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Sublimation Startup Guide: Research and strategize

Take this first step before you get started in sublimation.

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Sublimation technology enables you to digitally decorate a wide range of products. One of the first considerations is which of these products should you create. Though it may seem simple, this question is actually rather complex and can lead to many additional questions:

  1. What markets should I target, and why are they the best choice? Just because you want to enter a particular market, doesn’t mean it’s a good one for sublimation. Research that market’s demand as well as the products and price points you would compete against. You may find that there’s a need your products can fulfill-or there may not be much room for what you want to offer.
  2. What products are in demand for this market? There are thousands of products you can decorate using sublimation, and your market demands determine which are good choices. This greatly impacts your decision about what to offer. 
  3. Do I have the financial and logistical capabilities to produce these products? Compared to other forms of digital decoration, startup costs and required shop space are low. But you will need to invest in a printer, inks, transfer paper, a heat press, substrates, and possibly software. The size and cost of these items can differ greatly based on the type of product you plan to produce.
  4. Do I have the resources to sell these products effectively and keep up with demand? Look at the nature of market demand. Is it driven more by personalization, fulfillment, or an even mixture of both? Selling personalized products uses different resources and strategies than selling set designs for fulfillment. Your production setups would differ, as well. If you offer print-on-demand services, take your business mobile to festivals and events where you can make and sell products on-site. Large printers and heat presses are not practical for this type of production.
  5. Do I have an interest in making these products? If you don’t, you’re more likely to not put in the effort needed to make your business successful. Choose to make products you can get excited about producing and selling.

Once you’ve identified a stable of products you expect to offer, it’s time to develop a business plan. This is probably the most important step to ensure business success. A business plan outline clear sales models, goals, marketing strategies, and other methodical steps for growing your business.

By taking the opportunity now to think about your potential customers, how to reach them, your cash flow, and necessary sales goals, you will save yourself both time and money in the future.

-Robin Kavanagh, Sawgrass Ink

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