So, You're thinking of starting an embroidery business?

You have obviously been looking harder at embroidery and noticing it everywhere you go.  I sure you are surprised to see how much embroidery you look at everyday. Caps, shirts, jackets, bags, linens, uniforms and more are embellished with all types of embroidery (including everything from corporate logos and monograms to club names and “just plain fun” designs). In fact, the market for embroidery is so large, it's now a 47 Billion dollar a year industry.

So, where do these embroidered goods come from? While most of todayÙs fashion embroidery is produced by large offshore embroidery companies, smaller, local shops create the majority of other items. In most cases, the local PTA or Little League team would rather work with someone they know locally than send it out of town to another larger embroiderer. ThatÙs where you come in. Think about it. Right now, you could probably put together a list of prospective customers just from the people you know personally. And, thatÙs just the beginning.

Getting Started

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

  • It's very profitable.
  • Everyone (business, clubs, groups, teams, etc) buys embroidered goods.
  • You can operate your business full-time or part-time in home or at a shop.
  • You don't need special skills to operate embroidery equipment, just proper training
  • Easy to market, easy to understand and it's a "Non-threatening" sale....people love to talk about it.
  • Of course, owning an embroidery machine means being your own boss and making your own hours.
  • You don't need a fortune to get started and with very little work, can cover your monthly cost very easily


There's nothing like being your own boss of an embroidery business

With the new embroidery machines on the market, applying embroidery and logos is easy.  Producing high-quality, commercial embroidery that can be sold to anyone does take time to master, however, most embroidery machine companies offer the training you need.

It doesn't take a fortune to get started.

A profitable embroidery businesses can be built with a simple single-head machine for very little investment.

The demand for embroidered goods is not only growing, but has no signs of slowing.

All types of business and organizations are turning to embroidered clothing and other goods to help build brand identity or communicate a message. In addition, embroidery is finding a resurgence in fashion and boutique markets, from embroidered jeans to shower curtains, handbags and other creative applications.

Works well at home or in a retail shop.

The bulk of embroiderers work from home.  There are many reasons for this, however the main reason is that it always starts out as a second source of income.  People continue to work a job while getting the business off the ground

If you are interested in starting an embroidery business, the most important step is to make sure you have done your research. Take the time to evaluate your present situation and actually write down your goals.

  • What are your reasons for going into business?
  • What skills do you have?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • How can these be incorporated into a successful embroidery business?


Small Business Start-up Basics

One of the most comprehensive sources of information for the entrepreneur is the United States Small Business Administration. They have everything from planning and marketing, to legal, financing and tax issues for anyone wanting to start a small business. There's a step-by-step tutorial on writing a business plan and even a Start-up Kit for the budding entrepreneur. That's just the beginning; the site is loaded with details on various regulations and links to all sorts of helpful services.

In addition to doing general research, you'll also need to focus your efforts specifically on the embroidery industry. The following links are for magazines that can help you learn more about the embroidery:

Impressions Magazine
This monthly publication provides news, "how-to" features and product information for executives and managers in the embroidery / monogram business.

Stitches Magazine
Stitches, the embroidery industry's voice and vision, provides embroiderers and decorators with the latest news, trends and insights, techniques and products.

Sew News Magazine
Sew News magazine conveys the fun, creativity and excitement of sewing to readers of all skill levels who love to sew for themselves, their families and their homes.

Creative Needle Magazine
This magazine is published six times a year, it's a magazine which appeals to the woman who loves heirloom sewing as well as stitching by machine.

Attending Tradeshows is one of the best ways to experiance this industry first hand.  This way you get a chance to see machines, software, clothing and many other products that might help you in your new business.

PrintWear Show

ISS Show

Embroidery Mart



Rusty Barn Show

American Sewing Expo

Come prepared when you visit these shows with these helpful and informative questions:

  • Does the machine come with a 5 year warranty?
  • Do your products offer free training and unlimited support?
  • Do you offer a toll free support phone number?

Trade Associations are important for not only learning about this industry, but getting discounts and networking.

Embroidery Trade Association
ETA members are commercial embroiderers, suppliers to the industry, and others who have a keen business and professional interest in the application of business principles to the embroidery business. Members of ETA range in size from single person shops with single head machines to huge operations with many multiple head machines running multiple shifts.

Specialty Graphic Imaging Association
SGIA is the only international association for specialty imaging. Our mission is to provide...

National Network of Embroidery Professionals
We save new embroiderers time and money with discounts for garments, stock designs, supplies, credit card processing, business insurance, tv commercials, 800 free hotline number for marketing and pricing support and much more!

ASI | Advertising Specialty Institute
ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute®) is the largest media and marketing organization serving the advertising specialty industry, with a membership of 20,000 distributor firms (sellers) and 3,500 supplier firms (manufacturers) of advertising specialties.

PPAI | Promotional Products Association International
PPAI-the promotional products industry's international not-for-profit trade association-supports the growth and professionalism of promotional consultants and suppliers, and strives to educate and reinforce to the following entities-the end buyer, the media, and prospective members to PPAI and the industry as a whole-the important role that promotional products play in today's integrated marketing programs.


The key to establishing a successful and profitable embroidery business is targeting the market that best suits your skills, capabilities and interests. To do this, you need to understand yourself, your business and the market your trying to sell to. A lot of our customers have started by going after the business they are best-connected in: their children's school, equestrian fans or even simply local businesses around their areas.

To get you started, here's a look at some potential markets and niche ideas:

Advertising Companies

Just think about all the ways in which companies use these goods. There's the annual sales meeting where attendees are often given a shirt or cap embroidered with the company logo. For a company golf outing, embroidered golf towels might be presented to each golfer. Many companies either require or encourage their employees to wear apparel embroidered with the company's logo.

Most of these products will be purchased through advertising specialty representatives, who sell an array of promotional products. These include such items as pens, mugs, shirts, towels, caps, key chains and totes. All are usually personalized with the company's name, logo or some sort of slogan.

These people are basically brokers for different manufacturers and rely on many different sources for their goods. Since the majority of representatives don't have in-house embroidery capabilities, they normally place their embroidery business with a local embroiderer.

Therefore, your first step is to let these people know who you are. Of course, to do that, you need to know who they are. Look in the Yellow Pages under Advertising Specialties. Then start cultivating relationships. Begin with a letter or phone call. Consider sending a sample of work that's been personalized for the individual. Stay in contact and continue to let these folks know that you are interested in doing business with them.

City Hall

Small towns and municipalities can be a great source of potential business. The staffs in the town hall, police department, inspectors, recreation department and other areas all wear or would like to wear clothing embroidered with their city or departmental logo. And, there's always the need for shirts and caps for special events or a one-of-a-kind jacket for a visiting dignitary or local hero or even leisure wear for off-duty hours.

How do you get into this market? It's all about connections. If you've been a city employee or a volunteer fire fighter, you've already got a strong foothold. You probably already know the right people. If not, think about your circle of friends, relatives and acquaintances. Someone close to you may know the person who makes the purchasing decisions. Ask for an introduction. People like doing business with people they know.

Start building your network and showing what your business has to offer. Armed with an embroidered city logo, which was digitized at his expense, one embroiderer went to city hall and asked to speak to the city manager. Until then, the city had screenprinted the logo. After being shown the difference in quality, the city manager switched to embroidery.

Along with taking advantage of personal connections, watch out for upcoming special and educational events relating to police and fire-related occupations. With a little research on the Internet you can uncover a wealth of sales opportunities. It might be worthwhile to exhibit at some of these events. Do your homework first to make sure it would in fact be profitable.

When deciding to work with governmental agencies, be sure to consider that there may be certain restrictions and guidelines to follow. Most agencies have very specific protocol they want vendors to follow. Sometimes there's a bid process. But, don't let this scare you. In some cases, you may only have to win a single bid to become the embroiderer of choice for a particular organization.

Custom Fashions

Consider creating your own line of embroidered fashion items to mix and match. A simple black knit dress is quickly transformed into a unique fashion statement with the addition of embroidery. Go a step further and embroider a shawl and handbag with matching designs.

Embroidered Dress

Develop a limited number of designs, which can be embroidered on a variety of items in various colors. Check out the suppliers to see what's available in the way of clothing. There are dozens of companies offering complete lines of inexpensive knit goods. These suddenly become more valuable when embellished with beautiful embroidery. Let your imagination run wild. Think bright colors, metallic threads, splashy designs. People are always looking for something different.

You also need to determine how you will sell your creations. There are several options. You could work with existing retailers to carry your line. Or, you could open your own location, create a catalog or sell over the Internet. Do your research and determine what will best suit your particular needs.

Local Corporations

The explosion of business casual wear has left its impact on today's embroidery market. Gone are the suits and ties. They have been replaced with the more relaxed look of golf shirts, sweaters and casual button-downs. Most of these items are embroidered and if they are not, they can be. While Corporate America has seen fit to open its doors to more casual attire, it has also been smart enough to embrace this trend to its promotional advantage.

A majority of companies provide their employees with shirts embroidered with the company logo. Some even require these be worn as a sort of uniform. Many companies will also offer embroidered merchandise to its employees through either a sales or incentive program.

To tap into this market, check out the various companies in your area.

Find out which ones are headquartered locally. Those will probably be the easiest to deal with. Get the name of the person in charge of purchasing Embroidered shirts and promotional products. This could be someone in sales or marketing. It could be an administrative assistant or even the owner of the company. Do your research up front to make sure you're directing your efforts to the right person. Once you have determined exactly who that is, make the contact and set up an appointment to show what you have to offer.

Tailor your presentation to the corporate world. Include samples of corporate logos on caps and shirts. If you have time and it is a fairly simple logo, consider digitizing and embroidering their logo on a shirt or cap. Then, give it to your contact. After your initial meeting, stay in touch. While there may not be a job that day or even the next week, when something does come up, you want to make sure your name is at the top of the list of favored embroiderers.

Other Local Companies

Other local embroidery companies (that's right, the competition), are often an untapped source of business. In many cases, someone you consider to be competition could turn out to be your best customer.

Most companies, no matter what their current size, started with a single-head embroidery machine that could produce only one garment or cap at a time. As these companies grow and invest in larger equipment, they often find it more profitable to contract out smaller, custom orders. Many find that a start-up, single-head operation is an ideal partner.

These established embroiderers can be found in your local Yellow Pages under "Embroidery." Call them; introduce yourself and then follow-up with a letter or a visit.


From preschool through college, the opportunities are almost limitless. Teams, clubs, fund-raisers, uniforms--the list goes on.

Starting in preschool, students learn to keep track of their belongings. Personalized backpacks, mats and towels are common. The elementary and high school years are loaded with the opportunity to play various sports and belong to all sorts of clubs. Teams require uniforms and clubs love the recognition of embroidered apparel. And, when it comes to the desire to be a recognized member, nothing beats that of the fraternal organizations flourishing on today's college campuses.

To take advantage of any of the previously mentioned opportunities, you first need to find the person in charge of purchasing uniforms and club attire. Contact the school office. Get the names of the coaches and club advisors. Think about whom you already know. Are there people who have connections that you haven't considered? A friend whose daughter is president of the Student Government Association? A neighbor who teaches at the local high school? Or a coworker whose husband coaches the school track team? Once you've come up with the right people, give them a call. Find out what they need and how you can help meet that need.

Another idea involves fund-raising. Schools are always looking for ways to raise money and are open to ideas to make the task easier. Put together a fund-raising program featuring items embroidered with the school's logo. Come up with an assortment of merchandise that would appeal to both parents and students. Sweatshirts, nylon jackets, backpacks and sports bags look great with the school name and mascot. Make it easy. If you do the forms and organizational work for the fund-raiser, you increase your chances of repeat business. Build in enough profit margin so that both you and the school or organization make money. Use your success at one school to advertise embroidery possibilities at the next location.

Understanding your niche will help you decide:

  • What you will need to sew (shirts, jackets, caps, etc.).
  • How many items to make per day.
  • The type of designs you will use (lettering, digitizing, ect.).
  • What level of software will be necessary

You will need to learn about the competition and decide how you can be different.

You'll need to find your niche and locate potential customers. You can do this by checking the yellow pages, Chamber of Commerce, finding resources at the library or on the internet.

Consider your personal interests.

Do you like sports? Enjoy boating? Are you a dog lover? Maybe you spend your free time combing the beaches for unusual shells. Whatever your hobby, the point is to think about what potential markets might be developed based on your specific interests.

Be realistic about your available funds.

Some markets will require a higher initial investment than others. Determine what your operating budget is and stick with it, especially in the beginning. Search out markets that suit your present financial situation.

Do your research.

Start with the Yellow Pages. How many embroiderers are in your area? What are their specialties? Compile a comparison chart of prices and services. Is there a particular niche that is not being covered? Make a list of the different groups and organizations in your area. You will find that almost every organization uses embroidery or would like to.

You've zeroed in on your market, it's time to make a plan. 

Creating a blueprint (business plan) for your business is the foundation for your success. It's the most important (and most avoided) part of starting any business. You need to set goals and establish benchmarks for your growth. A business plan can help you see where you are, where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. Over time, you'll find out what the market demands of you and how you'll fit it.

Embroidery shops come in all sizes, from a small business to giant production factories. You'll need to decide what type of shop is right for the type of business you want to do. Most embroiderer's start out in a room at home then moving on to their own shop or kiosk in the mall.

Good planning will help you establish a strong foundation for continued growth and success. Remember, "Falling to plan is planning to fail." Consider these good, solid tips when planning your embroidery business:

  • Understand what embroidery can do. Take advantage of the free classes and seminars offered by the embroidery companies. The instructors demonstrate more than just turning a machine on and pressing START. They'll show you the road to a quality product, and more about embroidery's unique appeal. Understanding and playing to embroidery's unique strengths will better-enable you to learn about your market.
  • Research your numbers. You may already know how profitable embroidery can be - if not, then, do some research on what kind of pricing is in your market (stop by some embroidery shops around you and get an idea of pricing).
  • Visit some of the embroidery related sites and/or go to trade shows, and attend classes where you can. When visiting trade shows or just browsing the Internet, you'll find lots of educational media and classes at your disposal.
  • Take advantage of inexpensive promotion opportunities. Whether you plan a full-scale campaign with yellow page ads, websites, mailers and launch parties, or want to start off quietly until you get the hang of it, there are lots of inexpensive ways to entice business that can form an important part of your business. Here are a few:
    1. Embroidery is "viral" in nature: anyone you embroider for becomes a walking advertisement for your business. A child's embroidered backpack generates interest from parents of the child's friends, who see it, or a few well-done logos on shirts for a nearby store generates comments, as a couple of examples.
    2. Embroider on anything practical with your business name and contact info including a website.. You never know who's reading.
    3. Automobiles: Cheaply-made magnets advertising your business name, phone and telephone.
    4. Basic website: Basic, informational websites today are very inexpensive and can let you educate your potential customers on the benefits of embroidery and help them get to the order stage.
  • Services Checklist. Find the resources you'll need to set up your business and keep it running.
    1. Government services for business licensing, tax ID, etc.
    2. Merchant services to allow credit card processing, etc. Whether you wish to online or simply in your storefront, you expand your potential customer base by increasing payment options that you can offer.
    3. Garment suppliers - there are many to choose from. Try to find at least one in your area, but also find alternates.
    4. Express courier services for shipping to points beyond driving distance - establish a business account with UPS, FEDEX, DHL or other similar services to take advantages of volume discounts, etc.


For how many people there are in the world, there's about triple that many ideas when it comes to marketing. So how do you figure out what is best for you?

Start with what you are trying to sell, what kind of group will be selling your products to, age, race, religion, sex and about a thousand other factors will come into play. It may seem overwhelming but it's not. Do your research and find out what your clients are like. Once you are able to read them you'll be on your way to becoming a marketing success.

There's not a month in a year where the embroidery business slows down so you've got to be prepared and be ready to market for that season:

January: Ski equipment, Sweaters, Turtlenecks, Winter Wear

February: Valentine's Day

March: St. Patrick's Day, Easter Wear, Baby Items

April: Luggage Promotion, Canvas Tote Bags, Team Uniforms, School Fund Raisers

May: Mother's Day, Robes, Aprons

June: Graduation, Weddings, Father's Day

July: Beach Wear, Towels, Terry Robes

August: Back-To-School, Totes, Back Packs, School Jackets, Baseball Hats

September: School and Church Fundraisers

October: Halloween

November: Linens for Thanksgiving and the Holidays

December: CHRISTMAS!

Marketing Ideas

  • Donate your services to charity fund-raisers. Charity fund-raisers often include auctions and raffles. This is a great way for you to give to your community and get great publicity. The organization will usually include your company name, address and phone number in their program in exchange for your donation. Check newspapers or the Chamber of Commerce for upcoming fund-raisers.
  • Have stories printed about you. Write a story about your business or have someone do it for you. Then find a newspaper or magazine that is willing to publish your story. Linking your story to a newsworthy topic will help get it published.
  • Give away free specialty gifts. Giving away free specialty gifts with your business name, logo, photo, phone number or web site is a simple way for you to be memorable to others.
  • Serve on an Association Committee. You not only meet key people but you will develop relationships with them which is how you grow your credibility. Remember it is not how many contacts you have but the impression those people have of you. Taking on responsibility and following through puts you in a class above others. You will be someone that others will feel confident sending business to.
  • Create your Advocate list. Notice who thinks highly of you. Which friends, clients, associates think you are great? These people will be great referral sources for you because they believe in you. Explain to each of them how they can send you business. Be sure to stay in touch with them at least every thirty days. Call them, send them a note, have lunch with them or send them business.
  • Call, mail or email the top 20% of your customers an irresistible offer for an immediate cash bonus.
  • Shift the emphasis of your website from a sales tool, to a vehicle to begin a relationship with your potential customers. You do this by offering valuable free information or products in return for their contact details.
  • Make sure that all of your Marketing copy is a personal communication to the person reading it talking about their needs and desires, rather than a dull description of you and your business.
  • If you haven't done so already, test pay per click advertising. It's revolutionizing Marketing and could revolutionize your business.
  • Test a change in the headline on your advertising. It's one of the key differences that can increase response.

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