does festivals? I do bling shirts. Just in general, what other niches buy bling?
Marc V: Yeah. You do cheer, but your next niche could be new moms, because it’s related. So, it almost makes sense that it can go next. It’s good to find niches that are close by.
Mark S: The next step is number 12, and this is another one of my favorites. Number 12 is expanding your niche to a second market.
Marc V: Yeah. This is what you referred to, when we were talking about this before, like leveling up your business. So, I’d like to go into like a farming/gardening metaphor again.
Mark S: Okay, thank you. I appreciate that.
Marc V: Let me kind of go back and forth on this. We said it’s not a good idea; “I’m going to make t-shirts for everybody.” That’s not a good idea, to start that way. You want to start with a niche.
What are you going to grow in your garden? Everything! Everything that I love to eat. Peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, I’m going to do all of it. What’s going to happen is you put all of the seeds down, you make all different mistakes in different things, because this one needs this much water, and this one’s got the wrong sun, and this one the soil pH is not right.
Mark S: They’re off-season.
Marc V: They’re off-season. There’s all of this stuff. It’s too much. It’s too much at once. So, you start with one. You start with your niche. You start with your zucchinis, your tomatoes.
You grow these. You learn how to sow it, you learn how to get it growing, you build it up. You know you can replicate this.
Mark S: Honestly, though, anybody can grow zucchini.
Marc V: Yeah. You just throw seeds, and they grow. That’s kind of like your first niche. Your first niche is, as you mentioned, something you like, something maybe a group that you’re in, you’re part of.
Mark S: You’re familiar with it.
Marc V: It is something that should be the easiest for you to get going, for various reasons.
Mark S: The most natural.
Marc V: The most natural. That’s a great way to put it. So, you find that next niche. What is the next most natural thing? Is it related? Is there another industry that you see is booming in your area?
Mark S: Here’s really the thing. Steps one through 11, you’ve completed. So, after you’ve completed that, you’ve got this kind of bubble of success. You’ve already figured out that you’ve got a niche that you like. You’ve got one that’s profitable. You’re thinking about it as a business. You have an online presence.
You’ve developed some social skills, you’ve got your accounting right. You’ve partnered with other businesses. You’ve got all of these things, so really, you know what to do. That’s what we’re saying. One through 11, by the time you’re complete with that, you know what to do, to run a profitable small business for your particular niche, whatever it is.
What you’re going to do now is you’re going to look at that bubble of success that you’ve got. And it doesn’t have to be a bajillion dollars.
Mark S: No, it could be a manageable number.
Marc V: Yeah, small business.
Mark S: This could be like “I’ve got to where I’m making $12,000 a year.”
Marc V: Whatever your goal is.
Mark S: Like “I want to make another $12,000, and I think the easiest way to get to that is to replicate this niche to this one next to it. I’ve focused on Little League. Football.”
Marc V: That’s one of the important parts, here. You already know what to do for your business. Now, you’re going to take those same skills, and the process that you’ve developed, and apply it to something right next door.
For example, I’ll use ColDesi. When ColDesi started 20-some odd years ago, we were an embroidery machine company. We only sold commercial embroidery machines, and man, we did that for a while, and we got really good at it. We knew how to pick the embroidery machines to sell. We knew how to match up the machines to the customers, so that they were successful.
We got good at advertising. We knew what inventory to keep. We knew about shipping, all of that stuff. Then, once that was wrapped up and we were good at it, we looked at our customers, just like we encourage you to do. “What else do you buy?”
It turned out, people were coming to us, because they wanted to get into the custom t-shirt printing business, too. So, we started selling direct to garment printer machines to those same customers, and the ones right next store.
Marc V: Yep.
Mark S: And then, we got really good at that. We took that and said “You know what? A lot of people that do DTG, they want to do vinyl, as well.” So, that was kind of our growth path, as what we’re outlining for you.
Marc V: And when you start your new business, you’re going to come up with all of these challenges. You’re going to go through steps one through 11, and really, the four through 11 portion of it. And you’re going to run into a lot of challenges there, and you’re going to learn a bunch of great lessons.
What’s cool is, when you replicate it, some of those challenges now are erased, because you kind of know. You’re like “Okay, I know how to do this.”
Mark S: You know where to buy stuff wholesale. You know how to do an order. You know how to make a phone call.
Marc V: And new challenges will come up with your new niche. You’re going to realize that you go from doing this one type of business; you go from doing, say mortgage brokers and realtors and insurance agents, and companies like that. Then, you “Okay, now what I’m going to do is I’m going to move to more service level workers, so I’m going to do like AC companies and plumbers and things.”
Now, you realize “I need apparel that’s good for sweating in.”
Mark S: Yeah. You’re going to figure that out.
Marc V: But since you’ve already solved a problem before, you’re going to be solving a similar problem. That’s why somebody who is, if we’re talking about gardening, somebody who has gardened a lot – I took three years of horticulture in high school.
Mark S: I knew there was something. Just like your persistent biker bar examples. I knew there was something in your past!
Marc V: But I don’t actively grow anything. However, I understand that what you’re running into there is going to be a series of success and failure, and a methodology. Somebody who has been a gardener for five years, they can get a brand new plant that they’ve never worked with before. But they know what to read, they know what to understand.
They know what to look for, because they understand it in general. That’s what this is. You develop a niche. You understand that niche, and you understand the business in general. Then, you expand. And as that happens, those problems that you ran into in the first place are going to be smaller and lesser, and you’re going to grow out of them faster.
Mark S: You’re more profitable, faster.
Marc V: Yeah, more profitable, faster. Then, you go through the next steps on that. You make sure all of the things happen on these things. You go into all of the customers, you dig deeper, you get referrals on them. You make sure that this new niche has an online presence, whether it’s in the same store or whatever it is.
Mark S: Yeah. I like all of that.
Marc V: You get new business partners that are related to this new niche. You get maybe different freelancers that do different things, because it’s a different niche.
All of these steps may or may not need to be done again. Then, now you’ve done it twice, and then you do it again and again. And that’s how you grow it out.
Mark S: it’s easier to do things that are right next to your current niche. But it’s not mandatory that they be.
Marc V: No. Not at all.
Mark S: For example, if your market is new moms, then your next niche might be yoga studios. Right? Because there’s a relationship there. It might go from yoga studios to gyms and fitness centers. That’s a nice, natural progression.
But it also could be that you were deep into the new mom niche, and you realized that all of the husbands bowl, or a significant number of your customers’ husbands bowl. So, bowling shirts might be your next profitable niche. A tenuous connection, but it’s still there. It’s still the same skillset.
Marc V: And I mentioned earlier, about if the wife does new mom stuff, and the husband is into the car clubs, that maybe her next niche is the car shirts. And it’s nothing related. However, she’s got an in. If your friend works in an industry where they do business with dentists’ offices, and you might do things for bikers, they are not necessarily related.
Mark S: But there is a surprising amount of crossover.
Marc V: Yeah, there is. However, though, because you can get into that business, then you can learn a new niche. So, your niches, it’s nice when they’re related. But at the same time, part of it is you’re looking for success. So, they’re related, it helps to bring success, because you can – bikes to cars, you know.
However, having an in, having a connection, having a referral source is great, as well.
I think we covered everything. The next action points for you are, if you’ve got this small home-based business, I want you to think about these things. Make some notes on what you would do next. If you need help from experts on this, I want you to call up ColDesi and Colman and Company.
You probably get emails from us or other information, or you’ve seen us online. Contact us, okay? And just talk to one of our experts and say “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this. It’s home-based. I’ve been doing this.”
You can even say “I listened to the podcast. They said -. It’s kind of inspiring me. I’m in the equipment section.” Whatever it might be.
Mark S: “What do I need to do?”
Marc V: “What do I need to do?” Talk to our experts here. You can contact us, of course, online. Go to our Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group. There’s a lot of resources, but start taking the action, because again, in the beginning I said there’s three types of people that would run into this podcast.
One is the person whose machine collects dust in a month. The next is the person who does the same thing, never changes, and they make the same amount of money, don’t do anything different, and it goes to infinity. The third person is somebody like you, because you actually listened to this whole thing.
Mark S: And you made it to the end of the podcast! That’s a big deal.
Marc V: That means you are in group three, so act like you’re in that third group, and start following these steps!
Mark S: We appreciate you listening. You are highly encouraged to rate us on iTunes or Stitcher, or give us a great review on the website, wherever you happen to consume the podcast. Ask us questions on YouTube. I would love for that to happen. We don’t get a lot of people that talk to us there. If you watched this YouTube video, then definitely drop us a note.
Marc V: Yeah. Thanks so much! Take action, do something, talk to one of our pros, and actually get into it. You can do it! Tons of other people do.
I’m excited, and I really hope this takes you to the next level.
Mark S: This has been Mark Stephenson from ColDesi.
Marc V: And Marc Vila from Colman and Company.
Mark S: You guys have a great business!