What I’ve Learned After Running My Own Business For Three Years

My t-shirt shop is celebrating three years this week. I never thought I’d be a “T-Shirt Lady,” yet here I am. But when I look back,  I have to admit it makes sense. The writing was always on the wall. I was the one who demanded to be in charge of making shirts for my friends in middle school, then my basketball team in high school, keg race shirts in college…

SHOP

So like I said, I suppose it was always my destiny.

Three years ago when I printed my first shirt, my goal was to sell twenty. Then fifty. Then a hundred. I wanted to “ride this t-shirt thing out” for at least three months. Wouldn’t that be fun, I remember thinking to myself. I could really be my own boss finally!


Never did I imagine it would carry me for this long. Second only to my blog (and being Harlow’s dog walker) it’s the longest I’ve held a job before… (I have authority problems, remember?)

I’ve learned over the years that a lot of people want to sell t-shirts. I say this because they tend to email me, asking how to do it. At least four times a week I get the email that says, “I’ve got this great idea for a shirt, but don’t know where to start…”

So here’s my advice. You just do. Go out on that limb and do it. We live in the days of the internet, so any info you want is available. Figure out a printing service (by googling.) Then figure out what kind of shirt you want to print on (by looking in your closet.) I looked at the soft cozy shirts I already owned and went from there. My advice is don’t go cheap on the quality of shirts. I hate when I order online and the shirt comes in and it feels like a free shirt you’d get at a football game for signing up for a new credit card. Don’t do that, stay away from the cheap shit.

click here for shirt.

When you know what brand of shirt you’d like to use, then you just have to pull the trigger and do it. My first order was for twenty shirts. I put all of them on my credit card because I couldn’t afford to do it any other way. I was nervous as hell I’d end up with 20 shirts sitting in a box in my closet no one wanted to buy.

Luckily, that didn’t happen. However three years later, I have far more than 20 shirts sitting in my closet…

Which brings me to some of the struggles of being a tshirt lady: INVENTORY. Managing inventory is so hard for me. Ordering it every Monday makes my stomach drop. Am I over-ordering? Under-ordering? It’s never easy for me. Every time I think I have a system down something seems to pop up out of nowhere and throw me off completely. I am not an organized person and that does not bid well for this job.

Struggle number two, (the biggest struggle of all for me,) is the nature of the t-shirt business in general- which means people take whatever they want. I give myself a pat on the back about this one because I’ve really mellowed in this area. (Or have tried to at least.) I don’t take things as personal, or go ape shit when I see something I created being used by someone who isn’t me, I just know it’s the business.

Simply because I choose to come up with my own designs, doesn’t mean everyone else does. Of course I’d like them to… But sadly I don’t get to make the rules for every single t-shirt business that exists. Bummer, I know.

*However I do go ape shit when people not only steal my ideas, but also my photos, that’s too much for me.* Like for example the leg pic you see above, it’s been used nearly 100 times on other sites to sell products that aren’t mine. I stopped keeping track at 100. It got tiresome and filled me with too much negative energy. My only small victory is the fact that pic has a blatant stain on that specific shirt, which brings me a chuckle. (It’s to the left of the AF.) So nice job stealing that pic, idiots.


I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter. I’m not bitter.

I simply know that when I release a new shirt and spend a lot of time and money to market the hell out of it, it will only be mine for a matter of weeks. (Sometimes days. Sometimes even just hours.) It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. My only solution is to constantly come up with new stuff and hope it takes.

Admittedly, I got really lucky being the first to slap “MARRIED AF”on a shirt. And yes, it hurts to look at my sales last year compared to this year for those specific tops since a million other stores sell it now, but what can you do. I can’t rest on only having “that one great shirt,” or my business would never survive.

*That said, please buy 100 Married AF tops for all of your friends getting married because it pains my heart.*

Moving right along…

Just like with blogging, or writing, really anything in life, there’s no “secret to success,” or “that one thing you have to do,” to create your own business that lasts for three years rather three months. From what I’ve learned, there’s a shit ton things you have to do. And you have to do them over and over and over.

You have to hustle. And grind. And handle the anxiety of the unknown and what-ifs. You have to stay up late, get up early, do your research, see what the others are doing and do it better. Spend money on ads and marketing and collabs. Watch tutorials. Read articles. Try new things. Don’t be afraid of failure because it’s going to happen a lot. (More than you want.) But after all of the failure will come the success.

I know that’s not what most people want to hear when they ask me about my business, and maybe there is a better way or “that one thing you have to do,” and I simply don’t know it.

All I can tell you is what I’ve done. And keep in mind I never took a single business class in college, I didn’t get any of my info from a “tshirt lady,” I’ve simply figured it out as I’ve gone along. Trial and error. Lots of it.

And most importantly, I’m not ignorant to the fact 95% of the success I’ve found is because of this blog. Because of people like you, who choose to buy from me, when there’s millions of other choices out there. So there’s that. (And that’s a big one.)

SHOP

That’s all I’ve got for today. Thank you for three years of support! Seriously, thank you! Which also means three years of shameless plugs on this site you’ve graciously allowed.

Like clear bags for game days, AMIRIGHT? The clear bag policy in stadiums this year is a big thing, but I’ve got you covered!


To read a more in-depth post about starting a tshirt business click here.

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