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true genius said:
Is it the general rule of the business to require minimum orders for production regardless of screening or heat transfer?


Some shops will have minimum order quantities regardless since they don't want to deal with small scale production, others won't.

The biggest problem is that even with heat pressed shirts you're likely to encounter the economy of sliding scale - five shirts will cost more per shirt than fifty, regardless of the printing method.

If you are going to be using heat press printing anyway, the equipment is relatively affordable if you can get the capital together.

 

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true genius said:
We are doing anywhere between 50 - 80 designs. We have capital to purchase the equipment with non-industrial machines.
If you mean 50-80 pieces of one design, that's good - while some screenprinting shops have a minimum of 100 or 144 pieces, some wholesalers will only want to sell cases of 72 blank t-shirts, etc. the minimums in this industry are frequently 24 pieces. With say 50 pieces it won't be hard to find someone to do business with, whatever route you decide to take.

If you mean 50-80 different looking designs, then that second sentence about having the capital is probably going to be extremely relevant - that would be no problem (well, a bit hard to organise, but no major problem ;)) to do yourself, but it would be a problem to outsource. Although if you wanted to use a service like Cafe Press, that would also obviously be well suited - it takes a lot of the hassle out of managing such a large image bank, and they're fine with printing one-offs.

Either way, if you are looking at heat pressing the shirts regardless of whether you do them in house or outsource, and you have the money to buy the equipment... it would be well worth writing up a business plan (to make sure you're not just putting money into a black hole), and seriously considering purchasing the equipment yourself.

While you don't want to buy crappy home-made equipment, you can start at the lower end and work your way up as you make more money if that's how you want to do it.
 

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true genius said:
With Cafepress, we do not control the level of customer service, the packaging or messaging. I'm not willing to give that up. That's all part of branding a company.
Fair enough - it sounds like in general you'd be happier having a level of control that you're only going to get if you produce the actual product in house (there's nothing wrong with either approach - I am a control freak, so I like to handle everything I can myself, others will outsource because if you can let that part go it's probably going to be more practical in the long run).

true genius said:
I think we are going to invest in the equipment and do it in house via heat transfer. It seems very cost effective compared to screening and will allow us to control out inventory.
Since you are planning on starting with "dozens of designs", then yes, this is true. A small startup probably wouldn't want to have more than a single dozen if they were going to choose screenprinting.

Screenprinting is very cost effective for medium to large print runs, but not at all cost effective for one-offs and small runs of designs. A company starting out with a lot of different designs that they wanted to keep on hand to reprint, would need a lot of money to use screenprinting as their method (say you had 20 designs, each of which was four colours - that's 80 screens you're going to have to buy (at a cost of a few thousand dollars) before you've even started printing the shirts).

Heat press on the other hand, you need a press, a printer, some paper, and some blanks. That's not going to cost you much, and you expand your materials as you need to since you don't need to print in advance. Even when adding vinyl into the equation it's still easy enough.

true genius said:
We just need to learn more about the best equipment and how to cut out and use vinyl letters for a more screened look, especially on colored shirts.
If you browse/search the forums you should find some good advice on which specific equipment is recommended, and what products to use with it (there was a thread titled something like "Which brand of heat press to buy?" for example).
 
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