Starting a print-on-demand hoodie business isn’t an easy venture. But tackling your goal in smaller, actionable steps can make the process smoother.
Treat this blog post as your personal guide on how to start a hoodie business in 8 easy steps. You’ll find helpful info on what to do first, important things to consider, and inspirational stories from successful hoodie businesses you can learn from.
Now, let’s dive right in!
While it might seem like the fashion industry is teeming with competition and the economic climate for starting a business is uncertain right now, turning your passion for custom hoodies into a profitable business has never been easier. All you need is access to the internet and a set of defined steps to follow.
It’s crucial to determine who’s going to buy your hoodie. Research who they are, what hoodie styles they prefer, what designs they’re looking for, and on which platform they’re more likely to see your message.
Your target audience is the core of your hoodie fashion business strategy. That’s why your first step is to decide who you’ll sell to and how to reach them.
To determine your target audience, initiate market research to understand which demographic segments have a preference for the types of hoodies you’d like to sell. Consider things like age, lifestyle, and income level to assess their needs, interests, and buying behaviors.
To find answers to these questions, browse online communities, look at social media platforms, research Google Search queries, or reach out to those matching your ideal buyer persona. This will help you to design your custom hoodie clothing line in a way that resonates with your audience.
Once you’ve figured out who your customer base is, it’s time to think about your design. Is there a match between your idea and the preferences of the people you’ve just identified? If not, how can you adjust it to fit their interests and needs better?
For example, if you know that your target audience prefers minimalism, it’s smarter to go with a simple, chic embroidery design over a complex, all-over print pattern.
Find out what hoodie styles and designs your particular audience is missing. Tapping into gaps in the market will help increase demand for your product and ultimately make you more sales.
The next step is the validation phase. Evaluate your hoodie line idea against competitors’ offers, industry trends, and your target audience’s preferences.
Here are some ways to do this:
Search for and study similar businesses to craft your unique value proposition and differentiate yourself.
Find a person representing your buyer persona and inquire about your proposed hoodie characteristics and design.
Check hoodie industry statistics and trends through Google Trends, forums like Quora, and niche-specific blogs.
Now that you know what you’re selling and who you’re selling to, let’s turn our attention to branding. A strong visual identity increases brand recognition, helping your business to stand out and gain a following. Your logo is a cornerstone of your hoodie business visual identity as it’ll appear on every branding asset, from your website to product packaging.
Logo affects how people perceive your brand, so choose a logo style that reflects its personality.
Consider the effect you’d like it to have on a person and the values you want to convey. For example, do you want to appear edgy, classy, eco-friendly? Decide what you want people to feel when they look at your logo, and make sure to reflect it through your design.
Colors can make or break your branding, so choose them wisely. Choose 2–3 primary colors you’ll consistently use across every aspect of your clothing business.
For the logo, make sure to stick to three colors maximum—one primary and two complimentary colors. The 3 color rule enables easier perception for the human eye, allowing people to hold their attention longer. Consider what emotions and moods you’d like to evoke with your colors. If you’re unsure about how to choose, read this guide on color psychology.
Make it simple
Keep your brand identity and logo simple—don’t overdo it with details. Avoid mixed elements, cluttered designs, and multiple fonts. People mostly remember logos with fewer details, according to Miller’s Law.
When creating a logo, aim for it to look good at any size and in different mediums, configurations, or alignments. Before finalizing the design, test it out in different settings to be sure.
Next, you’ll need to decide how you want to fulfill your orders. There are two main options available. You can either handle fulfillment yourself or go with a print-on-demand (POD) business model. To make the choice between these options, take into account your skills, resources, and business goals.
When a customer orders a hoodie, your third-party supplier prints and ships it. That’s the essence of the POD model.
As to benefits, it requires little time and effort from your side. You select the hoodie and add your design, then your POD partner handles the rest. You don’t need to purchase inventory upfront or rent warehouse space to store your hoodies.
However, it can result in longer fulfillment times and less control over your branding and the quality. To make this model work, you need to rely on a trusted POD partner with fulfillment facilities worldwide and a good reputation.
For example, Printful supports a wide variety of custom apparel businesses with high-quality blank products and fulfillment centers globally, making production and fulfillment times minimal.
Self-fulfillment means you handle the whole process on your own. This involves purchasing blank hoodies wholesale, printing designs in-house, and shipping orders yourself.
This requires a lot more work, a higher initial investment, and a space to store equipment and products. On the positive side, it can mean better quality control, fewer design restrictions, and sometimes, faster shipping locally.
Self-fulfillment may be for you if you have experience making custom apparel products yourself. But if you want to test out your hoodie design idea with minimal risks, partnering with a POD service is the safer bet.
It’s time to focus on one of the most important aspects of your online business: the style of hoodie you’re going to offer. Create a list of features you’d like the hoodie to have. Do you want it to be lightweight or heavyweight? How soft should it be?
Once you’ve decided on some non-negotiables, research the best hoodies for printing. When you choose a style, keep in mind the preferences of your target audience and current market trends.
This type of hoodie features a drawstring hood that slips over the head, a no-closure front, and usually a kangaroo pocket. This versatility makes the classic pullover hoodie a timeless, cozy piece of clothing favored by a broad audience.
This thick, heavyweight fabric has a relaxed fit. Typically reaching the hip bone or slightly below, it makes a solid canvas for even your wildest designs.
More lightweight than classic pullover hoodies, zip-up hoodies usually come with two front pockets and a drawstring hood that makes them warm and cozy. A zip-up hoodie is perfect for layering, sports, and casual activities, appealing to customers who prefer that athleisure look.
While the area on the front of the hoodie is limited because of the zip-up, you’ve got plenty of space for designs on the sleeves and back of the hoodie.
Cropped hoodies emerged in the 2000s and continue to be popular today. They typically have a drawstring hood, thick, long sleeves, and a cropped bottom that reveals the waist. These features make this non-bulky hoodie a top choice for sporty trendsetters who want to stand out with their fashion choices.
Because of its cropped length, this hoodie style has a more limited area for designs. But it’s also an opportunity to showcase your design in a more creative way.
A combination of a loose-fitting dress and a hooded sweatshirt, this unique clothing item mixes comfort with style. This versatile hoodie can be found in the closets of fashion-forward individuals, athleisure fans, and even streetwear enthusiasts.
This hoodie is an excellent canvas for your design. Compared to the classic pullover hoodie, it has a greater customization area because of its extended length.
Once you know what hoodie styles you want to sell, it’s time to choose a customization method. You can use several options to decorate your blank hoodies: direct-to-garment (DTG) printing, sublimation printing, and embroidery. When choosing a method, make sure it fits your design needs and budget.
In DTG printing, water-based ink is applied directly to the fabric of the hoodie. Because of its digital nature, prints turn out photorealistic, with vibrant colors and crisp details regardless of the fabric color.
DTG is considered the best option for complex hoodie design ideas, including gradients or photos. Plus, wearing apparel with DTG prints is comfortable because the ink is directly absorbed into the fabric, which means it maintains the garment’s original feel and drape.
The downside of DTG printing is the possibility of ink fading after repeated washes and wear. Also, it’s compatible with cotton-based materials only, and the size of the print area depends on the printer platen.
Sublimation is another popular choice for printing on fabric. In this process, the design is first transferred onto special transfer paper and then onto the material itself.
This technique results in vivid prints that are resistant to fading, cracking, or peeling. Apart from the durability of the print, sublimation has another feature: it’s an eco-friendly approach.
It employs water-based inks that are free from toxic chemicals, and it does not require water or additional chemicals for the dyeing process. During sublimation, the ink converts from a solid to a gas state, embedding the fabric with the design without needing to rinse away excess dye, which reduces water consumption and pollution.
As to the cons, it applies to polyester-based fabrics of light or white colors only.
Embroidery is a method of stitching a design onto the hoodie using thread. There are different embroidery techniques that all create a textured, luxurious-looking finished product. For example, with Printful custom embroidery, you can go with traditional, flat 2D embroidery, the 3D method, 6-thread color limited embroidery, or unlimited color embroidery.
Embroidery prints are long-lasting—they hold up well to washing and wearing. However, some embroidery options have limitations in color and design elements. Plus, it can turn out to be more costly than other customization methods.
Making your personalized hoodie design might be one of the most exciting parts of your online hoodie venture. If you don’t have any particular design in mind, brainstorm what might resonate with your target audience. Also, you can look at current trends and get inspiration from relevant competitors.
A design tool can help you to create your hoodie design from scratch or tweak an existing idea. There’s an abundance of design tools out there depending on your skills and budget, from super easy free online tools for beginners to professional creative suites like Photoshop and Photoshop Alternatives.
Another option is to use a tool offered by your fulfillment partner (if you have one). For example, with Printful, you have the free Design Maker that offers tons of design options and realistic mockups, so you can create beautiful designs and instantly preview the result.
The Design Maker comes with pre-made Quick Designs, tons of different fonts and clipart graphics, as well as available stock image sources like Getty Images, Patternbank, and Vexels. If you’re looking for a free-yet-powerful tool to start designing hoodies, the Design Maker is it.
Once you’ve come up with your hoodie design, it’s time to set up your online store. Creating an online store doesn’t have to require technical knowledge or long hours, thanks to many different easy-to-setup platform options and self-explanatory interfaces.
First, choose a platform that suits your needs. Then, customize the appearance of your store so it matches your brand identity and display your products in a well-organized way. Finally, ensure a smooth and intuitive payment process and provide great customer service.
With an ecommerce platform, you’ll have a standalone website with individual traffic and a custom appearance that depends on you. This option is best for those who want to scale their brand. Apart from more time and financial investment, this choice requires you to set up a payment system on your own.
Online marketplaces, on the other hand, allow you to create a page on an already-established website. With this setup, you have fewer customization options but more traffic and an integrated payment system. This might be a good option for those just starting or who already have a marketplace account. If you’re not sure what to choose, take this 1-minute quiz.
Make sure you organize and display the products on your page in the best possible way. Start with taking high-quality photos from multiple angles and distances. Pair these pictures with a well-written, easy-to-read description of the hoodie, highlighting details like fabric, available sizes, colors, and care instructions.
Last but not least, price your hoodies competitively based on your research and production costs.
When everything else is set up and running smoothly, it’s time for the final step: promoting your hoodie business. This is crucial to reach potential customers and drive sales. Use different channels like email and social media, and focus on various marketing tactics like ads or giveaways.
The following examples will give you a sneak peek into the marketing activities of successful hoodie brands.
Shadawear is a POD clothing line run by singer/rapper, creator, businessman, and Printful customer Kaysha.
After releasing his first album in the late ’90s and his fans’ great interest in music merch, he decided to create his own online clothing line. Kaysha’s motivation was to provide a way for people to represent themselves in what they were wearing rather than just showcase loyalty towards their favorite artists.
Shadawear offers various custom hoodies, as well as unique accessories, swimwear, and bottoms. In his interview with Printful, Kaysha points out that social media is his go-to choice for business promotion.
He highlights that posting behind-the-scenes moments, reaching out to influencers, offering free products, and building a community through authentic engagement are powerful strategic steps to increase your reach and boost sales.
HinTatCustom is an Etsy shop that offers custom hoodies and other clothing items with original embroidery designs. In their collection, they have more than 130 hoodie options available. The most popular hoodie, Embroidered Anniversary Date Hoodie, has more than 700+ reviews by happy customers.
HinTatCustom’s main promotion asset is its Etsy page. Apart from high-quality, professional photos and well-written product descriptions, the page features a video showcasing their process and the story behind the brand. Plus, the store is optimized for search engines, so people can easily find it through the search system on Etsy and Google. This promotion strategy leads to increased traffic and sales.
LOVECLUB is an online store through Shopify that offers hoodies, sweatshirts, crewnecks, and accessories.
The owners of the store say their brand promotes inclusivity, detachment from societal labels, and freedom of expression with custom apparel. This message is the basis for their brand story and an important promotional tool for their business.
In addition, LOVECLUB has a very original website that grabs attention and makes the brand stand out. Plus, they’ve got a TikTok account with 96.1K followers, where they showcase the process of creating their hoodies. This platform enables them to boost engagement and connect with customers, building trust.
They also have a community on Shopify, providing perks for its members—a very efficient instrument to connect with your target audience and increase customer lifetime value.
Soulmate Customs is a mother-daughter business that started in a bedroom and turned into a warehouse. This hoodie business aims to turn gift-giving into a memorable moment, which serves as a foundation for its unique brand messaging. Besides selling hoodies, which come in three options, they sell jewelry and home decor.
Source: Soulmate Customs
With an impressive online community of 70K followers, Soulmate Customs dedicates a lot to social media marketing—they’re active on YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram.
In addition, they take advantage of email marketing and encourage users to join the Soulmate community through their website. Email marketing keeps businesses in touch with their existing customers and helps attract new ones.
Now you know how to start your hoodie business. Follow these steps, adjust as you go, and always remember to do more of what’s working for you.
What steps have you followed in starting a clothing line? Let us know in the comments!
A free-spirited creative with a psychology and marketing background, Paula spends her days creating stories for brands and individuals. Her heart belongs to writing, mental health advocacy, and beach volleyball.