Embroidery machines are becoming increasingly popular with millennials—not only as fun tools for crafting but as full-blown entrepreneurial startups. Henry Ma, CEO of Ricoma, sheds light on why this crowd is particularly prone to success in this line of business.
Millennials have the social media skills to market a custom apparel business
Millennials are social media pros. TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook were their childhood playgrounds. Their understanding of the various platforms allows virtually instant marketing opportunities.
“Embroidery businesses don’t need a physical space,” remarks Ma. “They get their orders through platforms like Etsy or social media advertising. Since embroidery is so visual, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are the perfect platforms to showcase your work. People will naturally find you and be intrigued by the type of work you do.”
Many young entrepreneurs don’t realize how extensive their network already is. Due to their prior experience on social media platforms, most young entrepreneurs have already built up an existing audience. Their marketing efforts can start with their base of friends, family, and even friends of friends. They can kickstart their business by doing a few favors for people in their network and posting the results online, just like millennial influencer, Ashamad Heard, who has garnered attention for his cap embroidery skills on TikTok. Once the word is out and requests are coming in, they can sell their custom items for profit.
An existing audience is a huge asset in online marketing. Entrepreneurs can use it to alert customers of upcoming sales or new items in cross-selling campaigns. They can also leverage their existing audience to find new customers with similar interests through marketing tools such as Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences and Google’s Similar Audiences.
Millennials can learn real-world financial skills with no degree necessary
Many millennials are looking for employment opportunities even before obtaining a degree or certification. Custom apparel offers a way to learn the ropes of starting a business without loads of technical knowledge or skills.
“Embroidery is not plug-and-play, but it’s also not rocket science,” says Ma. “You don’t need to go to school for eight years. We have customers with no prior employment experience who start taking orders and scaling their business within three to six months. On average, the three-month period is when people really start to get into a groove.”
Young entrepreneurs are breaking into niches with accessibly priced custom apparel machines
The most considerable startup cost for a custom apparel business is the embroidery machine. Fortunately for millennials, affordably-priced machines for home-based embroiderers now rival commercial-grade equipment.
The 10-needle embroidery machines many millennials choose for their starters are efficient enough for commercial work and compact enough to fit in their home studios or offices. Having ten needles allows these machines to complete home projects without needing spool changes multiple times during the project. Some of these machines even work at commercial speeds of up to 1,000 stitches per minute. The accessory compatibility of these machines also enables young entrepreneurs to offer embroidery on products with various surface shapes, including caps, jackets, luggage, and purses.
“Getting into this business has become a lot more accessible,” says Ma. “Embroidery machines used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, but equipment and technology have evolved to be much more affordable today. Financing options allow people to get into the industry for a very low monthly payment.”
Compared to startup costs for other businesses, embroidery materials are relatively affordable. In fact, according to Ricoma’s website, “Embroidery materials can cost as little as $0.16 per average design.”
Caps are a staple product of the custom apparel business. According to figures from Ricoma, an average cap costs approximately $2.00. Embroidering a design on the cap requires around 15 minutes. Once personalized, young entrepreneurs can sell the cap for $15 to $20, depending on the chosen design. If you produce four caps in one hour, you’re looking at about $50 to $70 an hour after subtracting costs.
Millennials diversify their income stream with custom apparel businesses
Young entrepreneurs are excited about side hustles to supplement their income. Custom apparel businesses are fantastic opportunities to complement a full-time job.
Most young entrepreneurs haven’t built up the capital to start a business, but they still want a way to generate extra income. The low cost of embroidery machines allows them to create a side hustle without the startup expense and stress of a full-time business. They can supplement their other employment until they feel ready to transition into a full-time business.
Increase in demand for custom apparel businesses
Millennials looking into the custom apparel business will be pleased to discover high demand for embroidered items. Embroidery machines offer a fun and exciting opportunity to start unique brands or clothing lines. The call for individualized hats, jackets, shirts, and bags is on the rise.
According to Ricoma’s website, “Embroidery is the number one apparel decoration method, generating nearly half of the revenue in the decorated apparel industry.”
“We have a saying here: As long as people wear clothes—we’re in business,” Ma comments.
Millennials finding remote work and scheduling freedom in custom apparel businesses
Millennials are looking for ways to avoid typical nine to five work environments. Particularly after the pandemic, this crowd is drawn to remote work. Custom apparel businesses allow young entrepreneurs the freedom to set their own hours.
There has always been a demand for personalized embroidered goods. Not long ago, however, business owners needed to acquire storefronts or travel to craft shows to market their products.
Online marketplaces like Etsy simplify the process for handmade products and allow entrepreneurs the chance to offer their handcrafted items 24/7, but create and ship the items whenever they choose. Zibbet and ArtFire are two other online platforms dedicated to selling products developed by crafters.
Millennials already have many of the marketing skills they need to start a profitable and fun embroidery business. With the benefit of flexible work, affordable startup costs, online marketplaces, high demand for embroidery, and easy supplemental income, there’s no wonder so many are turning their entrepreneurial savvy to custom apparel.