Starting Your Own Home-Based Apparel Line

Home Business Magazine Online

Henry Ma, second-generation CEO of Ricoma International Corporation

According to Fundera, half of American businesses are home-based. And as the Great Resignation continues, inflation rates rise, and both hybrid and remote work arrangements make side hustles more doable, economists expect even more to convert their homes into miniature factories.

As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial and household embroidery machines, Miami-based Ricoma International Corporation has helped countless entrepreneurs launch their home-based businesses. Henry Ma, its second-generation CEO, says that the company is seeing unprecedented interest from entrepreneurs and social media influencers who want to start their own apparel line from home. Over the decades, Ricoma has expanded its reach to over 160 countries worldwide. Ma says that this tremendous success and multi-national expansion has been fueled by Ricoma’s simple mission to enable small business owners to find success in the custom apparel industry.

“With work-from-home and social media, people have the ability to not only start a business from home and make their day job the side hustle; they also have a chance to build their own brand by reaching out directly to followers,” says Ma, who often communicates with his customers on YouTube. “It’s a very exciting time, but anyone interested in starting a home-based apparel business should be aware that it also requires a lot of preparation.”

Start by Defining Your Target Audience

According to Ma, custom apparel entrepreneurs first need to define their target audience. That’s because custom clothing and accessories is a vast industry with an equally large number of competitors, from fast-fashion giants to local boutiques.

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“You first need to know what garments your potential customers like to wear,” Ma says. “Style is also extremely important. Keep in mind that different demographics and even different regions of the same country will have different tastes.”

The more you know about your customers, he adds, the more specific you can get with your marketing. With so many existing brands and so many influencers selling their own merch, carving out a specific niche is essential. Even if you have thousands of followers — or more — your apparel needs to stand out and stand on its own.

Choose a Decorating Method That Best Suits Your Specific Budget or Business Model

Home-based businesses generally operate on tight budgets, so Ricoma has invested a lot of time and energy helping them find the best bang for their buck. For new entrepreneurs, Ma advises investing in equipment that generates the largest return on investment, or ROI.

“Whether your manufacturing method is going to be embroidery, printing, or anything else is really going to depend on the amount of money you’re willing and able to invest up front,” he says. “And heat-transfer printing is one of the cheapest and easiest decorating methods for beginner apparel decorators.”

According to Ma, home-based business owners can expect to make thousands of dollars every month using just a heat press. “These machines are cheap, easy to use, durable, and very versatile,” he explains. “They also give you a variety of different decorating options, from buying and pressing pre-printed designs to applying designs directly using a direct-to-garment (DTG) printer.”

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Take Advantage of Free/Cheap Marketing Whenever and Wherever Possible

Many popular apparel businesses have sprung from viral social media posts, memes, and popular accounts. Ma says that this works to the advantage of home-based businesses by leveling the playing field.

“Even if the audience is relatively small, you can still show off your projects, stay connected with your customers, and display reviews from happy customers, all with zero ad spend. And there’s always the possibility of going ‘viral’ or at least of being shared across similar accounts,” he explains.

Ma recommends creating inexpensive product samples that can be given out for free to try and drum up business, not unlike those popular sampling tables at Costco. But, he says, don’t forget that there is a non-virtual world out there also.

“Even wearing your own garments out and about, especially in a big, trendy city like Miami, will attract a lot of interest,” he asserts. “Whatever the medium, word-of-mouth will do wonders for growing and marketing your new home-based apparel line.”

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