Whether you’re looking for a way to supplement your current income or you’re ready to ditch spending your days working for someone else, starting your own custom hat business could be a lucrative option. While a lot of folks turn to the t-shirt customization business when they decide to become their own boss, hat customization can be just as profitable. And since it isn’t a service every company offers, you’ll likely face less competition if you choose to go this route.
Hats never really go out of style, but they’re enjoying an especially big moment right now. You can customize every style from trucker hats with custom patches to embroidered beanies to baseball caps emblazoned with slogans, team names, numbers and graphics. And when you order in bulk, they can come in a huge assortment of styles, sizes and different colors.
Today, hats aren’t just about keeping your head warm or shielding your face from the sun’s harmful rays. While they are still worn for such utilitarian purposes, they have also become a means for showing off your fashion sense or making a statement.
If you are thinking about getting into the business of hat customization, there are a lot of ways to get the job done. From patches and embroidery to screen printing and vinyl decals, there are just as many ways to customize hats as there are shirts. Before you take the plunge and open your own business, check out this guide to learn how to make custom hats for profit.
It’s important to do your homework before diving into a new business venture. Customizing hats isn’t difficult, but there are several things that need to be taken into consideration before you take the plunge. For starters, do some research on various styles of hats. Wholesale hats come in many different forms, and while offering multiple styles can boost your profits, trying to carry too many different styles can quickly become overwhelming.
Think about what market you would like to target. If you are thinking your target audience is “everyone,” you don’t really have a target audience. Think about what type of hats you’d like to customize, what sorts of designs you’d like to create and what type of person would likely buy your product. Ideally, you should find a niche where there is currently a lack of product. Finding a void you can fill tends to be much more profitable than trying to break into an already oversaturated market.
Look into current trends to determine which styles of hats are “in.” Do some research to figure out which styles and colors tend to be the all-around bestsellers, too. Jumping on trends is great, but remember they come and go. Stocking up on some of the classics, too, ensures you will always have something that is in demand.
Now is the time to decide where you plan on selling your products, too. Do you want to sell your hats exclusively online, or do you think you’d like to open up a physical store? Research what the overhead costs will look like and determine whether you’ll be able to afford them during the first few months. If you’re struggling with the financial planning end of things, consider consulting with an accountant.
Learn How to Customize
If you’re thinking about customizing hats for a living, you might already have some understanding of at least one customization technique. Keep in mind, though, there are a lot of different techniques to choose from, and some will likely fit your unique needs, skills and talents better than others. Consider a few of the most popular options:
Hats with patches are really popular right now, and there’s no shortage of awesome designs to choose from. You can even have them custom made to create unique hats featuring your own artwork, slogans, designs and more.
If you decide to go this route, you’ll need to sew the patch onto the hat. Even if the patches have an iron-on backing, stitching them on is a more secure option. After all, you don’t want to sell a hat only to have your customer return a week later saying the patch fell off! You don’t need a fancy sewing machine to stitch your patches on, especially when you are just starting out. You can easily sew a patch onto a hat by hand–even if you don’t have amazing sewing skills.
Heat Transfer Vinyl
Customizing hats using heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is a solid option, too. With a vinyl cutter and a bit of creativity, you can easily turn just about any design into one that can be applied to hats (as well as other garments and accessories) using a heat press or even an iron. The trick is using something to support the shape of the hat to ensure enough pressure is applied to the vinyl.
When customizing hats using this method, glitter or vinyl HTV is recommended. If you use regular smooth vinyl, the seams will likely show through.
While it’s most commonly used to decorate t-shirts and sweatshirts, screen printing works for hats, too. Keep in mind, though, the process is pretty tricky unless you have the right equipment. Most screen printing equipment is designed for products that lay flat–like shirts. If you’d like to sell screen printed headwear, you’re going to need to invest in specialized accessories.
Hats with five panels–known as trucker hats–are your best bet for this project. The seam that runs down the front center of a six-panel hat gets in the way and can get caught on the screen. Some customizers combine patches and screen printing to create some pretty impressive designs. The artwork is screen printed onto a patch which then can be placed anywhere on the hat. Since the patch is flat, there’s no need for any special equipment.
Keep in mind that there are other options for customizing hats, too. With the right equipment, you can embroider custom designs and logos on them. You could also decorate them by hand using paint or get creative and try other techniques. These are just a few of the most common options for those who are interested in starting a custom hat business.
Source Your Hats
If you are going into business and planning on turning a profit, you don’t want to buy plain hats from your local craft store or big-box retailer. Instead, you want to purchase bulk hats from a wholesaler. When you are just starting out, that may sound like an intimidating prospect. It’s not as scary as you might think, though.
Many wholesalers, including ShirtMax, have low minimum order quantities. This means you don’t need to invest in thousands of hats in order to score a great deal. Even if you’re starting really small or you just need a few hats to practice on, it is entirely possible to get the products you need without breaking the bank.
When ordering supplies, think back to your target audience and consider what styles and colors the people you are trying to sell to are likely to enjoy. Consider seasonality, too. Stocking up on wholesale beanies may be a great idea for fall and winter, but you probably don’t need a ton of them if you are planning on launching your business during the spring or summer months. During your research phase, you likely determined what some of the most popular styles are. Make sure to include those in your order.
You don’t need to wait until you’re ready to “open” to start advertising! Whether you plan on selling online or opening up a physical store (or both!), it’s smart to do plenty of advertising in advance. Doing so builds awareness of your business and allows you to generate hype. Start by setting up your company’s social media and website. Having a strong online presence is vital in today’s economy, even if you don’t plan to sell online. Work on building an email list, as well as a solid following on the social media accounts you’ve set up. Send out and/or post updates, interact with the people who are interested in your up-and-coming business and launch other advertisement campaigns, as these are necessary. Now is a great time to start building relationships with the individuals who are likely to become your customers in the future.
During this phase, you’ll also probably be working on creating products to sell or designing sample pieces if you plan on offering customer services. Take this opportunity to share your “prototypes” online and ask for feedback. It never hurts to get an outside opinion, and doing so before your business officially launches provides you with an opportunity to address potential issues prior to selling your products to customers.
Consider other forms of marketing and advertising, too. Online marketing is a powerful tool, but there is still value in more traditional forms, including home mailers, signs and even banners. Signage is especially useful if you’re planning on opening up a physical store. Once you’ve secured the location, prominently display signs and banners to let potential customers know your new business will be opening soon.
Think about partnering with other brands and stores. Try to reach an agreement to market each other’s products. As someone who makes custom hats, you may be able to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement with someone who sells custom shirts, for example. If a customer comes to you looking for a custom tee, send them to the other business owner. If someone comes to them looking for a hat, they can send them to you. It’s a win-win. Depending on the exact products and services you offer, there are all sorts of partnership opportunities out there. Get creative and don’t be afraid to reach out to other small business owners!
Launch Your New Business
By the time you’ve reached this point, you’ve already devoted a lot of time, energy and money to your new business venture. Whether you’re starting a small online business or a large retail store, the time has come to open up your literal or figurative doors and start making sales. As long as you’ve done well in the advertising department, you should have plenty of people lined up who are eager to try out your products and services.
Consider hosting some sort of “grand opening” event. This could be an event in your physical store, or it could be a special promotion online. It could even be a combination of the two. Your Grand Opening can be as simple or elaborate as you prefer. It’s your event, after all! If you don’t have a huge budget, even offering free cookies or treats for your in-store customers or offering a five percent discount online can draw in shoppers and help you make those first few sales.
Remember: It’s totally normal if your sales seem a bit sluggish in the beginning. It often takes some time for new businesses to fully get off the ground. During this time, work on building relationships with your new and prospective customers. Listen to their feedback and make changes (if warranted). Provide exceptional customer service at every opportunity, and even on your most difficult days, do your best to stay the course. Starting your own business requires a lot of hard work, but can also be incredibly rewarding. Be willing to work hard in your custom hat business and you’ll likely find it to be quite lucrative.