Avoid disaster by following these 10 steps to opening your own online print shop

Noga Chen
April 24, 2014


So, you’ve decided to open an online print shop and now it’s time to take the leap. But how? Where should you start? To help you understand where to focus your energy and how to jump in, we have 10 surefire steps to get you started! In this installment, we look at setting you up. Next week we will look at getting you going. 10 steps in total, first 5 are here!

Part 1: Setting Up

Step 1. Back to school

It is back to school time! When it comes to any new business venture, preparation and research are key. Sound daunting? Never ventured into entrepreneurial waters before? In today’s start-up economy, investing your time in some online research and speaking to industry experts will give  you the right tools to get going.

Hint: Think about your target market (who are they? who could they be?), know your competition (what are they doing?), what are you going to print (t-shirts? novelties? textiles? cards?). Remember to stay positive and be prepared to overcome the obstacles!

Step 2. Write your foolproof business plan!

Writing a good business plan is invaluable; it will give you structure and direction for growth. Mark your objectives from the outset and set yourself reachable goals. When calculating Return On Investment (ROI) don’t only look at the numbers, also the quality of your product (sometimes you need to spend more to make more in the long run). Keep asking yourself, “what makes my business unique?”

Hint: Good business plans include market and industry information. There are major print industry changes happening and online is a viable option. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know who the market leaders are, where they are going and how you fit in. Your challenge is to show how you will close the gap (what can you offer that they don’t?), or further still, aim to become more niche.

Step 3. Define your product & merchandise

Are you opening a small or mid-sized production business? Are you focusing on roll-to-roll or garment printing? Who wants to buy from you? And even more important, who do you want to buy from you? Answer all these questions and know the answers by heart! Don’t go too far or too wide. Start as you mean to go on… stay focused.

Hint: By defining your product you will also be considering your merchandise. If you are opening a t-shirt shop, which t-shirts will you print on? If you are a novelty store, what objects will you have in stock? If you are a roll-to-roll printer which fabrics will you offer? When defining your product you will decide which fabrics to keep in stock and assess any limitations.

Step 4. Choosing your equipment

When choosing your equipment, you might start by thinking how to save on expenses? But if you’ve heard the expression “you get what you pay for” there’s good reason! Depending on the type of customers you want to attract, now is the time to look at your printing process. You will need a printer, compatible software, pretreatment, inks, a drying solution – and manpower. But fear not, there are quality, affordable options on the market for new/expanding businesses at entry level costs – so no need to sabotage your stairway to success by choosing to go cheap: Remember that your customers want to pay for quality too!

Hint: When choosing your machinery factor in color, quality, turnaround, and maintenance and support. You will need to source the machine and test its compatibility before adding together all considerations before reaching the final costs. Some machines even come web-to-print ready! And remember, there are industry standards that need to be adhered to too!

5. Get your backing

It’s true, start up costs for an online business are less, but they do exist! There are many different financing options for aspiring printers so don’t panic. Be open to looking beyond just one source. The most common one is Bank finance, or you can opt for equity investment, using “business angels” and venture capitalists. Research grants available in your region – if you “Go Green” you may be eligible for certain grants, for example.

Hint: Your backers will be looking for long-term, sustainable business ideas and not just fly-by night! With this in mind, understand that they are prepared to back more expensive plans if the ROI is better and the quality of the product is top of the range.


So you have come this far, and you think you can do it! And other people believe in you too. Stay tuned for part 2… where we’ll be kicking your business plan into 1st gear, help you to create your website and open up shop!