PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business, Chapter 2: Your (Business) Plan

Business Lessons

Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to expand, having a realistic business plan will simplify things and provide direction for you and your team. When it comes to setting up a business plan, there are five things we urge you to consider. 

What is the problem in your market?

There’s a reason you’re growing this business. Customers started asking you for custom apparel, and you started delivering. Dig into the pain point you’re able to alleviate. Brainstorm and list what you believe your customers’ biggest frustrations, fears, and worries are.

For example, a university may need t-shirts for incoming freshmen, but they may be struggling with creative design ideas, or are stuck on how to sort and distribute so many shirts. Perhaps your band needs t-shirts, and now your friend’s band wants t-shirts printed as well. Maybe you want to start a clothing line, but find you are suddenly printing for your local community more than yourself. 

Think through your customers’ potential problems and write them down. Writing these frustrations down is going to help you understand the pain points you can actually resolve. It will define your business niche and help you understand what to focus on.

Who is your ideal customer?

Even as your business thrives, this is a question you should continually ask. It can be easy to jump at an opportunity that comes out of left field, but it could derail your core business by taking time away from serving the customers you already have. Don’t print a random order on the promise of huge payments later if it means sacrificing deadlines for current customers and their orders.

When determining your ideal customer, think about the following:

  • Geographic location 
  • Types of printing they want (screen printing, embroidery, direct to garment and more)
  • Types of garments they want
  • Potential business size 
  • Why they need your service

Now think about these ideal customers as human beings. Think outside of the scope of their business needs. Try to figure out the types of people you want to work with. Ask yourself:

  • Where do they spend time?
  • What publications do they read?
  • How do they buy your product or service? 
  • Is there an age or gender bias?
  • What are their priorities? 
  • What are their end goals?
  • What makes them happy?

These questions will help you zero in on your ideal customer profile. Having this outlined makes it easier to find and market to your customers at the lowest acquisition cost. 

How will you find your ideal customer?

Now that you have your ideal customer profile, it’s time to establish where they can find you. Today, we’re fortunate that most customers are on the internet and accessible by phone.  

Many potential leads fit your ideal customer profile, and it’s your job to find them at the lowest cost of acquisition. If a customer generates $1,000 in revenue for you – but you spend $2,000 on marketing and sales costs to get them in the door – your business will fail. 

Think back to your ideal customer. How do they do business? Do they visit trade shows, check Yelp, search Google or ask for referrals? Analyze this thoroughly to understand their current thinking. For example: if you specialize in employee uniforms, you should get your business card to local restaurant franchise owners immediately.  

Keep in mind that many ideal customers spend lots of time online, which is a low-cost way to get noticed. We will further discuss marketing tactics in Chapter 11.

How will you solve their problem better than anyone else?

What is your competitive advantage? What makes you unique? Why should a customer pick you instead of your competitor?

List all the possible answers, then pick the top three. Print your choices out and keep them where you can constantly see them. Make sure your team is well-versed in why customers choose you. This is the core of your business identity – your key to delivering success. 

Finally, create a customer guarantee. The ideal guarantee is backed up by a tangible penalty if you don’t deliver on it. Your guarantee should drive more business and enable you to close more sales you’re not winning. One example: you’ll print a rush order in 24 hours, or it’s free. Another is guaranteeing less than one percent printing error rate, or the job is free. Your guarantee holds you accountable and shows your ability to execute every job professionally.

How will you generate revenue?

Revenue - Target Profit - Costs = Real Profit 

How will you generate revenue? What will you charge based on the services you offer? If you add enough value for your customers, you won’t have to price compete — customers will pay your prices when they perceive real value. 

Do not copy a competitor's pricing. You must understand your own cost structure to generate accurate profits. This will be difficult if you’re just starting, but it is an iterative process that takes time to refine.

Your company’s costs might surprise you as they grow. Thoroughly and conservatively consider all costs, as this will be a metric to routinely monitor. There are two types of costs in your business: fixed and variable. Fixed costs are easily estimated: rent, taxes, depreciation, salaries, and utilities. Variable costs can be more difficult to measure, like the cost of goods sold (garments), commissions, credit card fees, shipping costs, and production supplies. But variable costs are equally important to understand in order to make a profit. 


Screen printing is a multi-billion dollar industry with customers from every part of the world. Every year, thousands of entrepreneurs discover their passion for screen printing - and they want to claim their cut of the billions and billions of dollars spent on custom printed apparel.

But the majority of new screen printing shops fail before they reach the 5-year mark. They fail because of poor business planning, dull branding, and a lack of ability to scale.

Your shop can be different.

This is an excerpt from our book, The PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business. Written by Printavo's dynamic founder Bruce Ackerman, Campus Ink's enterprising Steven Farag, and Adam Cook. The PrintHustlers Guide To: Growing a Successful Screen Printing Business is the next generation's guide for building your own lucrative print shop.

You can purchase a physical copy of the book on Amazon.

Previous chapter: Chapter 1: Emotional Mindset
Next chapter: Chapter 3: Business Structure


Next Post: A Small Print Shop Tour | Sliding Screen Printing Pricing

About Printavo

Printavo ​​is simple shop management software. Whether your shop works with screen printing, embroidery, signage, digital printing, or awards & engraving–we make your complex workflow simpler to manage and understand. Printavo keeps your shop organized by handling scheduling, estimates, quote approvals, workflow, payments, accounting and more. With Printavo, you’ll work smarter–not harder.

Try Printavo
Get free business lessons delivered to your inbox.

No charge. Unsubscribe anytime.