How Do I Start a Sublimation Business?

I was looking for blog post ideas on the Internet today and I came across an article on eHow called “How do I Start a Sublimation Business?”  For the most part the article was a standard article about starting any sort of business.  It gave advice like you need to get a business license,  and you need to decide whether you’re going to have a brick and mortar business or sell online.   Where it was a bit lacking,  in my opinion,  was in the advice that was given about what equipment you needed to start a sublimation business.   Since we sell sublimation supplies and have helped many people start sublimation businesses,  I thought I could clarify a few things.

First, one thing I do agree with,  researching your potential market is key.   It is never wise to start a new business without knowing who might buy and what they might buy.   Spending a few hours figuring out where and who your potential customers are can save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Now, as to what you’ll need.   I disagree with the article’s recommendation about a heat press.  We always recommend purchasing the biggest heat press you think you will ever need.   You should also take into account what you might want to do.   If you want to do mugs,  you should either buy a mug press or a press with a mug attachment.   If you think you’re only going to do garments,  a flat press may be fill your needs.   Spend some time looking at the options for sublimatable items before you buy your press, so you’ll be fully aware of all your options.

I’m also not in agreement with the article’s recommendation of cutters and hole punchers and notchers.  Most sublimation blanks are already cut or rounded or punched if that sort of thing is necessary.   If you are thinking of purchasing sheets of FRP and cutting your own shapes,  then a cutter or a corner rounder may be necessary.  If you just plan to use existing sublimation blanks, however,  I don’t see that those particular items need to be first on your list to purchase.

Finally when choosing  sublimation blanks,  make sure the items that you are purchasing are items that are meant for sublimation.  For hard goods,  that means poly coated items.  For soft goods, 100% polyester works best.

Additional Note:  It was pointed out to me that if you buy sheets of sublimatable aluminum, you will most likely want a shearer, punch, and corner cutter for those various shapes.  Those types of equipment don’t work on FRP material at all though; you need a at minimum a drill and router (or table saw) to cut those sheets into shapes.  Best to buy the shapes already cut out with the FRP unless you are doing signage.

Responsibility Goes Both Ways

When you first look into purchasing a sublimation system,  when you visit someone at a trade show,  or stop at a site online looking for more information,  you’re trusting that the person who is giving you advice knows something about what they are saying.    All you have is their word that they’re going to steer you toward what’s best for you,  not what’s best for them.   You’re relying on their knowledge and expertise to get you where you need to be.

The problem is that, in today’s world,  it can be easy to call yourself an expert.  You learn a few buzzwords,  read up on some of the information that’s out there,  parrot a few pet theories from someone else’s site or blog and boom, you’re an expert.   It’s easy to make the claim with nothing to back it up and, sadly,  there are always people who buy that claim, and sometimes are hurt as a result.

When it comes to sublimation, I don’t claim to be an expert.    I work with people who are very knowledgeable,  people who have been working with sublimation ink and printers for years,  people who were instrumental in introducing sublimation to a entire industry,  but I’m not even sure that they would make the claim to be sublimation experts.  I make that claim for them, on occasion,  but only because I believe it’s warranted.  They’ve put in the time and they learned what they know through hard work and trial and error.  No one handed them the knowledge they have.  They earned it.

Even given what I’ve told you, though,  the question still remains.  How do you know that EnMart’s sublimation experts are giving you good advice?   Who do you trust when you don’t really know much of anything about any of the companies that are offering you products and advice.   How do you choose?

The answer sounds a lot like work,  but it will benefit you a great deal, so it’s worthwhile work.  Do your homework.  Read and study and know what questions you need to ask.   Don’t buy a system just because everyone else has a system or because sublimation is the latest and coolest thing.  Have a plan for how you’ll use the system.   Have an idea of where you’ll sell what you make.  Understand what the costs and benefits are and make an informed decision about whether those costs and benefits balance out for your business.

Once you’ve done all that,  research the companies.  Visit their sites.  Check to see whether they have a blog or a Facebook page or Twitter feed.  Google the company and see if their customers are talking about them anywhere and whether that talk is positive or negatives.   Call the company and ask to speak to their “experts” and pick their brains for what they know that you don’t know.  Once you’ve gotten a feel for the company, spend some time learning the who,what, when, where, why and how from people who know the answers because they’ve done the work.   Learn what they know so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your business.

In the end you can talk to all the experts in the world,  but the one who really knows your business best is you.  It’s your responsibility to figure out if sublimation (or Chromablast or embroidery or whatever garment decoration technique) is right for your business.  It’s our responsibility to provide you with the information and the advice you need to make that decision.

The Right Product to the Right Person (at the Right Time)

There’s a popular notion that some people could sell anyone anything.  The old “He could sell an icebox to an Eskimo” cliché is trotted out and everyone has a good laugh.  The general feeling is what matters most is a talent for selling, not the product you’re trying to sell or the person to whom you’re trying to sell it.

At EnMart, we don’t believe that’s true.  We feel knowing and understanding the products and the customers to whom they are being sold is as important, if not more important, than having a talent for selling.  After all, you could sell an icebox to an Eskimo, or a heat lamp to someone who lives in the Sahara Desert, but is that really going to benefit your customer?  Wouldn’t it be better to understand the needs of the customer, and the specifications of your products, and then make a match between the two?   The desert dweller gets the ice box, the igloo owner gets the heat lamp, and you get contented customers who will certainly call you when they need to make their next purchase.

If you have questions about a product that EnMart sells,  ask us. EnMart sales and customer service staff aren’t experts in every product we sell, but they have access to people who are.   If they don’t know the answer to your question themselves,  they will connect you with people who do.  You can contact us by phone,  via e-mail or through live chat.  EnMart also has a presence on Twitter and Facebook.   We’ll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision, and we’ll provide you with the benefit of our experience and knowledge, so you can be sure you’re making the decision that’s right for you and your business,  not for us and our business.

There’s a popular notion at EnMart: the goal shouldn’t be to sell anyone anything, rather the goal should be to sell the right product to the right person at the right time.   Based on the satisfaction rates of EnMart customers,  we’re betting it’s a notion that’s going to catch on.