Characteristics of Successful Clothing Company Owners

I haven’t written an article in a while and thought it was about time to get back into it. I see a lot of people entering into the clothing game and I can usually tell by the type of person they are if they are going to succeed or fail.

I get a ton of emails from people thinking of starting a clothing company. The people that want every answer before they start and need their hand held through the process usually don’t make it very far. Asking questions and planning everything out is crucial but actually taking the initiative and doing it teaches you so much more. The most important part is just getting the ball rolling. You might not have all the answers now but you will figure it all out down the road. This one characteristic is what I see all the time with successful clothing company owners.

Owners that think positively are much more likely to succeed. The hardest time for me was in the very beginning when I wasn’t getting those first sales. Every problem was a set back and I could have quit at any time. Most of the people that are successful have just weathered the hard times and are stronger because of it. If you can be strong and think positively in the darkest hours everything will come together in time.

Knowing your market and your customer is a must. I feel like a lot of people believe they have a brilliant idea but they don’t connect with their market. No matter how much you want to go and do your own thing you need to remember you need a customer to sell to.

You can’t be a walmart. What I mean is you can’t sell products to everyone. There already is a walmart and it sucks. You need to define your market and go after your niche in the market place.

TEST EVERYTHING! No one wants to put up a ton of money to see find out if you will succeed or fail test everything. We live in a time where you can connect to people around the world through the internet. Go onto forums like and see what people like. Ask your friends on twitter. Try and stay away from family and friends and take everything with a grain of salt. When you print shirts don’t print 1,000 because it’s cheaper print 50 or less and see what sizes sell the best. Use your money wisely and test everything so you can make better decisions in the future.

Constantly recalibrate. This goes along with the idea of testing everything. Once you see what works and what doesn’t you need to recalibrate. I have noticed in my personal life I don’t make very many decisions that are set in stone. I am constantly figuring out what is the best option at that time from the information I have.

Be a person not a business. I remember in the beginning with myspace friend adders I would go on and add tons of people. Jeff Finely from Go Media wrote something about how having 100 devoted followers is more important to having thousands that don’t care about your company. At first I dismissed this idea. I just wanted to take the easy route. Looking back it was a big mistake, I wasted all this time adding friends on myspace, which took forever, and what I should have been doing is connecting with people on a more person level. You can do this on facebook, twitter, through email, your blog. Be the awesome person people want to buy stuff from.

Get others to help you with your company. Limit what you do to only the things you’re awesome at. If you’re a great designer but don’t know web design get someone to help. If you’re a marketing genius and have no clue about design get a designer to help you with some shirt designs. Your company will be stronger in the end.

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  • Iketr74

    Spot on! I tried to enlist my friend to help me with my clothing line.  he was too conditioned from years of work.  he wanted  every idea or future project I had,  planned out to the minutest detail. He was choking my creativity,so we parted. It is very important to have a plan or a outline but don't get bogged down by the details.At times I was feeling like he was right and I was being a slacker and not good business person. Im happy that you confirmed 
    my thoughts. Just go for it!

  • jonkruse

    It's hard for some people to start without knowing everything but most of the battle with a business is just pushing forward. It isn't always about making the right decisions but the best decision you can make at that time. Thanks for the comment.

  • Somebodywhoelse

    Hey, I’m trying to start my own clothing line but i need to save up the money to actually make the stuff. I’m planning on just having a local sports shop make the T-shirts for me and a local hat shop make the hats for me. I’ve been talking to friends to see if they would help me advertise by wearing a shirt or hat and all of them have said yes (which is great!). I’ve been wondering if you have any suggestions on how to help me get started, and if my plan is good so far. And this article was very helpful :) just let the creativity flow through you and go for it!

  • Hooligans

    Other than the above workloads that the author mentioned, I want to add more about the consistences of the on time delivery (customer service), Especially, when you are first start the biz there is not enough funding to hire a full time help you got to do it youself.Then comes the inventory management, you have to always keep up the re-orders in order to fill up the sold out items. Those looked simple but cost time to follow through. Last but not least, the weekly meeting is so important to discuss or find solution to any problem that you met while you conducted the biz. We are a small clothing line company but been running for 2 years and the biz is getting better. #BreakNecks!

  • MasterSwag

    nice article but all i need to know is how do you check to see if they name you want to use isnt already being used?

  • manny

    im at the beggining stages of beggining my brand and all i want to know is if their is any legal work i need to take care of?

  • Demetrius Steptoe

    Great post. It was simple and straight to the point. You highlight some great key points, especially when you stated,
    “Be the awesome person people want to buy stuff from”.
    I come from the real estate industry now apparel business where being a person people want to buy from is what sales are all about. Thanks for the good read.

  • jonkruse

    Get your resale license. Called different things in different states. You get it from your local Board of Equalization (BOE). You need that to get wholesale items because you need to charge tax on them and give it to the state.

    Everything else isn't necessary. Just do the minimum in the beginning, most people don't get very far.

  • jonkruse

    I have a section called starting out, check that out. As far as your plan about your friends telling you they would help advertise your shirts by wearing them… that's not a great advertising solution. I have had tons of friends pitch me that line to try and get free shirts off of me and  it never pays off. I didn't make a business out of this by giving away free shirts.

  • Somebodywhoelse

    ok thank you. now thinking about it, yeah they all would want free shirts.

  • Grandbernard2323

    I started printing a few of my own designs awhile back. It was tough to really run it as a true business just like it seems a lot of people here have said. I have a regular job but this is a definite passion. I got lucky as hell finding a printer that made it possible to make my side project an actual source of income. These guys – take all the annoying stuff of my plate, including ordering the raw materials.

    Thanks for the great article and site. Good to know there are other people with the same struggle!

  • Justin

    This is some really insightful information on here! A few buddies and I decided to start a clothing company in 08 DienastySelect and are really making finally beginning to see that success we've been pushing for!

  • Heyblu1

    thanks for this article, i want to start selling t-shirts over the internet, but i have not figured out the wise way to start. would it be better to purchase the equipment and print shirts myself, and have a back room with items on standby, or get one of the local shops to do the printing? What is the best route as far as getting and maintaining a website?

  • SarahGwan

    Hi, my name is Sarah Gwan. This is a great article I follow your blog often and refer people here all the time! Always so inspiring!  If you have some time to check my growing clothing line out and give me some feedback that would be so dope! 

    here is the link:http://millionairelifestyleclo

    I also do graphic design

    Hope to hear from you soon

  • tina

    Great blog, thanks for the insight!

  • a_yparraguirre

    Hi Jon! Thank you so much for this post. I'm Aiza, from the Philippines and am interested in starting my own clothing and shoe lines. I like what you said about not spending too much time adding tons of people on myspace but instead connecting to the market on a more personal basis. Thanks again! God bless you!

  • jonkruse

    Use the search tool on the site. I have an awesome article written by Jimmy of Heartcore clothing about this.

    I would pay someone else to do the printing, but read the article there is a lot of good insight in there.

  • David A.

    hey hows it goin Mr Kruse. I recently read your post and i want to say that I aprreciate your input. I recently have been trying to start my own t shirt company and already have the ball rolling. I have printed 43 shirts with the brand right across the chest. I know it isnt much but we all have to start somewhere. I am aiming more for a skateboarding brand like volcom, etnies, dvs, etc. I already received the order and im not sure what direction to take next. I am planning to go to locally owned clothing stores and shops and ask to see if i may throw my shirts in the mix and, if they are sold, give them a perecentage of what they are sold for. I understand that you are busy so when you are available, please send me your feedback at Thank you for your time, David A.

  • jonkruse

    Sounds like you already know your direction. Go to your clothing stores.

    From personal experience just focus on your customer and reaching them.

  • Isaac

    Great info as usually….Thanks Jon!

  • Kkwin65a

    hello, people said i have telant in making my own designs for female clothing and i also want to start clothing store by selling my own design. but i have no idea how to start.  i have no bussiness idea , no partner. Should i start by selling to my own designs to the other stores or should i open my own store and sell. pls pls reply. thank u

  • Marylynn333

    if you like designing, design and then sell to buyer reps!
    its a lot of work to do designs and a store. You will need to cater to many different clients and styles seasons etc. If you dont sell fast enough your dead in the water.

  • Pingback: 10 articles every clothing entrepreneur should read |()

  • Brittney

    Great article. Good insight. Thanks!

  • ah john

    I like this article.. it opens my mind of thinking.. n improve my way of thinking.. thank you..

  • Yorgo Simou

    I got a local screen printer, printed the art and just ran with the concept. I would suggest find a clothing company you would like to see your art work printed on, and print your

  • Yorgo Simou

    lol…I agree jon, I just printed my first line and I have a soft side of giving a few shirts away but at the end of the day as long as I give them to the right people it is promoting for me.

  • PhenomenalFigures

    I appreciate your candor, it helps me keep a clear perspective.

  • Paras

    now a days there are more people investing in clubbing.
    I’d like to go in this way instead :)

  • Andrew

    Coud you tell me what program you used to design your tshirts? like one thats good and im gonna be able to make decent shirts with.

  • Chloe

    OHGAAAA!! Yes!! Thank you for this article and more importantly this site. TONZ of jewels here and this article alone confirmed many things for me and our small company. What a way to kick off the year!! EEEK! Thank you!!

  • amazingdreamer

    Pushing through is the hardest thing to do. Weathering the storm will not only help your company, but your inner person as well.

  • Alvin Thomas Tims

    The starting out section is pretty amazing if you are serious about starting! Jon has some very helpful tips and also shares bits of “insider secrets” to the apparel game that are very concise and informative! He definitely motivated me to get my own line up and churning, baby!