How I Started My Handmade Business + 5 Tips on Setting up Your Own Craft Business in 2021


This is how I started my handmade business for screen printing. Learn how to turn your hobby into a work from home business with my top 5 tips on setting up your own business.

I started my business while I was still in college. I went to Cornish College of the Arts for Graphic Design and I took a workshop on screen printing. I instantly fell in love and knew that that was what I wanted to do for my senior thesis project. I launched my business the night of our senior show and did really well so I decided it was time to make it into a full-time thing.

The very first thing I did was I bought a screen printing kit with my tax return that year. The kit was about $500 total. This is the first screen printing press I bought back in 2006, it cost about $200 as part of the bundle kit. The reason why it was so affordable is that it is a tabletop press. I bought a shelf unit from home depot and put it on top of that. This press uses magnets to hold the screens up. It's much more affordable than getting a new press that has micro registration and shocks. My first flash dryer for curing the ink onto shirts came in the kit that I purchased at How does it work? You’ll put a shirt onto this platen and then it goes right over the top. It's got wheels and you just kind of hold it there for 40 seconds or so to cure your shirt. It used to have an on-off switch at the top but that burned out one day. That was about five years ago. I just plug it in and then unplug to use it now, but it still works great. In fact, I use it whenever I’m doing two-color prints to do a quick flash cure before I pull down the second color.

this brings me to my second press. I think I bought this about three years after I started the business. This is also a tabletop press it's a Riley Hopkins. This is my conveyor dryer at the time it was called the little buddy it's the smallest conveyor dryer that you can buy that has forced air for water based inks. I think it was about fifteen hundred dollars. I never took out a loan or had any seed money to start my business. Everything I did was cash on hand and because of that, I ended up just buying this conveyor dryer that we put on sawhorses. 13 years later it's still cranking out shirts with minimal maintenance. I am very happy with the investment that I made.

5 Tips for Starting Your Business

  • 1. Step one is to have multiple sources of income. Even though I knew I wanted to screen print full time, I still took a graphic design job full time for the first year that I had my business. In addition to that, my husband also had a full-time job so I knew that I'd have something to fall back on if it didn't work out.

  • 2. Step two is to make sure that you can have a workspace when I first started I was screen printing in the garage of a rental and I kind of made a mess so our next goal after my first year as a graphic designer was to buy a house that had a basement where I could work year-round on my screen printing.

  • 3. Step three is to make sure that your product is something that can be easily reproduced for example; I took my drawings and made them into art that could be printed on clothing. If you're a painter and you sell expensive paintings for three thousand dollars you should also be able to make smaller more affordable pieces of art in the 100 to 300 range. In addition to making greeting cards stickers or enamel pins that's how you get multiple sales especially in your online store which brings me to the next step.

  • 4. Start out on Etsy. Etsy is a lot easier to get going than building your own website right off the bat. I wasted a lot of time trying to build my own website when I first started out and you can learn a lot about an online business by doing Etsy first.
  • 5. The final step is to start doing craft fairs farmers markets and art shows in your local area. It's a really good way to get experience talking to people. As an artist, I was very shy and quickly had to learn how to approach strangers and tell them about my art. Well, the Fremont Market in Seattle was the perfect place for me to do that. It's actually where I got discovered by my first store - Monster Art and Clothing. 

Several years later I would go on to purchase that store and make it into my own for about six years all because I did every show that came along in my neighborhood. That's definitely what you should do too. It's really important to have different price points whether you're doing online-only or you're doing a booth at a festival. Try to make something for everyone and also follow trends to see things that people are interested in during the season that you're in.

I hope some of these tips can help you with getting your business started.

For more cool projects, download my free DIY T-Shirt Hacks Ebook.

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