How Any Idiot Can Start a T-Shirt Company: My Journey with Local Laundry


Starting a business might seem daunting, but if I can do it, anyone can. Almost nine years ago, I launched Local Laundry after being laid off from the oil and gas industry here in Calgary. With no clear direction, I moved to Sweden to pursue my MBA and figure out my next steps. It was during this time that I realized my passion for starting a business, particularly in clothing, and Local Laundry was born. Here’s how it all happened and how you can do it too.

I believed in the power of clothing to bring people together. With that belief, I Googled “how to start a t-shirt company” and followed a YouTube guide on setting up a Shopify store, utilizing drop shipping, and creating artwork. The best part? Starting an online t-shirt company today costs next to nothing. I began with $50 and, to date, have only invested $1,000 of my own money into Local Laundry.

Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Own T-Shirt Company

    1.    Google Search: Start with a simple Google search on how to make a t-shirt company.

    2.    YouTube Tutorials: Watch tutorials on setting up a Shopify store and using print-on-demand services.

    3.    Shopify: Sign up for a free 14-day trial on Shopify. This will be your online business backend where you take orders and communicate with customers.

    4.    Print-on-Demand: Connect your Shopify store to a print-on-demand service like Printful or Printify. They will handle the printing and shipping for you.

    5.    Canva: Use Canva to create your artwork. It’s user-friendly and requires no design experience.

    6.    Launch Your Store: Once everything is set up, launch your store and start promoting your products.

Why Drop Shipping?

Drop shipping allows you to only pay for what you sell. You can offer a wide variety of products without holding any inventory. This method is perfect for testing different designs and seeing what resonates with your audience.

Benefits of Drop Shipping

    1.    Low Start-Up Costs: You don’t need a large investment to start. As mentioned, I began with just $50.
    2.    No Inventory Management: Since the products are made on demand, you don’t have to worry about storing unsold items.
    3.    Wide Product Range: You can offer a broad selection of items without any additional costs.
    4.    Scalability: As your business grows, you can easily scale up without significant additional investments.

From E-Commerce to Retail

Starting with drop shipping, we tested various designs and products. It wasn’t until we introduced our YYC design that things took off. Data showed that maroon crew neck sweaters in sizes small and medium were our best-sellers.

As we grew, we transitioned from drop shipping to holding inventory. This shift allowed us to fulfill larger group orders and eventually led us into retail. Here’s how it happened:

Breaking into Retail

    1.    Group Orders: Friends working at retail stores started wearing our products, leading to group orders.
    2.    Retail Exposure: Our products in malls attracted attention, and stores began reaching out to carry our line.
    3.    Learning Retail: Retail involves terms like net 30, where stores pay you 30 days after receiving goods. You must manage your cash flow efficiently.

The Group Order Strategy

One of the strategies that worked for us was leveraging group orders. I had a few friends who were managers at large retail stores. These stores required employees to wear at least one item from the store they worked in. My friends chose to wear Local Laundry items as their non-store piece, and it sparked interest among their colleagues.

Word spread, and soon enough, entire store teams wanted to place group orders. This exposure led to increased interest from other stores in the malls where my friends worked. The ripple effect was substantial, as our brand started to gain recognition.

Managing Cash Flow in Retail

When dealing with retail, it’s crucial to understand the concept of net terms. Unlike direct sales where you receive payment immediately, retail orders often come with terms like net 30, net 60, or even net 120. This means you might not get paid until 30, 60, or 120 days after the goods are delivered. For a small business, managing cash flow becomes essential.

To navigate this, you need to ensure you have enough capital to produce the goods and sustain your operations while waiting for payment. This was one of the biggest learning curves for us.

Adapting During the Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, retail stores closed, and we pivoted to custom clothing orders. Companies approached us to put their logos on our clothing, offering significant budgets. This shift helped us survive and thrive during challenging times.

The Custom Clothing Route

    1.    Corporate Orders: We focused on corporate clients with large budgets.
    2.    Local Support: Companies wanted to support local and Canadian-made products.
    3.    Quality Matters: Providing high-quality products that clients were proud to wear.

Transitioning from Retail to Custom Orders

The pandemic forced many businesses, including ours, to rethink our strategies. With retail stores closed, we saw an opportunity in custom orders for corporate clients. Many companies were looking for quality, Canadian-made products to promote their brands. This shift not only helped us survive but also opened a new revenue stream.

Growth and Acquisition

Today, we’re in our new warehouse, growing our custom clothing segment, and have acquired two other clothing companies. We continue to expand their e-commerce, retail, and custom presence.

Acquiring Other Brands

As part of our growth strategy, we have acquired other brands to expand our market reach. This allows us to leverage our established processes and brand recognition to boost the success of these new acquisitions.

Key Takeaways

    1.    Start Small: Begin with drop shipping to test your market.
    2.    Expand to Retail: Once you have proven products, approach retail stores.
    3.    Custom Orders: Explore custom clothing for corporate clients.
    4.    Learn and Adapt: Continuously learn and adapt to market changes.

A strong brand is crucial for long-term success. For us, this meant focusing on high-quality products, excellent customer service, and building a community around our brand.

Engaging with our community has always been a priority. Whether through social media, local events, or collaborations with other businesses, building strong relationships has been key to our growth.

We pride ourselves on offering high-quality products and exceptional customer service. This commitment has earned us a loyal customer base that continues to support us and spread the word about Local Laundry.

Digital marketing has played a significant role in our success. From social media to email campaigns, these channels have helped us reach a wider audience and drive sales.

Social Media Strategies

    1.    Consistent Posting: Regularly posting engaging content keeps your audience interested and informed.

    2.    User-Generated Content: Encouraging customers to share photos of them wearing your products builds social proof and community.

    3.    Collaborations: Partnering with influencers and other brands can expand your reach and attract new customers.

Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to reach your audience. We use it to share updates, promotions, and stories, keeping our customers engaged and informed.

Looking ahead, our goal is to continue growing Local Laundry and our other acquired brands. We aim to expand our custom clothing segment and explore new markets, both locally and internationally.

While we have a strong presence in Canada, we see significant growth potential in international markets. We’re working on strategies to reach customers outside of Canada and introduce them to our high-quality, Canadian-made products.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers. We’re committed to implementing sustainable practices in our production processes and offering eco-friendly products.

Starting a t-shirt company is easier than ever. With minimal investment and the right tools, you can launch your own business. If you have any questions or need advice, feel free to reach out. I’m always happy to chat and help others on their entrepreneurial journey.

For more insights and stories from Local Laundry, visit our website at

Feel free to leave your comments or questions below, and I’ll get back to you. Let’s build something great together!

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