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Articles on designing your own custom merch, growing your brand, and managing manufacturing as a small business.

How to Build a Brand with $500

Some “experts” say that starting a professional clothing brand will set you back at least $10,000.

Nothing could be more wrong.

Anyone can get a real brand running and profitable for under $500. And by “real,” we mean merchandise that could sit right alongside the expensive Hugo Boss and Nike gear that The/Studio also makes.

A decade ago, you’d have to buy your own material and assemble your apparel on a sewing machine. Today, you log into your The/Studio account and approve a design. Come read how how we stretch out a small $500 budget to the point of profitability.


Step #1: Brand Design

Professional design is an essential part of fashion, and you’ll need to invest in it. Even if you’re aiming for a “raw” vibe, a professional designer will think up visual nuances that build brand value and customer base. Plus, they understand proper formatting required by factories — and factories are notoriously nitpicky.

Resist the urge to spend your $500 budget on a good designer who can do the above but’ll cut you off after two revisions, though. While you easily could, We do it for free and with as many revisions as you want, with only twenty-four hours between each revision.

Step #2: Getting Your Brand Manufactured

Be more than a one-time product run by giving your customers at least two products to choose from — we’ll use our cool v-neck shirts and caps as an example, but whatever suits your audience and climate.

You also need some sort of recognizable “trim” to add visual value — we’re going to do branded woven labels on the backs of our shirts and inside our caps (trim also includes hang tags and backer cards). Why? Trim is big business — in 2015, office-supplies company Avery made over $1.5 billion just creating trim for apparel brands. The companies buying the trim made billions more.

The bad news: it’s a day’s work even finding a manufacturer that’ll make your $500 order and trim as well. The good news — The/Studio doesn’t mind smaller order quantities and we’ll make the trim and attach it for you too without you lifting a finger. Here’s our automatically generated quote for a doable order quantity of 13 embroidered caps and 10 screenprinted shirts, both with custom woven labels:


By the way — if you’re paying for shipping and it’s not a rush job, your manufacturer is making an easy extra buck on you. That’s an extra cost you shouldn’t have to worry about.

Step #3: Price, then profit.

No need to overthink pricing. Check out brand websites to see what people are already paying for gear like yours and settle somewhere between your break-even and the retail average. Here are some hats and shirts like the ones we just made — simple embroidery and screenprinting, both with branded woven labels:


If we sell our shirts and hats halfway between break-even and retail value, we’re looking at a profit of $19.15 on each sleeveless shirt and $10.00 on each cap. If we sell the whole run, that’s $325.50 in profit from a $500 start. You won’t find that affordability elsewhere — here’s what the same run would have cost us at other trim-capable competitors:


Brands make big bucks just for being brands. Yours can, too, when you invest in trim and high-quality fabric and apparel bases with the right partner. That’s us. So whether it’s shirts or caps, flip-flops or pins, socks or keychains, it’s time to turn your brand from a daydream to an eventual day job. Take the leap today and shoot us a free, no-obligation quote request to see what we can do on your budget.


Does your brand have what it takes to win the $500 challenge? We think it does. Let us prove it to you. Start creating a product today — and in a few weeks time, you’ll be glad you got the ball rolling with us.






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