T-shirts are a boom, a staple. They’re soft, comfortable, easy to design, wear and style.
T-shirt isn’t a limited niche, so you can sell your t-shirts anywhere to any person in the world.
T-Shirts reflect buyers personalities and interests. Investing in a t-shirt business won’t create a dent in your pocket because it’s a low-cost business.
You have to know that before getting into the t-shirt business, the competition is fierce.
You must not get turned off from the competition if you love t-shirts because the potential income is sweet and promising.
Build a brand and start from a niche to find your success.
In this article, you’re going to learn how to begin a t-shirt empire, choosing and why a niche is important, why T-shirts sell a lot and the reason your design and quality must be top-notch.
You’re also going to learn not only how to build a t-shirt empire but to market your t-shirts using social media and why creating a website for your t-shirt brand establishes you as a guru.
The biggest resource for this article came from Oberlo, How to Start an Online Tshirt Business in 7 Steps in 2020
Some of the ideas are mine, even though I haven’t sold so many t-shirts yet. I hope you find insight in beginning your T-shirt empire in Kenya.
And go on to create corporations or even start a 3D t-shirt firm.
How to Build Your Million-Shilling a Month T-shirt Empire From Home in Kenya
Choose and start from a niche
What’s a t-shirt niche? A t-shirt niche is an area of specialisation.
When you choose a niche, it becomes easier to get recognised and establish yourself as a guru.
When I started working online, I heard of the word niche a lot. I hated it when I found out what it meant – to specialise, to focus on one thing.
If I can do many things, why focus on one? As years rolled by, I realised it’s better to do one thing, get the best at it then move onto another.
When you begin designing t-shirts, start with a niche. Sometimes, a niche can be a miss or a hit. Therefore, it’s important to know your market and what they want.
The most popular niches/categories surround health and wellness, very niche markets like gay Tshirts.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you have a passion for it.
No matter what people tell me about passion, if I wasn’t passion-driven, I wouldn’t be here.
I have also learnt, you can only take people’s opinion, do what’s best for you and your business.
Keep in mind, persistence and patience are what make for historic entrepreneurs.
You also have to ask if this is a side hustle or a full-time income. I have seen when business owners call their businesses side hustles, they don’t pay much attention to it.
Tips for Finding a Niche for Your Tshirt Business in Kenya
The following are top tips for finding a niche for your t-shirt business in Kenya and they include the following:
Validate your designs on Facebook
If you’re on Facebook, I recognise not everyone is on Facebook, share your idea for a t-shirt niche you have in mind. See how people react to it.
Consider your interests and communities you belong to
What do you love or what communities do you support big time? I’m unapologetically a gay activist.
I’d join gay communities on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit to see what gay men and women are wearing or saying about t-shirts.
Then design one for them, and that way, I have been able to sell at least 100 or more t-shirts.
Reddit helps a lot when checking for the subreddits/niches
I have come to love Reddit, I actually thought it was a porn site. It does sound like one.
You can find your niche by checking subreddits or scrolling/searching with terms like r/gay, r/entrepreneurship. T
hen participate in the Reddit community a lot, you know, Redditors are known to be quite supportive to would-be entrepreneurs.
Your first customer may come from there.
What are your popular hobbies?
What are those leisure activities you find yourself pursuing or thinking about? I find in my leisure time thinking of love and craft.
I decided to begin writing romantic novels even though I don’t read romance novels. So, your hobbies may help you find a niche.
Avoid overcrowded niches
Overcrowded niches are all niches, honestly. There’s no niche that’s not crowded. Simple, narrow down and find your voice and audience.
Find the total search volume on Google or Amazon
Check the competition
What is the competition doing and not doing? Who are your competitors? It may take time to stand out from your competitors but always add your little spice or uniqueness to t-shirts.
Find the number of sellers on sites like Amazon or Etsy
Don’t skimp on your quality
You will learn this too soon that quality matters over quantity. If you’re using a P.O.D make sure to choose a t-shirt that sells but isn’t selling at a steep price.
The good thing, they show best-selling t-shirts. The material/fabric determines the price of the t-shirt, remember that. Use different fabrics and see what customers react to positively.
Have a variety of designs and colours
The most loved t-shirt colours are black, grey, white, blue.
How many active communities are there online for the t-shirt niche you chose?
Pay attention to your design
If you’re using print on demand services like Printify or Printful, ensure that you design on a transparent background (PNG) and that the print area is large enough because printer and printing techniques are different.
Always save your print files.
You can design your t-shirts on Canva, Photoshop if you’re a photoshop wiz.
A Kind Note: Does photoshop work in Kenya, I have tried severally in vain, even editing videos in Adobe Premiere pro became a nightmare. Kindly tell me if you sell (genuine retailers in Kenya).
You have to pay attention to the material/ t-shirt fabric
In other words, the quality of your t-shirt matters. You cannot have your t-shirt printed on cheap, fading fabric and expect to get sales.
On Printify, they show you the best/most used t-shirts and the most expensive ones.
Know your market and what they are willing to pay a t-shirt for. Most t-shirts sell from $8 – 50 choose wisely.
I have heard some people say, they can never buy a $50 t-shirt in Kenya or even a $20/2000k shilling t-shirt, they’d rather buy a purse.
Who’s your market, do you know how much they’re willing to pay for your products?
Every t-shirt company online/offline needs to do proper branding
Most small business owners in Kenya, don’t have a story of why they got started.
When you see a t-shirt company on Biashara Street (I’m guessing don’t know much about Nairobi or Biashara Street), the doors all look the same, there’s no branding.
Your brand sets you apart and that’s why a niche helps you to define your brand. For example, if you identify what your niche is, now find a name.
A business name shouldn’t be too rigid that it restricts you from future expansion and it shouldn’t be too broad that your customers don’t know what you do.
Now, invest some time in a logo.
You can design your logo in hours on Canva, you can always change later.
Now, a brand needs a story.
Why did you get started?
What motivated you?
Why did you choose quality t-shirt over quantity and why did you choose a particular design?.
Where do you see yourself in the t-shirt design industry in a decade?
Tell human relatable stories, you’re not a robot.
People get engaged with the story then your brand.
Many Kenyan entrepreneurs forget, their brand isn’t the business but them.
How you carry yourself is the brand.
You cannot focus on branding and forget customer service
Please, every time I think of creative business owners, I think of the skimping on customer service.
You’re an introvert naturally, you care and protect your designs and can talk about your designs for hours.
Remember when you opened a shop, you opened for customers, right?
Stop hiding, get out there, answer questions about your designs and why you chose them.
Speak to your customers not as if they’re wasting your time, gear to educate, add value to their lives.
They’ll not only purchase but grow your business through the word of mouth.
Customer service is often overlooked by all businesses, small or big or corporations, don’t. Pay attention.
And after all customer service is all about listening, pay attention.
Use Influencer marketing
This is the new way of marketing where you use social media influencers, pay them a certain sum of money to make your product get in the eyes of many people.
Before engaging the services of an influencer, ensure they’re in the same market as yours or niche.
You want an influencer who will hype about your product and bring in sales plus provide value for your money and not one with fake followers.
Check the engagement of the influencer before engaging them by thoroughly examining their comment section.
If most of the comments are like, ‘so good’ without anything else or any sentence of value, look again – those may be fake followers.
You want an influencer who engages his/her followers and is enthusiastic about a product.
Learn from your competition
In every industry no matter how niche the market is, there must be competition.
Competition comes from mass-produced Chinese products or useless dumping by companies in Europe.
You should watch what your competitors are doing.
I have learnt there’s no market for sharing good work from home messages in Kenya, I face competition from news media who write anything newsworthy but have no real interest in working or learning how work from home works in Kenya and opportunities available.
I also face competition from bloggers. How do I position myself in the sea of competition?.
That’s what you need to ask yourself. To stand out from the competition you are going to be a stalker.
Find out what these competitors are saying or what is their marketing message and how do they relay this message to their readers or in this case, other t-shirt buyers.
Are these t-shirt companies supporting a cause?
Nowadays, supporting a cause by a business is one of the reasons to get repeat customers.
Find out what the story of the brand competitor is.
What are the colours that appeal the most to their buyers, for example?
Check the reviews about previous purchasers, if the bigger brand doesn’t pay attention to customer service, ensure your customer service is the best ever and communicate that you’re here for the customer’s needs.
You want to see what the brand isn’t doing then introduce it in your business. It’s why and how Apple stands out.
You can never give up
In every blog post about beginning an online business, I keep insisting that you can never ever give up.
Honestly, the competition is fierce, the market may look small, you hear/read buyer discouraging stories and next you know – I cannot do this. Don’t.
Think of why you started, keep learning and read success stories of other entrepreneurs and what they did when they were about to give up.
What’s your target market, how to identify it and niching out?
Your target market, not to be confused with the niche market differs a bit.
Target market is about you knowing your ideal customer: where they live, their disposable income, lifestyle, how much they’re willing to pay for your t-shirts and above all their location. It’s answering to the needs of your customers without you seeing them.
On the other hand, a niche market is how narrow, how specific you’re willing to go after identifying your target market.
By the way, if you’re going to use Facebook ads for driving traffic, you will learn that knowing about your ideal client for your t-shirts, is crucial for you to make a t-shirt sale.
How do you plan to sell your t-shirts?
This is the part you ask, who your ideal customer is and where they hang out.
Are you going to sell to corporates, individuals?
Are you going to sell wholesale or retail prices?
What’s your customer’s method of payment? Via cash, Mpesa or debit/credit card? These are some of the questions you need to address while learning about your ideal customer then it’ll be easier to sell your t-shirts.
Online or Offline store?
Would you love to start your store offline or online? Or both? I’d say to begin your store online as a POD store.
A Print on Demand, means you design the t-shirt print on Photoshop/Canva or another graphic design medium.
Now open a Shopify store/Bigcommerce/3Dcart store, upload your designs.
Every time a buyer makes an order, you place an order and Printify/Printful (a Print on Demand company), fulfils your order.
This way, you’re saving your time and headache about understanding shipping.
The only investment you do is marketing, your time and opening a Shopify store which you can open for free for 14 days to help you test the market.
How do you create your t-shirt designs?
You can get hired help from Fiverr or Upwork.
Make sure to communicate your needs before hiring anyone on any freelancing sites.
Check to see what the freelancers’ portfolios have to offer, like the diversity of the work the freelancer has done.
You can learn how to create designs or buy ready-made designs from websites like Creative Market, ensure you read the copyright and some designs you have to purchase the commercial licence.
Read all the information provided carefully. You can buy designs from Etsy too.
You can check what’s selling well on Google trends, Zazzle Bestsellers and Zazzle popular, Redbubble popular, Pinterest t-shirt designs, Ahrefs, KissTrends.
Don’t forget to have your t-shirts displayed on Mockups (a model version of you in your t-shirts but online) so that people see how the design looks and how it drapes on the model before purchase.
There are several t-shirt printing techniques you’re going to pay attention to include
Screen printing which produces lasting results
Heat transfer where you transfer your t-shirt design from computer to fabric using an iron.
This is a technique I used a lot when making tutu skirts. It produced very nice colours and it is effective.
Direct to a garment which produces quality images and is cost-effective as well. Choose what technique you want for your business. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
How do you know what t-shirt designs people will buy?
Every business has its questions and what causes an entrepreneur to lack sleep.
In printing t-shirts and especially custom-designed t-shirts, you spend nights wondering what customers will buy.
You can design, ship the t-shirt, at discounted costs when you’re on Printful or Printify, to see how it fits or washes.
Market on your social media pages, on Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook, the visual social media.
Do a review of the t-shirt, the good, bad, ugly.
You can show your t-shirt prints/designs on Reddit, a well-engaged community where you get honest true feedback and very encouraging remarks and even orders.
Be honest about any difficulties or doubts you have so you get honest feedback.
In conclusion, before beginning a t-shirt company, you have to identify your niche and your target market.
A niche market is your area of specialisation and a target market being the ideal customer you want to wear your t-shirt.
You also have to utilise social media like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and yourself to verify whether your customers love the t-shirt design.
Don’t forget to add as much personality (branding) even while using a Print on Demand service like Printify/Printful.
Begin from your t-shirt store online with Shopify/Printify store to minimise your start-up costs.
A t-shirt business is an example of a business you can create from home, without many startups headaches and grow an empire from.
Are you hoping to begin a t-shirt business from home in Kenya with no money? Do you need help getting started?