What We Can’t Teach

professorIt’s a new year and I would guess that many shops are taking a look around and deciding what new decoration techniques or disciplines they’ll be adding to their shop in 2016.   I always think the beginning of a new year is an exciting time,  because it seems that so many things are possible,  and so many options are available.    The first quarter of the year is a time of learning and questioning for a lot of companies,  as they find out what they could do and make a decision about what they should do to increase their profits.

At EnMart,  we always find this a fun time of year,  because we get to spend time talking with customers who are considering whether or not sublimation is a good choice for their business.   We’ve been working with dye sublimation,  through both EnMart and our parent company Ensign Emblem,  practically since inkjet sublimation was a thing,  so we love sharing what we know with people who are just starting out.   Part of our mission here at EnMart is to be educators,  helping business owners learn how to use their supplies and their equipment to the best advantage.

We can teach you how to sublimate.    We have the equipment and we have the skill.   We know about transfers that slip and cause ghosting,  about printing on the wrong side of the paper,  and about picking up that mug or tile when it’s still just a little too hot.    Having been sublimating for so many years,   we understand the wonder of that first print,   and we also know you can still feel that wonder after the 500th or 5000th print.    Our customers have gifted us with their joy as they understand what can be done with sublimation,  and their gratitude when we’ve explained a problem they weren’t able to solve.   Really,   we can teach you,  through blog posts, on social media,  through articles,  on the phone, or face to face,  almost everything you need to know about sublimation,  except for these things.

We can’t teach how exciting it will be the first time you successfully sublimate something.    You won’t really understand the value of sublimation as an upselling tool until you add an order of coffee mugs to that logowear order you get every year.     We can’t replicate the first time you see the variety of products that can be sublimated and realize in how many ways sublimation can expand your business and your potential profits.     There are no words that can convey the satisfaction of landing the account you’ve been trying to get for years and finally landed,  because you had something new to offer.     We can teach you the nuts and bolts of sublimation,  but the intrinsic things,   the fun and profit of sublimation,  you have to learn on your own.

The fun part,  from our perspective,  is we know that,  if you add sublimation to your business,  you will.



4 Reasons to Add Sublimation to Your Shop

four_previewPeople who are not currently sublimating often ask why they need to add dye sublimation (often just referred to as sublimation for brevity’s sake)  to the decoration processes their shop offers.   Now,  let me say up front,  no one needs to add sublimation to their shop.    If you choose not to offer sublimation services,  the world will not spin off its axis,  a meteor will not hit your shop,  and things will go along as they normally do without any horrific consequences.   The only bad thing that will happen is that someone else in your market will be making a profit on sublimated goods and your shop will not.   So, really the question is not why do you need to add sublimation to the decoration techniques your shop offers,  but why you should want to add sublimation.     Here are a few reasons why we think most shops would want to add sublimation.

1.  It’s a new profit center –  In order to stay profitable,  shops need to diversify.   While there are shops out there that do only one thing and make a living that way,  most decorators have learned to offer a variety of decoration techniques.   Sublimation is simply another decoration technique to have in your arsenal.

2.  Sublimation opens up new products – If you’ve primarily decorated clothes,  adding sublimation to your shop allows you to add hard goods,  mugs,  plaques and the like.  There are a wide variety of sublimation blanks available for decoration and an equal variety of markets to which those goods can be sold.   Adding sublimation gives your shop the ability to offer additional categories of goods,  and to capture additional dollars when a client places a clothing order.

3. Financial barriers to entry are comparatively low – We’re not saying that sublimation is inexpensive,  larger printer packages can be in the $1500 to $2000 range,  and a quality heat press can add another few thousand dollars to that total,   plus the price of blanks.   Still,  when comparing that cost to the cost of a new DTG printer or screen printing press,  sublimation is a relatively economical way to get started in a new business.

4. The learning curve is fairly low – Yes,  sublimation is a decoration discipline and, as such,  it has its own quirks and tricks that need to be learned and understood.    That said,  if you can use graphics software,  know how to print to an inkjet printer and understand how to use a heat press,  you can sublimate.   There are a number of resources out there to help you get started,  and learning to produce a usable print should not be that difficult.

The 5 Ws of Sublimation: Why Sublimate?

Note:  This post is the third in the series called the 5 Ws of Sublimation.  The traditional five Ws are who, what, when, where and why.    For the purposes of this series, however,  I’m changing the five Ws to who, what, why, which and when.   This post deals with why a business would want to add sublimation to their product offerings. 

Probably the biggest question we get from people who aren’t familiar with sublimation is that of why anyone would want to sublimate.   The easy answer would be that sublimation can add another profit center for a business,  and that’s a good answer,  but it’s not really a complete answer or the only answer.    If you really want to deal with the question of why a person or a company would want to add sublimation to their product offerings,  you have to examine the entire picture.   As I see it,  there are four main reasons why sublimation is a good idea for most decoration businesses.

Reason 1: Sublimation offers more options –  Most, although not all, decoration options seem to be about clothing or tote bags or hats.   Adding sublimation allows a business to expand to a wide variety of hard goods as well as offering the ability to decorate clothing and hats.    Sublimated products can open an entirely new market, or can serve as good add-ons for those companies that primarily order garments.

Reason 2: Sublimation has relatively low financial barriers to entry –  EnMart offers a basic sublimation package for $419.00 on our website.   Other sublimation supply companies may offer something similar. Granted that basic package has to be augmented with blanks for sublimation and a heat press,  but you can still start out with sublimation for a relatively small initial start-up investment.

Reason 3: Sublimation does not require a lot of extensive training –   If you can use a printer, a heat press and have some knowledge of graphic software,  you’re probably going to find sublimation fairly simple.  While there are manuals and videos and blogs like this one that offer tips and advice,  in general you don’t need extensive training to operate the equipment necessary for sublimation.     Creating designs and printing goods is generally fairly simple as well.  There may be some trial and error at the beginning or when attempting to sublimate a new item but, in general, sublimation is fairly easy to master.

Reason 4:Sublimation is less harmful than the inks and materials used in other decorating disciplines – Sawgrass sublimation ink is considered “green” ink and, as such, is less harmful to the environment or the people that use the ink.    While it is not recommended, simply for common sense reasons, that you sublimate products in the same oven where you cook your family’s dinner,  in general sublimation residue and fumes are considered to be non-toxic.


Target Markets for Sublimated Products

One of the questions that we frequently get asked is this:  once you’ve purchased your supplies and are set up to sublimate,  where can you sell what you make?  Say,  for the sake of argument,  that you’ve purchased your Epson Workforce 1100 package, or your Ricoh 7000 printer,   and you’ve gotten some ink and some paper and some assorted blanks.    You’re all set to create some wonderful custom sublimated merchandise,  now you just figure out who might want to buy what you have to sell.   So how, exactly, do you do that?

One way would be to target a market for which you have a passion.  Create products you can sell to skateboarders or sailors,   mommies or mountaineers,  whatever your particular passion may be.  Chances are that if you already have a passion for this particular activity or group,  you’ll already have found places where you can connect with people who will want to purchase your products.

Another way to find your market is to look at what you already do and see how sublimation can fit in.   If you’re a photographer, sublimation offers yet more ways to display your work.   If you already run an embroidery business,  sublimation can increase the range of garments you can offer,  and also give you additional products you can use to augment your sales.     If you run a gift or souvenir shop,  sublimation gives you a great way to create your own custom products  that could be unique to your shop.

Schools are another great market for sublimated goods.  Most kids and a lot of parents will wear or use something that shows allegiance to their school.   Just keep in mind that creating items for the college or fraternity/sorority markets will most likely require licensing from the organization for which you want to create items.  Anytime you are going to use an organization’s logo on items you plan to sell,  you would be wise to check in advance regarding licensing.  If you are interested in the school market,  you should attend this webinar from Sawgrass Ink on June 15.

If you or anyone you know plays organized sports or has a child who does so,  you already know that sports teams are a great market for sublimated goods.   First of all there are team shirts,  hats,  wristbands, towels and other items of apparel.  Second there are trophies,  plaques and other commemorative items.  There is a also a market for clothing and other items with logos from national sports teams.   Again,  as in the case of schools, if this is market you want to pursue you would be wise to investigate licensing rules and regulations.

Finally,  an obvious market for sublimated products would be corporations.  Businesses both large and small hand out corporate swag on a daily basis.   Whether it’s a coffee mug,  a polo with a company logo,  a lanyard at a trade show,  or a frizbee at a customer appreciation day,   a great many businesses are constantly in need of items embellished with the corporate logo.   If you have a storefront,  you can offer your services to local businesses.  Local television and radio stations are often particularly in need of corporate swag.   If you prefer to operate online,  you could differentiate yourself by specializing in swag for a particular business grouping,  like doctors or accountants.

Finding a market for sublimated products isn’t really hard,  since the products are so varied and can be useful in so many different situations.   If you do a little research and also look at the things you’re already doing,  it is likely you can find easily find several markets for your sublimated goods.

Is Sublimation Right for You?

Let me start off by saying that sublimation is probably not right for every business.   Sublimation requires that you have certain equipment and software.   It requires that you have a working knowledge of some sort of graphics program if, that is, you want to create your own designs.  Creating sublimated items requires a willingness to experiment, presses and printers can vary, and you may need to spend some time deterimining which settings give you the optimum result.   Like any other discipline, sublimation requires a commitment and for that reason, it may not fit well with all businesses in the world.  It might, however, fit well with yours.   If you’re thinking about sublimation and aren’t sure if it is right for your business,  here are a few questions to consider as you make up your mind.

What do you want to sublimate?  – Do you primarily want to sublimate t-shirts?  Is your heart set on sublimating mugs or mousepads or pet tags?   There are a wide variety of sublimation blanks available, you just need to decide which ones you would prefer to offer to your customers.   The decision about which blanks you want to sublimate may also dictate which heat press and printer you choose to buy.

Can you afford to purchase a good heat press? –  All heat presses are not created equal.  Some hold a steady temperature better than others.    Some presses are designed to be big enough to accommodate a wide variety of flat goods.   There are also presses, like the Mug King Press , which are designed specifically for sublimation.   If you plan to do sublimation on a regular basis, make sure you purchase the biggest and most reliable heat press you can afford.

Do you want to make photo realistic products? –  If you want to create photo realistic products sublimation is definitely for you.  For most professional photographers the accepted standard is an 6 to 8 color Epson printer.   For many sublimators the new accepted standard is the Ricoh 7000. 

Are you at least a little savvy when it comes to graphic software?–  Many people who sell sublimation supplies recommend being at least familiar with Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.   Most of the companies that sell sublimation blanks offer templates, and EnMart offers  Hanes Sublimation Maker software, which comes with built in templates, but you still have to have a basic understanding of color and graphic management. 

If you have questions about whether sublimation is right for you,  EnMart is always happy to help.   You can always contact us, through this blog or through the other methods we offer.  We’ll be happy to work with you to create the perfect sublimation package that will meet your needs and suit your budget.