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It can be affordable and lucrative to start a small screen printing business; all you need is determination, creativity, and a solid marketing plan!

For creative and handy types, starting a screen printing apparel business from home can cost very little. You can use old picture frames and any kind of gauzy fabric (an old sheer curtain works wonderfully) for the screens, and ink, emulsion, and activator can be purchased at any craft store for a very reasonable price. Screen printing ink costs only pennies per design and can print on a wide variety of materials, including wood, glass, plastic, and cloth.

For people with less do-it-yourself ambition and more money to spend, there are complete starter kits available for about $2000, and training classes are available from equipment manufacturers, technical schools, or trade schools.

The potential ROI (return on investment) is one of the interesting aspects of starting a screen printing business on a shoestring. By comparison to average startup cost for a small business, even if you choose to purchase a kit and attend school, the initial investment of a screen printing business is small. Materials are cheap and easy to obtain, and marketing is a great deal easier and less competitive on a local level than might be expected. To compete in today's cluttered market, you need a reputation for great service, a loyal customer base, competitive pricing, and creative design. More money can be invested for better equipment, more stock, and better workspace as the business grows.

To establish a presence in the local market, you'll need to establish a flagship relationship. One way to get a lot of your products in the public eye is to choose a local high school team and print up some sample designs for them. Make an offer to the board of the school athletic supporters to provide low-cost tees or
personalized water bottles for a fundraising event or for a game day booth sale. Upload your designs to a web site and invite the students to go online and vote for the winning design. This brings traffic to the web site and gives students and parents the opportunity to see what the business has to offer.

Make sure the web site explains what your business does, and include a page on team design, fundraising ideas, and offers. Offer custom designs at reasonable prices and invite students to submit design ideas. Interactivity and fresh content is the secret to a successful web site. Solicit pictures of people wearing company designs to display on the web site. A weekly or monthly contest theme, like "best use of props" or "most unusual location" with a logo t-shirt prize will encourage people to revisit and spread the word.

Other ideas for local target marketing:

  • Company shirts for small local service providers, such as lawn maintenance workers, pool cleaners, and pest control specialists.

  • Uniform shirts and logo merchandise for independent bars, restaurants, and clubs (chains will have national agreements made through corporate headquarters).

  • Approach popular local bands and offer to print their logos on products to be sold at gigs on consignment – the band finds staff to sell the product and returns the contracted price for the shirts or remaining stock, which then can be offered on the web site. Print only a small amount at first to minimize loss.

  • Churches often have clubs or fundraising efforts that require printing.

Finally, use the web. Take online orders at full retail. Promote shamelessly on social networking sites, and enlist everyone you know to place a link on their blogs, personal and professional web sites. Keep a mailing list and send out regular news and updates. Visibility equals business!

Article By Bubba

Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on Google+.

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