Making Embroidery a Part of Your Clothing Business

Running an embroidery business

Is it in the cards for your business to add embroidery as a profit center?
Is it in the cards for your business to add embroidery as a profit center?

My Perspective on Embroidery

After a couple of years running a sporting business with my wife in which we sold sports uniforms and jackets, I noticed that the question kept coming up:  Wouldn't it be helpful if we did our embroidery in-house instead of outsourcing?  Because we had to rely heavily on our embroiderers to help us meet deadlines and because our competitiveness was dependent upon their pricing structure, we consistently felt the pressure to bypass the extra steps involved in using a contract embroiderer.  After considering the option for half a year, we decided to take the plunge and become an embroidery shop in addition to handling the product lines we carried.  Based upon my experience, here are some considerations for those who find themselves faced with the same issue.

Multi-head Embroidery Machine

You may not be ready for this from the get-go.  Try starting smaller and seeing if including embroidery with your business is right for you.
You may not be ready for this from the get-go. Try starting smaller and seeing if including embroidery with your business is right for you.

Some Considerations

We shopped around for awhile looking for the right setup for our business. We'd heard that Barudan is a good brand (Japanese made, a major plus), but it was a little pricey for us. We looked at a Happy brand machine at our local sewing store, but our research told us it might not be tough enough for industrial use. Since we planned on putting a lot of miles on our machine, we went with a single head, 15-needle Barudan.

Cost
By the time we got set up with our embroidery shop, we'd spent about $15,000 for the machine, shipping, and the initial supplies. Here's the first point I'd like to make. I have seen some business owners jump right into incurring a lot of expenses without understanding their business model. Soon after doing so, the stress of making payments breaks down their morale and causes them to make bad decisions. If you are not experienced with embroidery, buy a single-head machine and make the most out of it before you decide to upgrade. Our Barudan sales guy tried to talk us in to immediately buying an eight-head machine after we bought the single head one. There were times when we were working on large jobs that we often thought, "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to have a multi-head machine!" But we disciplined ourselves. We ran our single head embroidery machine night and day, and we made a lot of money with it. We surely would have saved some time had we upgraded to a four- or six-head machine, but we would have lost more sleep over it, and might have unnecessarily burdened ourselves financially, which would have cost us other opportunities that required cash in the bank.

Do you have the patience?
This is not just a question for doctors (pun intended). Learning how to do embroidery correctly is a painstaking process. It takes lots of time, effort, learning from (sometimes costly) mistakes. It may give you a cursing habit. After a few months of running an embroidery business, my wife and I thought we had the process down pretty solid. Then we'd find ourselves dragging out the stitch eraser trying to undo a frustrating mistake we'd made.

Including in-house embroidery with your apparel business means you now have a lot more to keep up with - which thread colors are getting low, when is this order or that order expected for delivery, coordinating designs with the customer and doing sew-outs for approval, training an employee to use a significant investment without tearing the dang thing up, pricing issues, etc. Be sure you can devote the time it takes to really becoming good at embroidery and that doing so is not going to take you away from a greater opportunity.

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    Does Embroidery Make Sense For Your Business?

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    Will embroidery make your company more profitable and still allow you to keep a smile on your face?

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