Ready to Grow: Starting a Custom Apparel and Decal Business


We all start somewhere. Robert L. Schwartz said, “The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and actualizer. He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.” If you’re here, it’s because you’ve visualized yourself starting a business in the custom apparel and decal industry. So, technically, you’ve done the biggest, bravest part by turning that vision into action.

It’s a huge commitment and leap of faith to start a business. You most likely have someone who depends and looks up to you. Maybe you’ve had people who have shot you down, or you’ve tried before and failed. That happens. It’s life. But you’ve stayed focused on starting your own business and your choices have brought you where you are. That’s a huge step and testiment to your will to succeed. Now, you just need so guidance on where to go from here. Having been where you are, I have some thoughts that may help.

How do you get started in this industry?

  • Research your demographic, equipment and supplies, software, and pricing
  • Purchase your start-up equipment based on your needs and ability, then learn everything you can
  • Utilize local free marketing and advertising sources like flyers, social media, and business partnership
  • Reach out to your community
  • Don’t give up, don’t stop learning

If you’ve done any research on The Rhinestone World, you most likely read how it started. From where TRW began, to where it is now, it wasn’t easy and still isn’t. The company looks at every marketing, financial, and service angle to grow, improve, and succeed. Point being, it’s an everyday process. But like we tell everyone, we did it and so can you.

The custom apparel and decal industry is your path of choice – and a great one at that! From vinyl decals to screen printing, the industry has seen annual growth over the past several years ranging from 1.3% to 8.7% ( research). The custom t-shirt printing market is expected to continue profitable growth of approximately $9.23 billion by 2023 (

Our industry is also considered the advertising and promotion industry, being able to create brands and apply a company’s brand to products, which is constantly growing. Use t-shirts as an example, according to ASI Central ( research, 54% of women and 46% of men own logoed t-shirts in the U.S., meaning 58% of U.S. consumers own promotional shirts. This information is great for business owners in the industry when speaking to customers about placing a company or organization logo on apparel. Some of your biggest customer accounts could potentially come from business-to-business orders (local businesses coming to your company to have t-shirts made to advertise).

There are tons of decisions to consider when starting a business. What’s your budget? Are you getting financed? Who is your target customer? Where will you advertise? What equipment should you buy first?

The Rhinestone World has made it as easy as possible to lay out the options for you to see a variety of starter kits, the materials and products in them, and how you can make a profit on the items in the kit, and even offer financing. We know you need your first purchase to bring in sales right away. In our modules, we break down the cost and what you can expect to see as a return on investment based on market trends and average retail costs in the industry.

But your products, even as creative and awesome as they may be, won’t sell themselves without getting your brand out there. You’re going to have to research and study your demographic – your customer base. Think about where you live, where you shop, how you shop, what drives your spending as a consumer. “Go where your customers are” may sound cliche’, but it’s good advice. For instance, if you live by the coast, you have a huge tourist market. You’ll want to consider nautical themed designs, colors, beach phrases, and plant your store or business image where there is bound to be heavy traffic. This same methodology applies to any region, any community, any demographic.

Another important question – will you have a retail space or an ecommerce based business? Where do you want to sell your items? Will you have pre-made inventory, custom items, or both? Will you have employees?

No matter what the answers are to these questions, the key is to be flexible. Give your customers what they want. Don’t limit yourself. Look to every opportunity of where you can gain customers or creative ideas. Keep learning – everything you can – about your customers, your area, trends in the industry, marketing, business, designing, materials…always keep learning.

With TRW, you’re not just buying a product to start your business. We are constantly growing and learning and sharing what we learn with our customers to keep them learning and growing. With more than 50,000 Youtube subscribers, thousands of hours of tutorials, and hundreds of training options a year, it’s pretty hard to fail once you’ve started with us. We spark ideas and imagination, urge you to keep growing, and will celebrate your successes with you.

There are about 28 starter kits to choose from in the TRW catalog, plus the option to customize and fit all your needs and goals. That’s a pretty great place to start. Are you ready?

“Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the results.” – Oscar Wilde


About Author

"It's awesome!" Matt Vassallo is the owner and CEO of The Rhinestone World, building the company from an entrepreneurial vinyl and rhinestone decal business he and his wife started in their home. As a teacher, Matt understands and appreciates what it means to empower others by providing knowledge and education to succeed in this industry. And if you haven't noticed, he's kind of a sports buff.

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