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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
i'm tossing over using either cafe press, printmojo, spreadshirt and perhaps threadless while i'm setting up my own company. i would do different slogans for the company than for my own line. but i'm confused.

i think some people on the forum are using one company or the other. i've done extensive e-mailing with printmojo, but i see cafe press mentioned more on this board. also, from what CP says about what people are earning, it appears this may be the one with the most traffic/sales potential. i actually have a spreadshirt store, but i don't use it because i didn't like the limited design possibilities on the site. well, at least i found the design possibilities to be limited.

i know that PM demands you buy your inventory before anything is done. and i know SS is order on demand. i couldn't tell much about CP's policies when i went to the website. and all i see for threadless are contests. ??

does anyone know the differences from experience? pros & cons? i'm looking at each in terms of:

- design possibilities on the site
- how much upfront money is involved
- selection of tees
- good service
- sales potential

thanks!

veggie
 

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i myself use CP. as far as i can tell, CP probably has more shopkeepers than the other. and i'm pretty sure they get more visitors to their marketplace than the others. like SS, CP prints on demand, so you don't have to buy an inventory, that's why i went with CP.

the one major thing that SS offers that CP doesn't is more color options in the t shirts. to me, that's huge. i'm actually working on opening a spreadshirt shop on top of my CP shop so that i can offer more colors.
 

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all i see for threadless are contests. ??
That's all there is at threadless. Design contests and t-shirt sales. It's not a t-shirt fulfillment place like the other services you mentioned.

sales potential
I will just say this about sales potential. That doesn't come from any fulfillment company, that comes from you.

Sure, you may get a few sales from a fulfillment company's website sending leads to you, but the lion's share of sales, marketing and advertising for your store should come from you, the shopkeeper/merchant.

Never rely on anybody else to send you sales or market your shop for you.

The top shops on any of those fulfillment companies are successful because they have put a lot of time/money into marketing and advertisign their shop.
 

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i know that PM demands you buy your inventory before anything is done. and i know SS is order on demand.
You have to buy inventory up front with PrintMojo, because it is screen printing and embroidery as opposed to digital printing with a heat press (cafepress / spreadshirt), vinyl cutter (spreadshirt's flock or flex) or direct to garment printer (cafepress / zazzle).

I'm a bit biased, but I have used (and still do use) all of the services you mentioned.

design possibilities on the site
Not sure what you mean by this one.

how much upfront money is involved
With spreadshirt, there is no upfront money involved. Just the money you spend to market and advertise your shop (see the theme I'm getting at here :)) No monthly fees. Your income is based off of how much you mark up a product over their base prices. When a product sells in your store, they keep the "base price" and you get the markup.

The "base price" includes the cost of the t-shirt, the cost of the printing, their fufillment fees. It also covers your store hosting, credit card processing, customer service, warehousing; all the things involved with the creation of the shirt (electricity, phone lines, etc) that you don't have to worry about :)

With cafepress, you can get started there for free, but most of the top shopkeepers use cafepress's "Premium Shop" option which costs about $60 per year (they have a 15 day free trial you can use to test it out). You still would need time/money to advertise market your shop. Your income is based off of how much you mark up a product over their base prices. When a product sells in your store, they keep the "base price" and you get the markup.

With printmojo, the amount of up front money needed varies depending on how many t-shirts you want to get screen printed. You buy the t-shirts and printing at wholesale and then mark it up to your desired retail price. It's a little different because once you buy the t-shirts, you own the inventory. So when a person buys from your store, you get paid back what your inventory cost plus your markup. And yes, you would still need time/money to market your store :)
 

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how much of a percentage do all of these companies take from each of your sales?
It varies. The real benefit to the print on demand services is the fact that there is no (or very little) cash outlay to start selling t-shirts. Another benefit is that you don't have to invest in equipmen, design/host a website, get ecommerce capabilities, etc.

You could put up a design today at cafepress/zazzle/spreadshirt/printfection and not pay a dime. If someone bought the shirt tomorrow, you could make $1-$10+ depending on your markup. If nobody bought a t-shirt, you wouldn't be out any money.

is it really worth it?
For lots of people it is. For lots of other people, they prefer to take more of the "risk" to get more of the "reward". Risk meaning either investing money in the equipment (heat press or screen printing equipment) and doing it themselves or having the shirts printed by a local screen printer and them handling the store design, warehousing, ecommerce, etc. The reward being the potential for higher profit margins.

If you have the knowledge, money, time, drive and desire to do it all yourself, then it might not be worth using a fulfillment company.

If don't want to buy equipment or you don't want to get a webhost, store t-shirts, design a site, get ecommerce setup, and just want to design and market t-shirts, a fulfillment company could be the way to go.

Before the fulfillment companies existed, you really only had the option of doing it yourself (either investing in the equipment or outsourcing the printing).

Like I said above, I use cafepress, zazzle, spreadshirt and printmojo. I also have t-shirts screen printed that I store at my house that I sell through a website that I designed myself, found hosting for, found a shopping cart for, applied for a merchant account, handle customer service, ship the shirts myself, etc.

Each method just fits a different business (or personal) need. I like the ease of use of cafepress/spreadshirt to put up a t-shirt design for sale in a few mintues. I like the screen printed quality of printmojo for some projects that I feel are worth the investment of buying inventory in advance. I like the control over seeing every t-shirt that goes out, knowing that I packed it with my marketing materials and knowing that if something went wrong with the order, I know exactly what happened, I know the customer's name, email, phone, and I know I can personally make it right. I like seeing all the details about an order and printing out labels and packaging shirts (sometimes :))

It all depends on which you think will fit best for your needs.

does it save money instead of hiring a screen printer or something?
With the print on demand places like cafepress/spreadshirt, it can save the initial investment of buying inventory or buying equipment to do it yourself.

But they aren't screen printing on demand, they are using different printing technologies like heat press, direct to garment printing, vinyl tranfers, flock transfers, etc.

printmojo does screen print, but the main benefit over getting the shirts printed by a local printer and then having those shirts shipped to you so you can do the order packing etc, is that printmojo does the warehousing, online store creation, hosting, ecommerce processing, shipping, etc.

You could do all of that yourself and probably make a bit more. But it's back to the "risk"/"reward" thing. Lots of people do it themselves and probably earn more per shirt sold for their time investment. Others will choose to use a fulfillment company to go ahead and pay the fulfillment fee so they don't have to store shirts at their house or get webhosting or get ecommerce enabled.

With this forum, you can learn about how to do it any way you like :) Lots of people here do it all themselves (print the shirts with their own equipment) and are very successful at it.
 

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vegbyrd said:
i'm tossing over using either [...] and perhaps threadless while i'm setting up my own company.
Threadless are not a fulfillment company.

vegbyrd said:
i see cafe press mentioned more on this board.
CP are the biggest. It doesn't necessarily mean they are the best, especially for any individual's given needs.

vegbyrd said:
also, from what CP says about what people are earning, it appears this may be the one with the most traffic/sales potential.
While I'm not in a position to say if they're right or wrong, I think it's pretty meaningless. Both because individual earning capability comes down to what you put in, and because the source is more than a little biased.

vegbyrd said:
i know that PM demands you buy your inventory before anything is done.
I don't think "demands" is particularly fair. They screenprint the shirts upfront for you, so they need them paid for upfront. It's a fairly different model to the other fulfillment companies, and a lot of whether or not it's worth using depends on whether or not you want your shirts screenprinted (and all the benefits that come along with that). It's a step up the risk chain, and as such a step up the reward chain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
thanks, everyone! i now think i understand. and thanks for turning me onto zazzle and printjection. i didn't know about those.

rodney, it's interesting that you use all the companies and still do your own stuff. i'm leaning toward doing that. i think i can take certain risks with an "on-demand" service that i can't really take with shirts going into stores. for example, if i do one for CP or SS and it doesn't sell, i'm not really out of anything. so it seems to me this is a good, low-risk way to test the market. if i print them up myself and they don't sell, then i'm in trouble! LOL!!

okay, i like the on-demand services, but it sounds like the quality may not be so good. i think that's what i read. but i guess i could still use them to test a shirt and, if it sells, then do it as a silk-screened shirt later.

re: SS's design possibilities: i was using custom ink to design some mock ups of my shirts. very nice system, easy to use. i loved it. when i tried to design something on SS, i couldn't do what i wanted to do. the print area was limited and i couldn't get a good idea of how the shirt would look, not like with custom ink. i also think the fonts and graphics were limited. i could be wrong about that because i set up my shop a while ago.

well, solmu, it sounds like you really like PM. that's good to know because i was set on using them until my brother got involved and said we could do the printing, fulfillment, and everything else ourselves. but it is taking a while to get going. i could have already had a shirt with PM by now. and i don't know how the finished product will look. so i got this idea a while ago, to do some shirts on our own and some with PM or another company. it sounds like PM has worked for you. one shirt i want to do is associated with a fanbase, so i think that one would do well with PM. and it sounds as if the quality with PM is much better.

i know i have to do the marketing and i'm kind of afraid of that. LOL! i was hoping that the companies would aid in sales, but that seems not to be the case. :(

thanks again, everyone!

veggie
 

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vegbyrd said:
well, solmu, it sounds like you really like PM. that's good to know because i was set on using them until my brother got involved and said we could do the printing, fulfillment, and everything else ourselves. but it is taking a while to get going. i could have already had a shirt with PM by now. and i don't know how the finished product will look. so i got this idea a while ago, to do some shirts on our own and some with PM or another company. it sounds like PM has worked for you. one shirt i want to do is associated with a fanbase, so i think that one would do well with PM. and it sounds as if the quality with PM is much better.
To be clear, I have not used Print Mojo. Like Rodney I am biased (though for very different reasons :)), and like Monkeylantern if I were to use a fulfillment service it would only be PrintMojo, for the same reason - I like screenprinting. That is an if however, as I don't use a fulfillment service. From what I've heard they're a good company, so if I was in the market for a US based fulfillment service I would certainly consider them.

There's no need to be tied down to one company, so using each company for different things based on its strengths is a good idea. Rodney has mentioned one of the reasons he uses CP for example is to offer a wider range of products (mugs, mouse mats, buttons, etc.) that may not be worth having made himself.


vegbyrd said:
i know i have to do the marketing and i'm kind of afraid of that. LOL! i was hoping that the companies would aid in sales, but that seems not to be the case. :(
I have heard some reports of the CP marketplace helping out sales. The lion's share comes from your own efforts, but some people do get essentially "free" sales from them.
 

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This is a very good and interesting thread for people -- like me -- stuck in the planning stage!

Rodney, I am curious: why do you use so many different methods to print and sell your shirts? It seems to me that it would be difficult to keep everything straight (where do I direct this customer for that shirt? etc.) Is it a lot of juggling?

I have investigated a lot of different options and like PrintMojo the best. However, I am a bit nervous about the cost (initial investment in inventory + $3.50 per delivery -- I do understand the need for these things but...)

I have also looked at some Print on Demand companies and am drawn to PrintFection. They seem to be the least inexpensive to set up shop(s) and have the highest profit margin.

My plan is to set up shop within PrintFection and see if my designs sell. If they don't, I am not out much money (just the cost of advertisement, really). If they DO sell :D , I can migrate to PrintMojo -- better profit margin, better print quality (screen print vs. DTG), more products, embroidery options.

Then, as I develop new designs, test the market through PrintFection and migrate the winners to PrintMojo and retire the dogs.

Comments? Devil's Advocates?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
thanks a lot, solmu, monkey, and bodhi!

solmu, thanks for the clarification! yeah, really, i was going with PM until it looked like we were going to do it ourselves. and now, thanks to rodney, i really see the benefit in using different companies for different reasons while still doing your own thing! i'm going to try it.

thanks to the folks that mentioned printinfection. i didn't know about them and so i'm going to check them out.

i will, of course, keep you posted!

did i tell you guys that i "heart" this site??!!?? LOL!!

veggie
 

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okay, i like the on-demand services, but it sounds like the quality may not be so good. i think that's what i read. but i guess i could still use them to test a shirt
I wouldn't say the quality of the Print on Demand services is not good. If it wasn't good, I wouldn't use them :) I've had repeat purchases in both cafepress and spreadshirt stores, so I'm guessing the end customer's like them.

Typically, we (as the artists/designers on the t-shirts) can be very picky about how we expect the finished design to look. Plus, since we are in the "business", we are extra critical of the finished product. What I've found is that in general, we're much more critical than an actual customer would be.

That being said, because of the way the print on demand services work, you can just upload a graphic and buy one or two of your own shirts to see how you like the quality and see if it's something you want to send to your customers.

Rodney, I am curious: why do you use so many different methods to print and sell your shirts? It seems to me that it would be difficult to keep everything straight (where do I direct this customer for that shirt? etc.) Is it a lot of juggling?
Well, I started selling one t-shirt design like 10 years ago. Back then there were no fulfillment companies, so I just had a local screen printer print them up and I sold them through my website (no paypal then either :))

Later on, CafePress came around, and I used them to add to that same t-shirt line with accessories like mugs, mousepads. This is when they were in their infant stages.

Once cafepress expanded their services, I saw the potential to sell "other" t-shirt designs through them (not related to the first designs I sold). So I opened up separate cafepress stores.

Then zazzle came around and I tested them out with some of my original designs and some different designs.

But mainly, I'm not selling the same designs in all of the different fulfillment services (some of them overlap), but some are totally different genres of t-shirts.

It's also not a case of me "juggling" the different stores and manually sending customers to one place or another :) The stores are self sufficient. I don't have to mess with them that much, I just spend time advertising and marketing the different stores. For example, if I'm marketing a labrador retriever t-shirt that I only sell in my zazzle store, then I just buy the google adwords for labrador retriever t-shirt and send them to the link in my zazzle store. Also, referrals from natural search engine listings just take customers right where they want to go :)
 

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i've been using printmojo for about a year now and have no complaints. i wanted silkscreen quality and the shirts are a pro bono project for my studio so i didn't want to be bother with fulfillment, etc.

one thing to think about when you use another company to do the fulfillment is that they capture the customer's name and info and not you. so you often don't really know who your customers are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
thanks, rodney and baum!

okay, rodney, i hear ya. :) well, i looked at CP earlier and saw that the black tee's base price is $18.99!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YIKES!! that is SCARY!!!!! and i think that may be the unisex, not a girly, fitted tee. now i see why most of the shirts i saw there are white. i think if i go this route, i will HAVE to succumb to the white tee syndrome. hmmm.

baum, i getcha! you're right. even though it looks like these services are easy (and they are to a certain extend), you are still making them money and building their customer base instead of building your own. that's kind of a bummer unless your t-shirt grabs a lot of attention from the site and sales go through the roof from folks you never would have sold to otherwise. hmm.

so now i think i've got a strategy. my own shirts will be my premium shirts, highest quality re: graphics and the most brandable slogans, the ones i place in stores and on my future website. PM will be for the ones targeted toward a specific group that, once a few people see the shirts are available, will spread the word because there are networks of folks who would want the shirts. and CP will be the testing ground for my edgier stuff that i don't mind being on white, unisex tees.

thanks again!

veggie
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
well, this is REALLY funny! i received an e-mail saying there was a new response to this thread even mine was the last post and it was dated 9/8/06! i didn't see the new post, but i re-read mine, baum's, and rodney's, the last 3 posts. man! this is like a time capsule! here i am, almost 2 years later reading what i had written when i was just trying to figure out what i was going to do. LOL!! well, i had some ideas anyway. :)

things are sooo much different now than they were back in fall of 2006.

- i sold a limited run of one design that i had commissioned from a great designer i found here. i used a shirt that rodney suggested and was VERY happy. unfortunately, my wholesaler stopped carrying that shirt and i've had trouble finding it. too bad! it was a great tee!
- after sage advice from rodney, i gave one fulfillment company another try and never looked back. i opened a couple of stores, but have had problems getting traffic and sales. the selection of tees and colors are great, though, and everyone LOVES the red apon.
- i started my own private (local for now) baby line that i'm now selling at a local weekly craft fair in nyc. sooo cute! and i found the person i'm working with on the manufacturing from this forum! how cool is that? she was willing to work with me even though i had to start very, very, very small.
- at the urging of one of my designers, i downloaded a graphics program and i've been doing my own designs for about 6 months! i'm even selling some and making a little money. i also do custom designs for my mom and others looking for unique gifts. everyone has been pleased with their gifts, so the fulfillment company does a great job.
- i never did use PM or CP. i looked into using CP for the marketplace, but i would have to open a store to do it and a store is just too much work. but i might in the future, though.

so what i ended up doing is totally different from what i wrote in that post. but i'm happy that i'm FINALLY making a little money instead of just spending it. :) i'm going to be expanding locally, i think. but the fulfillment company has a great selection of tees of all colors and that was important to me.

but i might check out printmojo again. so, thanks, rodney, for this website! what a great documentation of the development of a t-shirt business!
 

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Well the way to go has to be to build interest off the site you host your T-shirt designs on and then drive traffic there. Whether you promote just your own designs (much higher profit margins) or affiliate link to other people's, there are few better ways to make money from the print on demand services out there.

Yes, you are fattening them up (must be hugely profitable for CP when you sell a shirt) and yes, you are losing out on other benefits such as capturing the customer's data, but for people like me, who are not "core" T-shirt business people (though it may gradually go that way!), this business model fits really well with other web publishing activities. Mainly because you can get as involved, or not, as you wish.
 

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This is a very good and interesting thread for people -- like me -- stuck in the planning stage!

Rodney, I am curious: why do you use so many different methods to print and sell your shirts? It seems to me that it would be difficult to keep everything straight (where do I direct this customer for that shirt? etc.) Is it a lot of juggling?

I have investigated a lot of different options and like PrintMojo the best. However, I am a bit nervous about the cost (initial investment in inventory + $3.50 per delivery -- I do understand the need for these things but...)

I have also looked at some Print on Demand companies and am drawn to PrintFection. They seem to be the least inexpensive to set up shop(s) and have the highest profit margin.

My plan is to set up shop within PrintFection and see if my designs sell. If they don't, I am not out much money (just the cost of advertisement, really). If they DO sell :D , I can migrate to PrintMojo -- better profit margin, better print quality (screen print vs. DTG), more products, embroidery options.

Then, as I develop new designs, test the market through PrintFection and migrate the winners to PrintMojo and retire the dogs.

Comments? Devil's Advocates?
You'd rather start from the beginning with a good quality, because you have to build up a name and an image, don't you think ?
 

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It varies. The real benefit to the print on demand services is the fact that there is no (or very little) cash outlay to start selling t-shirts. Another benefit is that you don't have to invest in equipmen, design/host a website, get ecommerce capabilities, etc.

You could put up a design today at cafepress/zazzle/spreadshirt/printfection and not pay a dime. If someone bought the shirt tomorrow, you could make $1-$10+ depending on your markup. If nobody bought a t-shirt, you wouldn't be out any money.



For lots of people it is. For lots of other people, they prefer to take more of the "risk" to get more of the "reward". Risk meaning either investing money in the equipment (heat press or screen printing equipment) and doing it themselves or having the shirts printed by a local screen printer and them handling the store design, warehousing, ecommerce, etc. The reward being the potential for higher profit margins.

If you have the knowledge, money, time, drive and desire to do it all yourself, then it might not be worth using a fulfillment company.

If don't want to buy equipment or you don't want to get a webhost, store t-shirts, design a site, get ecommerce setup, and just want to design and market t-shirts, a fulfillment company could be the way to go.

Before the fulfillment companies existed, you really only had the option of doing it yourself (either investing in the equipment or outsourcing the printing).

Like I said above, I use cafepress, zazzle, spreadshirt and printmojo. I also have t-shirts screen printed that I store at my house that I sell through a website that I designed myself, found hosting for, found a shopping cart for, applied for a merchant account, handle customer service, ship the shirts myself, etc.

Each method just fits a different business (or personal) need. I like the ease of use of cafepress/spreadshirt to put up a t-shirt design for sale in a few mintues. I like the screen printed quality of printmojo for some projects that I feel are worth the investment of buying inventory in advance. I like the control over seeing every t-shirt that goes out, knowing that I packed it with my marketing materials and knowing that if something went wrong with the order, I know exactly what happened, I know the customer's name, email, phone, and I know I can personally make it right. I like seeing all the details about an order and printing out labels and packaging shirts (sometimes :))

It all depends on which you think will fit best for your needs.



With the print on demand places like cafepress/spreadshirt, it can save the initial investment of buying inventory or buying equipment to do it yourself.

But they aren't screen printing on demand, they are using different printing technologies like heat press, direct to garment printing, vinyl tranfers, flock transfers, etc.

printmojo does screen print, but the main benefit over getting the shirts printed by a local printer and then having those shirts shipped to you so you can do the order packing etc, is that printmojo does the warehousing, online store creation, hosting, ecommerce processing, shipping, etc.

You could do all of that yourself and probably make a bit more. But it's back to the "risk"/"reward" thing. Lots of people do it themselves and probably earn more per shirt sold for their time investment. Others will choose to use a fulfillment company to go ahead and pay the fulfillment fee so they don't have to store shirts at their house or get webhosting or get ecommerce enabled.

With this forum, you can learn about how to do it any way you like :) Lots of people here do it all themselves (print the shirts with their own equipment) and are very successful at it.
Thanks Rodney. Your comments are as always well-informed and on-point. I would probably do a variation of the above except with Print Mojo; with them, I would host my own domain on my server allowing me to control the look and feel of the site while capturing vitals like email and names of prospects and buyers through registration.

You can also track surfers on your site with respect to their length of time on site, page impressions and other amazing stats. PM would only take over when checkout time happens, which, by the way is the most important step, so with that it's important to have software and accounting sensibilities to insure everything is on the up and up.;)

The only thing with PM is they mail you a check after (60?) days to cover money-back warranties but then again, imagine the nightmare of a one-man army having to refund a few unhappy customers? So I guess it could pan out for upstarts.

Thanks Rodney.
 
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