When student Ben Francis started selling screen printed clothing from his garage 6 years ago, he would never have thought his startup would grow into one of the biggest brands in fitness. Today, Gymshark is supported by millions of social media followers and boasts customers from over 130 different countries.
Success stories like Gymshark’s demonstrate that setting up your own business at University is definitely possible and may lead to massive success. Being at University is a great time to set up your own business- University students have more free time, fewer commitments and there are a wealth of resources and organisations designed solely to support young entrepreneurs.
Selling t-shirts online has become a popular business model and offering a customisable aspect by printing personalised designs is a great USP. For University students, starting a t-shirt printing business is an inexpensive way to start a business while studying.
Here are 5 tips for starting a t-shirt printing business while at University:
Don’t worry if you’re not currently taking a business or marketing course, as there may be optional entrepreneurship classes you can take at University to train you for the world of business and give you startup advice.
There are many resources on the web to learn how to run a t-shirt printing business and more pointedly how to create customised prints, including this insightful blog post on how to embroider logos on workwear.
For setting up a t-shirt printing business it is important to do research into the industry and competitors as well as into the potential market. When it comes to the t-shirt printing industry, there are a wide range of potential customers so be sure to think about who exactly you want to be selling to.
Create a business plan
Creating a business plan is an important part of setting up a new business as it is a good way to explore the feasibility of your new business and is essential if you will be seeking out external financing.
As part of planning for the business make sure to:
- Establish the mission of your company
- Know where you will obtain your raw materials from
- Analyse the competition and know how will you make your brand stand out from other t-shirt companies
- Think about how you will market the business
- Identify your target market
- Do some financial projections, for example a sales forecast
Secure start-up funding
There are many ways to raise startup funding including business incubators and accelerators, angel investors and venture capital firms, and investment from friends or relatives.
Consider researching into small business grants as there are thousands of grant schemes in action across the UK and many will be eligible for University entrepreneurs.
The main sources of grants are from the UK government, the European Union and your local authority but they are also offered by Universities, charities and corporates. It is worth researching into all of these before making a decision.
Another great source of funding is the Prince’s Trust which is the country’s leading youth charity programme, who offer financial help and business support for entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Another financing option is The Start Up Loans Company which is a government-backed scheme helping individuals start or grow a business in the UK. The Start Up Loans Company allows you to borrow up to £25,000 to start a business for a low fixed interest rate of 6% per annum.
Create a support network
Search out support channels such as your University’s business resources and alumni network. You could also reach out to other entrepreneurs and local businesses to gain advice on entrepreneurship and useful contacts. Research into any meetup groups and network/ startup events in your area to widen your network.
Use free resources
To save you money be sure to make use of any free resources, including those provided by your University. Your University may have databases, contacts, workshops, and more that you can use while still studying.
Another great asset is the people around you- fellow students, lecturers, tutors etc. Reaching out to others for advice or opinions can be of great use when setting up a business and you may even find a business partner.
There are also a few charitable organisations which you can use such as the The National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE). The NACUE is an organisation for students in enterprise and has a UK network of over 260 students and enterprises. They support and connect student entrepreneurs through student-led enterprise societies, practical programmes and events.