Getting Started in the Embroidery Business

There are just a few things that you HAVE to HAVE to run your business:

What are some reasons people want to start an embroidery business?

We like to think it’s for the pure joy of working with an SWF Embroidery Machine! But there are many reasons as to why someone might want to start their own apparel decorating business.  People like the idea of being their own boss and no longer having to work for anyone else. Starting your own business provides the potential for financial security and allows you to use you own skills and knowledge in a creative and challenging way.

But in the end, if you’re going to buy a new professional embroidery machine for business, it has to be profitable – Numbers don’t lie. With the right business plan and disciplined marketing, your business can grow at an unbelievable rate.

Everyone buys embroidered goods. All types of business and organizations buy log wear or printed clothing and other decorated goods to help build brand identity or communicate a message.  We have become a customized nation are always looking for individualized, "design your own" type products.  In fact, over 70% of Americans wear personalized or printed on clothing every day.

The employees at Stitch It Intl combine over 200 years of experience in the industry, in every facet, from selling machines, to managing large commercial operations, to running their own small embroidery businesses. We know it’s important to starting a business to get as much information as you can about an industry before you buy into it, so we decided to put together this basic Embroidery Business Start-up Plan. This information will help guide you through the thought process and give you a foundation of knowledge if you are thinking about starting a business!

You can operate your business full-time or part-time, in your home or out of a rented facility, but the bulk of embroiderers work from home.  There are many reasons why, however the main reason is that it usually starts out as a second source of income.  People continue to work a job while getting the business off the ground or use it as retirement income. This is why the 1501C style, compact single head machine, is so popular. Its small size allows it to fit in an extra bedroom or a corner of your dining area, but the power and capabilities of its 15 needles can handle almost any custom job.

How do I find my niche market?

Now that you are interested in the embroidery and custom apparel industry, you probably have been looking harder at it and noticing it everywhere you go.  I’m sure you are surprised to see how much embroidery you look at every day. Caps, shirts, jackets, bags, linens, uniforms and more are decorated with all types of techniques. Whether its corporate logos, monograms, club names or stylish T-shirt designs, you can understand how it's turned into a 47 Billion dollar a year industry!

So, who makes all of these embroidered and printed goods?

While most of today’s fashion embroidery, clothing that you find in retail chain stores or department stores, is produced by large companies, smaller local shops create the majority of other items.

In most custom t-shirt business cases, the local school or business would rather work with someone they know locally than send it out of town to some larger embroiderer they can’t deal with face to face..that’s where you come in.

Who will your embroidery customers be?

Take a moment right now and either print out this page or download the "Who Needs Embroidery" worksheet here, and put together a list of at least five potential customers just from the people you know personally:


What skills and equipment are needed to run an embroidery business?

You don't really need special skills to operate a commercial embroidery machine, just proper training. It will make it much easier if you have some familiarity with design software, not necessarily directly with StitchEra or Sierra Liberty digitizing software, but a basic understanding of how applications like that work. As always, basic computer skills are a must.

With the new equipment on the market today and easy-to-use digitizing software, creating designs and logos are easy.  But producing high-quality, commercial designs that can be sold to anyone does take TRAINING. Training that is provided online for Stitch It Intl customers!

What is the Best Embroidery Machine?

Of course, the better the hardware and software, the more you’ll be able to produce, so the more profit you will make. Luckily, SWF has 2 single head 15 needle machines, the SWF 1501C and 1501T, that are perfect for start ups!

The first choice, we’ve already made for your right here in this article. It’s whether to buy a 6 needle, or 15 needle machine. 6 needle embroidery machines are designed mostly for monogramming, which is a big part of any small embroidery shop. Where the 6 needle monogramming machine falls short is in constantly swapping thread colors. With only 6 colors to choose from, it’s very like that you’ll be swapping colors from job to job, which wastes your time and introduces the opportunity for errors.

On the other hand, a 15 needle single head will handle 99% of custom embroidery orders, and it’s the rare logo indeed that would have more colors than that! These facts, coupled with a very small difference in cost, are why we are sure that the 15 needle machines are best.

You can read more about the SWF 1501 series commercial embroidery machines here when you’re ready, but the basics are that the SWF 1501C single head embroidery machine a compact, easy to transport machine with many great standard features, including the quick change cap system, and the ability to fit almost anywhere, for $13,500. The SWF 1501T is the same basic unit, but with a movable table specifically designed to make it easier to embroidery on flats, like draperies or jackets, or any very heavy garments/materials. The 1501T sells for $15,500.

Multi Head Machines for StartUps

Explore how a 4 head or a 6 head  might be the best Embroidery Machine for your start up business.

Did you think of people you know at area schools, churches and charities? Are there any business owners that you see socially?

Now do the same list of people that YOU buy from or use on a regular basis that have uniforms of some kind. This includes where you get your oil changed, independent stores you frequent, restaurants you dine at or sports teams your children are a part of.

NOW make a list of 5 people or business that you know that would be a good source of REFERRALS. Referrals are when someone recommends you or makes your information available to their friends or customers. Some great sources of referrals for embroidery machine businesses are; dry cleaners, other apparel decorating shops that might print t-shirts but not embroider, and sign and graphics businesses that see people doing shows and starting businesses on a regular basis.

NOW sit down with a blank list and your closest friends and associates and ask them to answer the same questions.

If you actually ran out of ideas at 5 each, you’ve got 15 places and people to start with. If you have 3 friends do the same, you've got 45 potential customers to help get your custom embroidery business off the ground!

What else do I need to start my business?

There are just a few things that you HAVE to HAVE to run your business:

  • Software – we recommend one of the Sierra Digitizing Software applications
  • Hoops – depending on what your business will focus on, either SWF Hoops or Durkee Hoops are preferred
  • Supplies – including backings, toppings, thread, needles, etc.
  • Hooping Device – for more exact and faster placement of your designs
  • Heat Press – depending on if you plan on offering embroidered patches

SWF 1501C Single Head Compact Machine

The 1501 C is our most popular SWF Single Head machine because with 15 needles, a small foot print and the quick cap change system, it just makes perfect sense for a start up or home based embroidery business. 

But don't let it's small stature fool you! There are many larger businesses that ONLY use the 1501C because its great pricing, professional features and ability to fit in a small space make it a very product product to have to execute multiple jobs.  

Like all of our machines, this one comes with cutting edge training options, start up supplies and a 5 year warranty. Get all the details here.

SWF 1501T Single Head Embroidery Machine

The E-1501T is the big brother to the 1501C, with the same, expansive 15 needle head, large screen control panel and that quick change cap system that comes on all of our SWF systems.

The "T" in the part number stands for "Table"! The flat area you see in the photo is an adjustable table that you can move out of your way for every day projects, then move up when you embroider onto heavy items like draperies, Carhardtt or leather jackets, etc.

Get all the details here.

SWF K1504 Multi Head System

The SWF K1504 Multi Head Machine is a production house dream. If you are turning out dozens, or even hundreds of garments with the same left chest logo, cap design or.. anything.. this 4 head system will make you money.

In fact, you should take a close look at buying more than one of the K1504s before you look at larger ones, they're the perfect size!

Learn all about the SWF K1504 Multi Head Embroidery Machine right here.

SWF K1506C Multi Head - Commercial Powerhouse

The SWF K1506C Commercial Embroidery Machine is designed to give you all the capacity of a six head and STILL fit through a standard doorway.

This 6 head, high volume product has all the features that our smaller units have; quick change cap system, automatic oiling, etc., but they all have an even bigger impact in a commercial machine like this one.

Learn more about the SWF K/1506C here.

Stitch It International Other Brands

Used Embroidery Machines
Embroidery Parts, Accessories & Supplies
New Embroidery Machines