Starting Your Direct-To-Garment Business with JUKI & RICOH

Opening a small business is a fun and exciting venture, whether as a hobby to gain extra income or hopes for a new career. There are many reasons to look into starting a direct-to-garment (DTG) business. Maybe you’re someone who has a head full of great ideas, has friends who are always looking for custom t-shirts for their company events, or perhaps you’re someone who loves to design. Regardless of why, today, we’re going to discuss how to start your DTG business from including markets to sell to, tools to start, and how to sell your products.

Who’s Your Niche?

Before jumping into a DTG business, it’s crucial to think about whom you’re going to sell to, as this will set the basis for what you create and where you sell. So first, create a customer profile based on the following criteria: age, gender, lifestyle, location, profession, and occasion. You can also ask yourself what problem is this product solving for this customer? Examples of different customer profiles are listed below.

The Hobbyist

Have you ever found yourself looking for a t-shirt that captures your love for quilting? Nowadays, you can find a t-shirt for almost every interest due to small business artists who focus on creating products for these specific customers. So whether it’s sewists, car enthusiasts, or even cat owners, there’s a t-shirt for that. You can enter this segment by looking at the competitors’ designs and identifying what you can offer that is different. For example, the pet industry is a huge industry dominated by big brands. The competition is currently creating t-shirts with generic pet faces on them. You can differentiate your brand and create a unique segment of personalized, one-off t-shirts with customers’ pet’s faces on them. By targeting the right niche, you can create appealing products that bring revenue. 

Charity and Corporate Events

If you’re someone who’s attended a local charity or corporate event, you’ve probably received a t-shirt with a design related to that event. So whether it’s charity sports events, Christmas parties, or retreats, these events are a perfect niche to enter since there is a high volume of events and product quantity. 

Fashion

If you’re someone who leans towards creating and personalizing clothing, look into your own branded looks. With the ability to print onto canvas totes, sweaters, t-shirts, and more using a direct-to-garment printer, you can create your own branded line using the designs and patterns you’ve designed. There are always people looking to express themselves in unique and fun ways.

What Do You Need To Start?

Once you have your business plan that includes a niche and product line, it’s time to start looking at equipment. These are some basics you’ll need to think about:

  • A DTG Printer like the RICOH Ri 100
  • A Finisher or Heat Press like the RICOH Rh 100
  • Replacement Ink Cartridges 
  • Software and Computer
  • Materials

DTG Printer & Finisher

DTG Printing is a groundbreaking technology that surfaced in the ’90s. Like your home printers, a DTG will directly print onto an array of products like t-shirts, canvas bags, fabrics, and more using inkjet technology. Over the years, the fashion industry has seen a rise in those who want to wear personalized or unique garments. As a result, DTG is a growing industry, which is why it’s an excellent option for someone looking to begin their own small business.

A DTG printer like JUKI’s RICOH Ri 100 is an all-in-one DTG printer that can print images onto light-colored cotton or polyester* garments using state-of-the-art DTG technology with the lowest initial investment. In addition, there are various bundles available that offer the printer and finisher together or individually for your budget. We recommend contacting a local JUKI Business Plus Dealer for recommendations and pricing on bundles. Whether you purchase just the printer or the combo of printer and finisher, the turnaround when printing and heat pressing a t-shirt is about 3 to 10 minutes, creating a fast, low-cost turnaround.

Software & Drivers

There are two software’s you need to know about when starting your DTG business. The software you’re going to use to make the products, and the software you’re going to use to design the products.

For example, the RICOH Ri 100 offers easy-to-operate design software that lets you import and edit images before printing, with no specialized knowledge or skills required. In addition, the software comes with built-in designs and fonts. With the ability to print photos, designs, and more, this is a great option that removes a high learning curve.

In addition to the software that comes included with the printer, other affordable design software is available. For example, Paint.net, Paintshop pro, InkScape, and Gimp, are free or lost cost software that allows you to create art for your projects without breaking the bank. For a step up, look into the Adobe programs Illustrator or Photoshop. While these work on a monthly subscription, they’re both commonly used programs with many free and easy to follow guides you can use when starting.

The Supplies

Your customers will want to get a bang for their buck, so consider this when deciding on fabrics and product choices. Today, affordable, lightweight, heavyweight, 100% cotton, 100% polyester, and blended fabrics and blank products can be found on wholesale sites. Some examples of popular wholesale brands are Hanes and Anvil. When it’s to purchase, buying in large quantities reduces the cost of materials.

In addition, you can expand your business (like the personalized pet t-shirt we mentioned earlier) by introducing other products like pillowcases, tote bags, infant onesies, towels, and more. By branching from the t-shirt business, you can enter new markets and increase revenue.

Where to Sell

Once you’ve finalized your merchandise and have your products ready to go, look into your options for selling. Many options include online shops, in-person events like conventions and farmer’s markets, and brick-and-mortar stores. 

First, let’s discuss online shops. From creating your website to signing up for handmade marketplaces, there are various options. Before you are ready to commit, some platforms allow you to do a limited trial. The trial will enable you to test and research if this is right for your product. If you are comfortable creating a personalized website with a custom URL and have an established audience, we recommend website building and hosting companies like Squarespace and Wix. If you are looking for an all-in-one solution with high traffic volume but sacrificing a bit of branding, we recommend marketplaces like Amazon Handmade and Etsy. Whether you go for your website or an established e-commerce platform, each option requires sellers to pay either for a custom URL, listings, transaction, or payment processing fees.

Are you someone that loves to interact with others? Then, another great option is in-person events! Research local events in your area where you can have a tent or a booth. Are you selling custom cat t-shirts? Attend a local pet convention. Events like your local weekend farmer market or a yearly convention are great places to start. The great thing about JUKI’s RICOH Ri 100 is how portable it is, meaning you can take it with you! The RICOH Ri 100 can fit into a space as small as 15.7″ wide x 27.5″ deep, making it one of the smallest DTG printers. In addition, the printer and its finisher can be stacked to maximize functionality without sacrificing space so that you can create custom pieces on site. 

**Some states or cities will require a business license, so keep this in mind when applying for your stand.

How to Sell

Once you’ve finalized who, what and where it’s time to start thinking about how you will market your products. One of the best ways to get your products and brand out there is by utilizing social media. The best thing about social media is that it is free! Some platforms do offer paid advertisement options for your posts. Below are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Look into creating multiple social media channels for your shop (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tiktok, and so on.)
  2. Think of your niche and what platforms they use for marketing on
  3. Define your marketing goals (build brand awareness, generate sales, or engage with customers)
  4. Post content daily when possible
  5. Interact with your followers

Social media is used by millions of people every day, making it a great tool to attract customers. Take advantage and put your brand out there!

Now that you know the basics of where to start, we hope you have a clearer vision of where you want your business to go. Direct to garment is a growing business where creativity and being different is a great thing! So what more do you want to know about the DTG business? Let us know down below!

JUKI Designer Ambassador: Adolfo Sanchez

Introducing Adolfo Sanchez, designer, and owner of the Adolfo Sanchez brand. Based in Los Angeles and focused on creating luxury designs, he founded his brand in June 2015. His fashion and style take you on a journey to a world of freedom where women dare to be strong and different. Understanding how saturated the fashion world has become, he shows people that there are still unique options available and his creations are one of them. 

Adolfo’s career started in 2006, where he began to grow his business into a brand that offers custom, ready-to-wear, accessories, bridal, and couture. His gowns are different from those commonly found in the Los Angeles area, focusing on luxury wear. Focusing on the intricacy and hand-beaded designs that need unique craftsmanship when creating his pieces, his gowns are bold and unique, perfect for those wishing to be different.

“I would have never thought that I would have ended up in this industry, but it just feels so right that I know it was meant to be,”

Getting to his current position in the fashion industry by taking risks and learning new techniques, Adolfo is constantly pushing his brand to the next level. By staying true to his passions and fighting for his final vision when creating, he’s able to present pieces he’s proud of. Thankful to his team, including seamstresses, pattern makers, and factory workers, he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support he received along the way and his motivation to create awe-inspiring pieces.

“I’m inspired by everything – people, places, music, and there is so much more to do that I sometimes wonder if I have become obsessed with this industry.”

We are so excited to have Adolfo on board. Follow along with our social media as we continue to update you on Adolfo and our other ambassadors! Learn more about Adolfo and our Ambassador team here https://jukiquilting.com/ambassadors today.

JUKI Designer Ambassador: Kiki Kitty

Introducing Kiki Kitty, owner, and designer of K. Milele, as one of our new JUKI Designer Ambassadors! A member of the fashion industry since the ’90s, where she started off with FUBU’s womenswear, Kiki Kitty is a force to be reckoned with.

One of five siblings, Kiki grew up in a home where she and her family would focus on creating everyday items to stay entertained. Creating projects like ragdolls, pillows, and slippers, she was inspired by her mother, who found art in everything. Taught by her mother, Kiki would create using natural pieces like pinecones and other found items to create projects like home décor whenever inspiration struck. Through these small projects that Kiki learned how to build her creative eye, assisting her for years to come when it was time for her to design fashion.

Finding sewing as another art medium, her first lesson was thanks to her mother. A fun activity for her and her siblings, Kiki would complete little projects to train herself on the machine and work her way up on project size and complexity. One of her favorite parts about sewing has been the freedom to explore new techniques and concepts. Through her excitement to learn, she sees each mistake as an opportunity to learn something new.

“I love when a mistake turns into the greatest thing about a garment because it forced me to have to look at it in a new way.”

Kiki’s love for the hobby has grown, leading her into the fashion industry in the ’90s as a designer for FUBU, a women’s streetwear fashion line. Motivated by her need to artistically express herself, she finds the process to be therapeutic. Seeing this as a way to express her thoughts was her first step in learning to express herself. “It took me a very long time to find my voice, to verbally express myself, and to stand up for myself. Expression through art was always my outlet. And even now that I’ve discovered my voice, creating remains to be my most powerful expression.”

While her time at FUBU led to her first brand K.A.Kitties, a venture she’s proud and fond of, her most tremendous success was only recently accomplished in her latest fashion collection K.Milele, “This is My Protest.” Using her JUKI machines, our MO-20000QVP, and HZL-NX7, she states she was finally able to create a collection that is 100% her self-expression. With the opportunity to explore prints, patterns, and textures, she hopes to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces representing her and those she designs for.

Her newest collection has trends like gathering, a favorite of Kiki’s since the ’90s. Loving how the final product looks, she finds it’s a simple technique that elevates the simple styles into sexy numbers, something her line embodies. Loving anything that creates fabric manipulation is her favorite trend in sewing. A must-have tool she keeps on hand for these projects is her tweezers. Allowing her told the fabric in place and keeping her fingers away from the machine after one terrible accident in her time at Pratt University when she first began sewing on industrial machines, she finds this tool to be a finger saver.

From FUBU to her current collection, Kiki’s journey in sewing is far from over. We hope you enjoyed getting to know our ambassador today and that you keep up with her future projects! Kiki’s new collection can be found on her socials here, and we’re so excited to see her projects come to life! Kiki’s final note to you JUKI lovers is this, “When you’re trying it [sewing] out, don’t get frustrated about making mistakes. Often mistakes make way for the opportunity to be creative and discover that there’s more than one way to achieve a great outcome. Even if it’s not the idea, you started with. Be flexible. See the beauty in what’s in front of you.”

JUKI Designer Ambassador: Kovid Kapoor

Today we’re introducing a new addition to the JUKI team, Kovid Kapoor, one of our new JUKI Designer Ambassadors! Based in Brooklyn, New York, Kapoor is an Indian fashion designer that focuses on the luxury and high-end fashion market. Holding an impressive background in fashion, Kapoor has won the National Textile Corporation’s Young Designer Hunt competition in India, completed his master’s in fashion design from the Academy of Art University, and was a contestant on the 17th season of Project Runway. So it’s no surprise his work has gone on to be featured in well-known fashion titles like Elle USA, Elle India, and Vogue Italia. Follow along as we share more about Kovid and his life in fashion below!

Photo Credit: Kovid Kapoor

Starting at a very young age, Kovid learned how to hand sew from his grandmother. Finding love for art, he continued to be passionate about the hobby through his teenage years and adult life. During the foundation years of his bachelor’s degree, Kovid started using sewing machines in his work. As Kovid shares, “It was one of the most crucial subjects and essential skills to develop a successful garment.”

Kovid’s brand is a small-scale brand that believes in creating dynamic clothing to find a healthy balance between art and viable commercial product. Inspired by tales and stories that celebrate feminine and LGBTQ stories, he believes fashion should represent an individual’s identity and be used as a form of self-expression. Focusing on contemporized pieces with a traditional twist, his line is relaxed yet helps buyers feel confident in their look. His motivation for creating his pieces is a therapeutic process, “What motivates me to create is to project and express my thoughts and creative aspirations through fashion and clothing. It’s a therapeutic process of self-reflection, and every collection helps me evolve not just in my creative space but also my emotional space.”

Besides his fashion brand, Kovid has accomplished great success in the art world of fashion. His favorite art piece to date was a conceptual art wear garment inspired by the Mask Project Series, in collaboration-with Akshit Bhardwaj. This art piece was an enlarged garment version of a mask, designed with three-dimensional details. Enjoying the organic process of the garment creation and the carefree approach with which they followed, the final pieces reflected their experience in the creative process. Another art piece, one he claims as his greatest success, was for an installation in the Asian Art Museum vault. A 12-foot tall saree dress tent made for art directors Adrienne Pao and Robin Lasser, designed with bright colors and traditional style. Click here to view the art piece!

Photo Credit: Kovid Kapoor

Currently, Kovid is working on his upcoming collection all constructed on his trusted Juki machine. A must-have tool, Kovid shares a good sewing machine is worth the investment because of its importance in elevating the speed and efficiency of his work. Describing the upcoming collection as something new and fresh, he’s beyond thrilled to showcase the new line once completed. With a passion for his work, Kovid’s love for sewing comes from the process of creating. “There is something very rewarding about constructing something yourself. It adds a personal touch to an otherwise store-bought world.”

As we finished getting to know Kovid, he had one final tidbit of advice for new sewers in the community, “The key to success in sewing is consistency and practice. Sewing is a skill that is finessed with practice and time so it’s completely fine if the initial projects don’t work the important thing is to keep practicing.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Kovid Kapoor! Follow along as we continue to join Kovid in his fashion journey, and visit us here to learn more about Kovid and our other designers!

JUKI Designer Ambassador: Kentaro Kameyama

Today we’re introducing a new member to the JUKI family, Kentaro Kameyama, a fashion designer. Japanese-born, Kentaro is based in Los Angeles, California, whose fashion focuses on minimalism and style. His concept is “keep your life simple and stylish.”

We are so excited to bring him on board as a JUKI Designer Ambassador and wanted to share more about him so our JUKI Lovers can get to know him!

NYFW – 2018

Kentaro’s inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere. He enjoys finding those special moments in life and creating his art from within. With a background in classical music, Kentaro’s style brings elegance to a manner that is still minimalist but stylish. His motivation is simple, “I don’t feel right when I’m not creating things.”

His favorite projects to work on are runway collections. No stranger to the runway, Kantaro has been featured in New York Fashion Week for his winning collection in “Project Runway” in 2018, NYFW Spring 2020, and NYFW Winter 2020. However, Kentaro states his most tremendous success in his career has been winning “Project Runway” season 16, as this was his entrance into the “in” crowd of the fashion world.

His Project Runway collection was true to himself. Embodying his style of minimalism, he created 10 looks that were presented to the judges. Every day, he saw a new way to find inspiration and built the project with his plans in mind. He would go on to win the season with his winning looks and would go on to present his collection at his first NYFW.

NYFW -2019

Kentaro moved on from NYFW to a new project, composing and designing an opera show on Alexander McQueen. Recounting the final hour of the designers’ life, the opera was hosted in Boston in 2019. Kentaro, besides composing and designing, also joined in as the piano player for the show. Stating this as his favorite project to have worked on, he showcased outfits from the show in NYFW later on.

As Kentaro continues his journey, we ask him what his favorite part about sewing is, and we bet you JUKI Lovers would agree; it’s the sound of the machines. Kentaro has loved everything about his sewing experience and is excited for the future of his work. He also has a few words of advice for those new to sewing, “make lots of mistakes.”

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Kentaro, our new JUKI Designer Ambassador, and we can’t wait to share more of his work in the future! Follow along here for more news on our ambassadors!

Which outfit was your favorite? Let us know below!