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Custom manufacturing is a crowded field. If you’re still deciding between us and some of our neighbors in the industry, here’s a helpful breakdown to show where we — and you — come out on top with three of the most important factors in any custom manufacturing experience: degree of customization, minimum order quantities (MOQs) and design.

Degree of Customization

All four of us bill ourselves as a place where you can get exactly what you want. So for our competitor’s sake, don’t want too much:

Zazzle offers a vast degree of customization within certain confines. If it can be printed or painted, Zazzle can accommodate your design and do it pretty quickly, too. The tricky part is when you begin thinking outside the box. Want a specific felt or patch appliqué? Thinking of a custom neck tag or personalized hangtag? Thinking of embroidery? You won’t find it here.

CafePress suffers similar shortcomings and often proves even more limited than Zazzle. If you’re looking for more than screen-printing, you might need to move on…

Alibaba, who seems to put you in touch with real factories that can make just about anything. Try a search for “embroidered polos” and you’ll get 14,901 factories who seem ready for your order — and have fun searching through them all, deciding which one can actually do your job well and at meet your budget. Have even more fun working with them and orchestrating your project — Alibaba is a match-maker only. While theoretically anything is possible with the site, you won’t know exactly what you’re getting until you open the box. Good luck trying to ship it back if your polos are navy, not black.

Then there’s us. We offer the same wealth of options available on Alibaba — and you don’t have sort through 14,000 factories to find what you want. We’re fully custom, satisfying the exacting demands of real clothing companies like Hugo Boss and Timberland. And we vet and work with the factories on your behalf. You sit back and relax, knowing it’ll be exactly right or we’ll take it back.

Minimum Order Quantities

Until recently factories would laugh in your face if you tried to get them to do an order of fifty items. It happened to our CEO once, and it made him mad enough to start The/Studio.

Zazzle and CafePress won’t force a minimum order quantity on their customers either, per se.  They can do this because their lack of material customization — things like different threads, fabrics, embellishments — means they have a lot of blanks ready to go. For most items, you can get away with only having one customer order a product. You read that right — you can’t actually directly order custom goods from Zazzle or CafePress. You’d have to pretend to be a customer and buy your own wares. Hope you have two email addresses.

Alibaba is infamous for minimum order quantities often in the thousands. f you’re searching for twenty-five polos for your employees, you’ll have to order 300 or 500 before an Alibaba member will take on your project. At least you’ll be ready to expand your company.

The/Studio doesn’t believe in minimum order quantities. If you need twenty-five polos, you need twenty-five polos. Because we make it worth their while, our factories will handle whatever quantity we send their way, from one to one million. Of course, we’ll always let you know if you can save money by ordering a few items more.

Product Design

Ordering a custom product run is half the job; the first half is designing the product itself. All you need is some advanced software, a lot of spare time and some extra patience. Or…

Zazzle and CafePress both offer intuitive online creators that make placing text, simple graphics and uploaded images a five-minute job. Unfortunately, those editors are limited and simple because your freedom to customize doesn’t go beyond a screen printer’s capabilities. And if you’re wanting professional graphics featured on your gear, you’ll need to hire an online designer or maybe give ten dollars to that kid down the street who’s good with colored pencils. Either way, rounds of revision will be hard to negotiate.

Alibaba opens up the doors of customization but leaves all the design work to you. They’ll make exactly what you send them, no questions asked — even if they had to make a few “changes” without asking, or it doesn’t quite work with your item. And you’ll still have to find a professional designer to create the graphics in the first place, plus a professional clothes designer to “translate” your thoughts into something factories can work with (they don’t take JPEG files, unfortunately). It’s a headache.

At The/Studio, one of the first things we do is put you in touch with your personal designer, who will take whatever you have — notes, ideas, coffee-stained napkins with drawings — and turn into a solid graphical draft of your logo or design. We call this the “design mockup” and it tells you almost exactly what your particular design is going to look like. We say “almost” because there’s a second mock-up that follows, called the “technical mockup.” This shows your design in the context of your product and reflects any other customization you wanted, like cloth color, thread color or tags. If any changes need made, we let you know and advise what would be the best route for your design. No extra charge, no extra work.

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Have any more questions about what makes us different from the other guys? Head on over to our homepage, submit a quote and ask your sales representative when they reach out a few moments later. That’s another unique thing with us — you have a staff member assigned directly to you at all times.  All these things make The/Studio different— and once you get used to it, you just can’t go back.